Where Honesty Never Ends.
Genre: Fiction, Murder/Mystery/Suspense
Note: This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Greetings! The Review Board back again to share our thoughts on Counterstrike by John Groh. First up, Harmony Kent.
Counterstrike is a novel about family and, ultimately, betrayal. Two brothers from Phoenix are real estate developers. Boyce is the younger brother, and his life is turned upside down when his wife is killed in a freak automobile accident. Spencer, the older brother, delivers the news in a cold-hearted manner, and without permission or prior discussion he handles all the funeral arrangements. Boots is a friend to both brothers, but when Boyce approaches him for help, he plays both sides with catastrophic results. This novel features betrayal, hate, murderous treachery, shifting allegiances, and twists and turns.
However, the writing is unsophisticated and clumsy. Comma usage is sadly lacking, and the whole thing makes for a difficult read. See the following examples:
“Nothing sounded good for lunch so he left for home at two after staring blankly out the window while pacing the floor restlessly.” Not one comma.
Also, the following is an incomplete sentence: “With his mind spinning and he needed to be alone.” This line follows dialogue, but nothing links the two. Taken as a full sentence, it makes no sense.
One final example, “Immediately when he drove down the dusty lane to the parking lot Boyce sensed trouble since nothing felt right.” Again, not one single comma.
In addition there are tense shifts within the same sentence, overuse of filter words and delaying action, scene shifts with no indication to show the shift, and incorrect word usage. The writing is passive and contains lots of telling rather than showing. In one scene, the word “respite” is used, when to make sense its opposite is needed. The situation is anything but respite. See also, “Whose” instead of “Who’s”, “here” instead of “her”, etc.
As it stands, I award Four out of Ten stars using the TRB rating scale, which equates to Two out of Five stars on other review sites (such as Amazon and Goodreads). The story premise is a good one, but is let down by the need for a thorough and detailed edit, and a proofread.
*Reader’s Discretion is Advised: “Counterstrike” contains crude language, sexual content, uncomfortable visualizations, and highly offensive terminology.*
“Counterstrike” by John Groh is a lengthy 436-page PDF.
Before we begin, allow me to introduce myself:
I, Mr. Controversy, am a pretty simple person:
I look for Coherence. I look for Flaws. I look for detail in ALL works (whether it is Poetry, Stories, etc.). I LOVE to envision myself being at that place in that moment in time. Most of all, I look for something that I would LOVE to have on my bookshelf; something at which that I can look, and smile brightly because it was THAT DAMN GOOD.
I am EXTREMELY Honest when I review.
If I LIKE your work, I will let you know.
If I DO NOT like your work…
Not only will I REALLY let you know, I will point out more than three examples, correct your work (based on the examples pointed out by his truly), and give your work a Low Score based on The Review Board’s Ten-Star System which I Designed.
Also, I am very open-minded and will read anything.
I will quickly trust a one or two star review OVER a three through five star review on other websites. Those who have reviewed books THAT LOW are from reviewers who see that the work is not done well, and it prepares me mentally for what to expect from the writer.
My BIGGEST Pet Peeve is when I (or any of The Ladies of TRB) do a review and we are HONEST with our reviews and opinions, the author of the work complains about the review that THEY SOUGHT OUT with us.
I WILL be the first to let One know that it was YOU looked to us to be Honest; DO NOT complain about the VERY THING that you requested from us. IF that does happen (REGARDLESS of whether I have read your work or not), your rating WILL drop by Two Stars (by MY HAND) GUARANTEED and I will note it IN BOLD PRINT in the review (whether it is my review, or one of The Ladies of TRB).
REVIEWER’S NOTE #1: Anyone who has read a review from me KNOWS that if I open up a review with MY Disclaimer, I am going to give a FULL Prostate Exam on a book. Spoilers WILL be seen during my process.
Now that the formalities are out of the way (as well as what to expect from me), let’s read the blurb to get a sense and feel about that which we are reading:
Counterstrike. In 1995 two brothers are hard at work developing real estate in Phoenix, far removed from danger. Spencer, the older, is first among equals until his younger brother Boyce suffers a deep loss when his wife dies in the horrific accident. Boyce suspects Spencer’s involvement, and that ignites personal and professional backstabbing in which each tries to unhinge and outwit the other. A family friend and Vietnam vet named Boots plays both ends. This masterfully drawn novel features betrayal, hate and murderous treachery. The story rocks with riveting intensity, shifting allegiances and shocking thrills as it twists and turns like a Ferrari racer to a terrifying climax. Some pages are revolting and some naughty, but this jaw-dropping mystery is easy for you to get—just click this bargain and read.
Right off the bat, the blurb is a turn off. The description is there, no doubt, but there are specific items that made me frown in disappointment, along with a VERY POOR construct that is obvious. This piece here is the one that gave me said frown (which is shown on his Amazon.com Author Page):
“The story rocks with riveting intensity, shifting allegiances and shocking thrills as it twists and turns like a Ferrari racer to a terrifying climax. Some pages are revolting and some naughty, but this jaw-dropping mystery is easy for you to get—just click this bargain and read.”
Yeah: this to me looks like the author is overselling his work without realizing that this is what he has done.
