Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Review: The End of Marking Time by C.J. West

The End of Marking Time by C.J. West
Publisher: 22 West Books
Publish Date: May 22, 2010
Paperback, 284 pages
Fiction, Suspense, Dystopian

My Review:
Why I read this: The author contacted me, the premise sounded very interesting so I accepted the book for review.

How is the novel driven: Character-driven, the plot drives as well, but this is about Michael and his journey of self-discovery.

My thoughts:   Where to begin.  First I didn't re-read the blurb on this book before I started reading it.  I like to do that because then I'm not sure where the book will take me.  Obviously I read the blurb over a month ago, but I don't remember things that well, so when I started the book I was surprised where it went, which made it a lot of fun.

The book starts with Michael who breaks into homes for a living.  He's been living on the streets fending for himself for quite awhile and makes his money by stealing things and selling them, along with the cash he finds in homes.  But Michael is really careful, he's street smart and knows what he is doing until one mistake lands him in prison.  Next thing you know Michael wakes up and it's several years later and a lot of things have changed.

I would like to think of this as dystopian fiction.  It's honestly realistic and something that could happen, but it's something that you definitely don't want to happen.  What if all the felons were dumped out of the prison system because government decided prison wasn't a good idea anymore?  What if there were various rehab-type programs for those felons, what if the government really did become Big Brother and watch the felons (and maybe normal citizens) every move?

That's some of the questions The End of Marking Time asks and works out.   It's a fascinating read and I could not put it down.  At times I could not relate to Michael - I'm not a felon, but at other times I could.  I felt for Michael, he really didn't know any other way and it took the re-learning process for him to realize a lot of things about  himself.  Michael has a lot of struggles in the book, sometimes I agreed with how he handled them and others I did not.  But no matter whether I agreed or not, Michael does go through a lot of growth during this book which made him a great character.

My favorite thing about the book is when Michael is given books to read and the books parallel his life in ways and lead him on a journey of self-discovery.  Here is a man who never really wanted to read before and now he loves it.  I loved that part.  I also enjoyed the suspense, what would Michael do next, what else would we learn about how the government is running things?  I think that was the fun of seeing it through Michael's point-of-view, the reader learns piece-by-piece about this new government right along with Michael.

So it's strong on plot and strong on character and a really quick read.  So what did I not like?  The ending, but that's just me.  Yes it's tidy and done, but I felt like I wanted more.  However don't let that stop you from trying this book.  The book is full of great things and very entertaining and I still really enjoyed it despite the few points I took off for the ending.  It's a scary look at what life could become.

Let me make one final statement, this book is not politically charged, there is no blame on one party or the other, the government in this book is fiction pure and simple (but feels realistic) and not the author's personal opinion written down on the page.  So don't be afraid this will step on your toes, this is like The Hunger Games, the government is what it is and there are none of our political beliefs in it.  I personally don't enjoy books where an author puts forth their political views, it's their right yes, but I don't like it as much in fiction, so I wanted to state that this book doesn't do that in case some of my readers are like me and don't want a politically charged fiction book.

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

About the Book:

Gifted housebreaker, Michael O'Connor, awakens inside an ultramodern criminal justice system where prison walls are replaced by surveillance equipment and a host of actors hired to determine if he is worthy of freedom. While he was sleeping, the Supreme Court declared long term incarceration to be cruel and unusual punishment and ordered two million felons released. The result was utter chaos and the backlash from law-abiding citizens and police departments reshaped the United States. Felons now enter reeducation programs where they live freely among the population. At least that's what they think. In reality they are enslaved to an army of counselors and a black box that teaches them everything they failed to learn from kindergarten through adulthood. Michael believes he's being tested by the black box, but what he slowly begins to realize is that everything he does is evaluated to determine whether he lives or dies.

The End of Marking Time in Kindle Format
The End of Marking Time in Paperback

About the Author (from author's website):
CJ was raised in a tiny town in Massachusetts where his family has lived for three generations. When CJ was a boy, the family had a variety of animals and boasted a poultry incubator large enough to hatch a chick for every resident of the town – all at one time. Although it was never a professional enterprise, the family continued to raise animals for many years and CJ developed a love for the outdoors and wildlife. He supports a number of environmental causes today.

