“Dance of the Lights” by Stephen Geez

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If you have any doubt regarding what life is all about, then you need to read this beautiful story, which will explain it to you. The ultimate love story, I definitely fell in love with most of the characters in this book. They were so real, you felt as if you knew them, that they were your own friends and neighbors, making their way through life and its struggles, including sometimes the painful loss of a loved one. It was an utterly convincing slice of life, where people work hard for what they have, interact with neighbors and loved ones, and most importantly, help one another when the need arises. It was about priorities, caring, and doing the right thing, but not in a flamboyant way. It was about the passage of time, how things change, including people, and the importance of friends.

A light paranormal touch permeated the story, a reminder that what we see is but a small part of what we know as reality. There are some things that simply can’t be explained. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one, yet felt their presence or heard them speaking inside their mind, will relate. Who and what are we? What about those with whom we share our lives, loves, and ambitions? Is it all random? Do certain people come into our lives by chance or design? What is the essence of life? Love? Our very existence?

Don’t expect specific answers to any of these questions because you won’t find them. Rather, there is plenty to ponder. On the one hand, it’s easy to note that those characters who made mistakes were beyond fortunate to find someone to stand behind them and help them get past their troubles. Finances were not a problem for the main characters, who generously shared their substance to help others. Most who fall upon hard times are not so lucky. Those who have had to dig their way out of a bad situation on their own could even feel a touch of bitterness. Yes, this story reflects the ideal, which life seldom is. However, I don’t believe it’s those in sorry circumstances to whom this story applies the most. Rather it would have the most powerful impact on those with the means to help others by expounding the deep satisfaction, friendship, and rewards that come from helping your fellow man.

The characters in this book were familiar in many respects; archetypes, if you will. No doubt you will relate to some more than others, recognize several, and with luck, even see yourself. There are parts that are heart-rending, yet that is a fact of life. Learning to deal with death and grief is part of living.  Learning not to take anything for granted, to appreciate each and every day, realizing that in a flash everything could change, is what enriches our existence.  Years pass a day at a time, yet in what can feel like an instant, they evaporate, leaving you in awe of their passing. Of course the older you are, the more obvious this is.

This cast who populated this story touched my heart in so many ways. In some respects, it was like a  soap opera, as diverse individuals entangled with one another through heredity or circumstance went about their lives, some days normal and predictable, others milestones, or marred by sudden tragedy. In many ways, stories like this are a measure of the reader’s capacity to love. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, feel as if you know them, and even wish you had some of them as friends or neighbors, perhaps you’ve lost touch with your own humanity and need for others in your life.

Author Stephen Geez renders characters you’ll never forget, who’ll live on within your heart forever.  If you could use a few new book-friends or book-neighbors, to say nothing of a nice dose of inspiration, then introduce yourself to these adorable souls over in Tarpon Springs. You’ll be glad you did.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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“Fantasy Patch”–Another 5-star Nail-biter from Stephen Geez

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Wow! What a ride! I’m still trying to catch my breath since finishing this fast-moving suspense thriller. In fact, sometimes it moved so fast, I felt left behind in the dust. The immediacy of the story is beyond gripping, told in first person/present tense through the eyes of protagonist, Danté Roenik. So “present”, in fact, you don’t even know his name for several pages. Kind of like meeting an interesting, good-looking, charismatic guy at a party who’s telling a good story. You really don’t care what his name is, you just want to be part of the excitement along with the other enchanted guests. This served as a very clever and effective writing tactic outside the mainstream, for which the author once again definitely earned my admiration.

This is the third Stephen Geez book I’ve read and this man must have multiple personalities because each tome’s style, at least the ones I’ve read so far, stands out as unique. Some authors can write in multiple genres with ease, yet the style is largely the same. I don’t think I’d be able to tell these were written by the same person, though they did share outstanding characterizations and vivid setting descriptions, plenty of suspense, lively dialog, and complex plots as well as strong writing, edited to perfection. No ruts or boring formula writing here! A random sprinkling of clever creative word plays are scattered throughout the narrative as well, which are not only entertaining but further characterize Danté’s artistic temperament. For example, “beeping blippers and blipping beepers” or “purse snatchers and snatch pursuers” or “fact takers and tacit fakers”, all of which add color and humor.