CJ wrote his first book in 1979 while bored during school hours, but at that time writing was second to golf. CJ practiced hard daily and eventually entertained hopes of playing professionally. In 1985 he chose Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMASS Dartmouth) over golf and studied Business Management which advanced his career in computer technology.  

Twenty years after that first book, CJ plunged back into writing. After six years studying other authors and working at his craft, CJ released Sin and Vengeance in 2005. He currently lives in suburban Massachusetts with his wife and two children.

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FTC Information: I received this book from the author for review.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.

Guest Post: Author C.J. West

Lifting The Volkswagen by C.J. West

Long ago I taught golf lessons. One of the problems students always had was trying to lift the ball. Since the ball rested on the ground, students who tried to hit “up” on the ball invariably wound up hacking a hunk of turf and sending the ball weakly ahead—sometimes they failed to move it at all.

I told them to imagine they wanted to carry their bride over the threshold. (Yes, my students were 99% male). Hitting behind the ball was like putting your bride in a Volkswagen before trying to pick her up. The key to hitting a golf ball a long distance is to make pure contact between the club and the ball. Ditch the Volkswagen in the middle.

I was thinking this week about my efforts publishing books in print and I was reminded of this story. As an indie who created print books, I put a lot of turf between me and my readers. Every bit of turf added cost to the equation and made it harder for me to sell books. Each book required paper, ink, glue, equipment and labor resulting in a cost of about $5 per book. The books needed to be stored and then distributed to bookstores, which added another $4. Bookstores wanted another $6. To sell a book for $15, which is already more than my competition, I had to cut into the bookstores’ margin or else take nothing for myself.

E-books changed this dramatically. Per book cost for creation, delivery, and sale of an Amazon e-book is 30%. That is less than the 40% the bookstores required to sell my print books. That didn’t mean the stores would stock the books and of course they didn’t print and distribute them. It just meant the store would sell them if someone came to the counter and asked them to special order. Readers had to practically beg a store to get one of my books. With e-book distribution I finally feel like I’ve gotten the Volkswagen out from between me and my readers.

It is December 1, 2010 as I’m writing this and this year lots of indie writers are very excited. There has been a sharp upswing in e-reader adoption and this Christmas is likely to mark a turning point for e-books. As e-books swing from a tiny fraction of the market to a significant market segment, many more indies like me will be able to make a living as writers.

The folks who make paper, print books, and work in bookstores can keep working with Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling, but 2011 holds tremendous promise for thousands of unknowns. I can’t wait to see how many Kindles Santa brings this year.

Thank you C.J. for the great guest post - I received my Kindle earlier this year and adore it.  I still love real books as well, but I have gotten to know a lot of great new authors through ebooks and love that.  It's all wonderful for us readers - more books, more authors, means no boredom ever!

Please stay tuned for my review of C.J.'s book, The End of Marking Time later today.

Book Blogger Hop - Dec 3-6

Book Blogger Hop

I'm joining back in this week - after a month and a half hiatus from the hop.  I'm ready to hop around and find new blogs since my reading mojo is back!  Well I'll be hopping in-between cleaning and decorating this weekend, but everyone needs a few minutes of relaxation while decorating for Christmas. :)

To check out other answers and join the hop go and check out for the Mr. Linky for the Blog Hop. 

This week's question:
 "What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

Most of the time I enjoy the hyped books I hear about online.  The only one I didn't enjoy recently was The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.  I still am not sure why I didn't like it because I am definitely one of the few.  Most everyone loved this and I wanted to love it, but it fell short for me.  That said, I will try Ms. Yovanoff's next book, I wasn't that turned off.

As for posting my review - I almost felt bad - one it's the author's first book, and two everyone else loved it.  But I had to post it.  I did qualify it with the fact that the writing is good and the review was purely my subjective opinion.  I didn't care if other people didn't agree, that's everyone's right,  I just didn't want my thoughts to hurt the author in any way.