Poor Danté. An artist at heart, all he wants to do is draw, yet he’s sucked into a web of intrigue through his position as creative director at a public relations firm. He’s a nice guy, perhaps too nice, who adores the lively, old lady next door, Mrs. Moeroff, as well as the love of her life, another neighbor, Hank Barnahay. His attorney girlfriend, Cyn, is focused on an ambitious fast-track to partnership in her law firm, which is her top priority, much to Danté’s dismay. And that’s just his personal life. His professional life is what makes your head spin. The author places you firmly in Danté’s shoes in a busy, competitive, fast-paced, head-spinning and often risky environment, ripe with industry jargon. If you’ve ever wanted to work in PR, then this story is required reading for its excellent description of what’s involved, from the actual technical processes, to sales tactics, and competitors as trustworthy as piranha. By the time you finish this story, you feel as if you could put experience at Dellman/Roenik on your resume. I kid you not.

Of course any such firm is loaded with employees doing a variety of tasks, the boatload of characters adding to and authenticating the hectic pace. And then times it by two, by the way, because our hero changes employers, the original now his rather unfriendly competition. In fact, there were so many characters, I would have welcomed a dramatis personae to keep them all straight. They come at you fast, so unless you have a steel-trap memory, which I don’t, you might want to keep notes. Trust me, it would be worth it, because things get more complicated with every page.

The good news is that their names were not only unusual, but differed dramatically, reminding me at times of alphabet soup. Yet they were well-chosen and unique, which helped keep them straight versus unimaginative authors who call one character Bob and another Rob. Their physical descriptions were helpful as well, making them easy to envision, their personalities distinct and never lacking.  There’s no doubt this story would make an outstanding movie, or better yet, TV mini-series.

The story quickly evolves into a murder mystery, so the huge cast also serves as a collective red herring with regard to the identity of the guilty party. But actually, it’s not that simple, it’s Big Pharma and its cohorts covering their tracks with regard to lethal side effects of Parzilac, combined with rather vicious competition tactics as competitor, M-Slovak, prepares to release a potential competitor, the Fantasy Patch. Corporate espionage is in full swing as is appropriate security, courtesy of Flynn Durbett, a carryover character from “Invigilator.” I love it when characters live on!

If you’re looking for high-octane entertainment with surprises at every turn, grab a copy today and plan to stay up late reading. Same goes if you’re naturally suspicious of Big Pharma or are annoyed by those TV drug ads (which are illegal is most of the world besides the USA) where the side effects narrative takes 90% of the allotted time. Breathtaking action, nail-biting suspense, crisp dialog, and edge-of-your-seat narrative suck you in, all the way to the last page. Don’t miss it.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“Invigilator” by Stephen Geez

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I thoroughly enjoyed “Papala Skies” by Stephen Geez and was very happy when I won “Invigilator” as part of a blog tour. It sounded like the kind of story I’d enjoy, i.e., laden with conspiracy theories and fun stuff like that. As soon as I started reading I was awed by the level of detail. Clearly the author knows his stuff. He definitely pulls you in with outstanding imagery and action, right down to the model of the various weapons and ammunition. I live in Texas and so much of what he said was familiar, since I’ve been to several of the locations he mentioned. The Southern mentality was on-target and made me feel as if I were a part of the militia depicted. The characters were convincing and real as well as their respective attitudes and motivations. The dialog was appropriately drawn with bad grammar sprinkled with slang such that I could almost “hear” the conversations, which sounded like something I might overhear in the local Walmart. For all these reasons, all of which are related to the skilled writing style of the author, I initially gave this book 5 stars. But at this point, after thinking about it, I have dropped it to 4 stars.

Without getting into spoiler territory, I will say I was greatly disappointed in the ending. Considering the level of detail throughout the story, one of the most important plot elements was never explained as I expected. There also seemed to be a few contradictions, e.g., in one place it said something didn’t or couldn’t happen then later it did without explanation of how that occurred. There were too many matters that were dealt with using implications that were a little too foggy and undefined for my reading tastes. I’m a hard sci-fi fan who likes to know the how and why of things, which weren’t ever included. This might not bother someone who doesn’t care about those type of details and is happy to draw their own conclusions. For me it was lacking. If all you’re looking for is lots of guns and ammo and explosive descriptions packaged in a prepper attitude, then you’ll probably be perfectly happy.

I assume this book will ultimately become the first volume of a series. If that was always the intent, it should have been stated as such. That way I would not have expected a satisfying ending with adequate closure and explanation of the various mysteries presented. There is certainly plenty of room for a sequel where all these things could be explained. The way it stands left me disappointed and frustrated that I’d plowed through the book expecting answers that were never delivered.

One last thing. I also think the book deserves a better cover. While the existing one captures the essence of the story at the technical level as far as the action and basic plot are concerned, it really doesn’t do it justice.

You can pick up a copy from Amazon here.

A Beautifully Rendered Novel that Operates on Multiple Levels: Papala Skies by Stephen Geez

papalaskiescoverI’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii and I must say this book was like having a personalized grand tour. The descriptions were vivid and conjured up outstanding imagery that virtually took you there, the prose as refreshing as a frozen pina colada on a hot afternoon. Don’t let the somewhat enigmatic title and cover fool you. This story was beautifully rendered as implied, but it comprises far more than lush tropical scenery.  Thus I can easily grant it 5-stars.

This complex and compelling story is as unique as its setting. While it has numerous elements of a coming of age story and dealing with tragedy, it went much deeper and at times much darker. The main character, Rochelle, has a troubling secret which she’s carried since she was thirteen when her mother died. She blames herself for her mother’s death, something children are prone to do whether justified or not when there’s a divorce, illness or other trouble that descends upon a family. While some teens might turn to drugs or alcohol, Rochelle instead becomes an over-achiever.

Many cultures and locales come into play in this multi-faceted novel. Her deceased mother is from France, which she longs to visit; she lives in Chicago, which she loves; and her father’s business interests are centered in Hilo, Hawaii. After her mother’s death her father brings her to Hawaii where she’s introduced to her soon to be Hawaiian step-mother, Lalani, and her children, one her natural-born son, Pocamea, and another blond boy, Mikalu, from San Diego who was abandoned to Lalani’s care by his father when his mother died giving birth to him. These kids live with Lalani’s father in an ancient stone house occupied by their ancestors for centuries. Running water is provided by a stream beset with waterfalls, the beach is within view below an inviting cliff with the orange glow of a volcano completing the picture. But the tropical, idyllic beauty is not without its shadows.

Native burial traditions by which the children of the land are returned to Pele are described in fascinating detail as their earthly remains are taken into the bowels of the land referred to as lava tubes. Rochelle, while so much an ambitious city girl, bonds with her step-brothers and falls in love with Coulee Makai as their homestead is called. But just as one major story element is resolved and you think the story is about to end, a swell of intrigue bursts upon the scene like a tsunami, pushing the story in an entirely different direction. Even in this primitive, idyllic land there are those who conspire to destroy it through development and commercialization through whatever means necessary. Death and crippling diseases fall upon some of the characters, Rochelle at the center where her loyalties are put on virtual trial in such a way that her life is on the line when she chooses sides.

Far more is confronted in this brilliant novel than the challenge of overcoming the death of a loved one, the complexities of family loyalty, or friendships stronger than blood ties. There is a well-sustained sense of mystery throughout as Rochelle’s life unfolds amid an initially alien culture of which she gradually becomes a part, driving choices which eventually deliver her to the last place she expected to be. Not only are the characters real but their lives and interactions as well. The level of detail makes you feel as if you know these individuals personally. You cry when they pass on and and will miss the others as you would a close friend when the story ends.

The one thing I found a bit disconcerting at first was how in the first third or so of the story it kept jumping back and forth between when Rochelle was in her teens to when she was a young college graduate from MIT with an engineering degree. Eventually, however, it all fit together like a Chinese puzzle, somehow “working” very effectively in a literary sense by creating a sense of depth reminiscent of how one might remember parts of his or her life as they had relevance, which rendered an entirely different texture than if the story had proceeded in linear fashion chronologically.

This story was chock full of themes, subplots, human nature and complicated relationships that bordered on being epic or perhaps one huge chunk of a family saga. The ending was satisfying enough to serve as a conclusion but there’s a tremendous amount of material begging for prequels and delving into the backgrounds of the different characters. I highly recommend this story as a great read to anyone looking for an intriguing, well-written story that will undoubtedly take you places you’ve never been before, even if you’ve been to Hawaii.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.