Let’s examine the last 6 words: “just click the bargain and read.”
If by this wording you mean clicking the bargain to read it as far as purchasing the work from a website of interest, this SEEMS OK and makes sense. Click the “buy” button and get ready to be immersed in the art.
MY ISSUE comes in where upon further examination of Mr. John Groh’s Amazon author page…
We can read these words “just click the bargain and read.” on the cover of the $14.85 Paperback edition of Mr. Groh’s book!
Mr. Groh, I yell…
This is my suggested revision of the blurb:
In 1995, two brothers are hard at work developing real estate in Phoenix, Arizona, far removed from danger. Boyce Blythe, the younger of two brothers, mourns alongside his older brother Spencer as they grieve when word gets out that Boyce’s wife died in a horrific car accident. Boyce suspects Spencer’s involvement in her death, which ignites personal and professional backstabbing, which is creating a battle of unhinging and outwitting within the rivalry of the siblings. A family friend and Vietnam Veteran named Bernard “Boots” Billings plays both ends in the brothers’ banter.
“Counterstrike” is an intriguing novel which features betrayal, hate, and murderous treachery. This story offers a window into which one would look and see how Adversity shows the true character of people in the face of tragedy.
REVIEWER’S NOTE #2: While speaking with a friend on Skype at 11:51PM on Saturday January 17, 2015 (NOT one of my The Review Board (TRB) colleagues), I read the original blurb to her, and she was NOT happy with it. She said IMMEDIATELY that if the concept of the book is not constructed properly and it does not jump out at her, she IS NOT purchasing the book. She strongly feels that the book’s description is all over the place which leads her to nowhere: “The back of the book SELLS the book,” are her final spoken words in reference to the blurb.
After reading my revised version of the book description to her while continuing our conversation on Skype, my friend is NOW very intrigued and interested in reading the book. She says that the revision is 110% better, and she is more inclined to purchase this work based off of what I wrote.
Not only that, I have an inquiry:
WHY IN THE WORLD, that a story about Boyce Blythe, is the older brother Spencer SEEMINGLY highlighted as the main character of this literary journey in the blurb?! This makes NO SENSE AT ALL!
BOYCE’S WIFE DIED: NOT SPENCER’S WIFE. One would CLEARLY THINK (by the Laws of Storytelling Logic) that Boyce would AND should be the focus of the story.
Mr. Groh (as far as the blurb), you screwed up: you screwed up REALLY BAD.
NOT off to a good start, my friend…
Now, as far as the reading of the story goes…
Boyce Blythe, his big brother Spencer, as well as longtime family friend Bernard “Boots” Billings are grief stricken when Boyce’s wife Millie dies in a horrific and freak car accident. Boyce tries to find answers related to his wife’s demise, while being shunned and/or dismissed left and right by those who are around him. Boyce discovers several uncomfortable truths along the way as his search for the truth moves forward, having him question those who he holds near and dear to his heart. The battle of one-upmanship between Boyce and Spencer affects both their professional and personal lives to the point of no return and possibly the point of no reconciliation.
On top of that, Boyce is doing ALL of his Dick Tracy sleuthing into the death of his wife while maintaining his Real Estate business as he attempts to outshine his big brother Spencer.
At the end of the day, no matter what trials and tribulations are/were going on in his life, Boyce still has to get things done in order to keep the Wheel of Life rolling.
Boyce is the guy for whom you expect to feel bad when a young man loses the Love of his Life. He gets a bit paranoid, begins to think up conspiracy theories to unearth truths, and becomes a bit cautious when it comes to dealing with others due to this trauma.
He connects with me personally because there have been times where I have experienced loss (and witnessed others who have experienced losses of their own), and I wonder if something was missed, overlooked, and/or smells strange.
During those times, we say and/or do things and/or/towards people that we regret later down the road.
Boots remind me of Birchum from the comedy show “Crank Yankers,” as he talks about Vietnam and the ARMY with Boyce. Boots reminisces about the days of Vietnam and all that he experienced at the time. He does become annoyed with Boyce at times, yet he knows that Boyce watches out for him, and vice versa; the proverbial “big brother/substitute father” despite some heat between the two at times as the book describes him. A less than savory secret is dangling over Boots’ head, which causes him to do Boyce’s bidding. In turn, Boots may very well have ulterior motives of his own.
Spencer is the competitive older brother who seems to always be one step ahead of his little brother Boyce. Citing certain events (especially one involving the birthday party for Spencer’s daughter which got the ball rolling for the brothers’ actions and deeds in this read), Spencer is feeling a bit… perturbed towards Boyce to say the least.
There are many instances where character specification is needed immensely in order to differentiate between the characters. Specifically, at the start of each chapter within the first two sentences, you will see “he,” “she,” or “they,” yet no mention to whom the author is referring when using these words.
When a sentence starts with “he,” “she,” or “they,” mass confusion can AND WILL happen often. This shows the author’s amateurish style of writing with blatant rule breaking in Storytelling 101 when it comes to this aspect. Simply put: doing this, like using the word “and” to begin a sentence in ANY literature, is a BIG no-no in the literary world.
As I have said in the majority of my reviews, extra eyes can make all of the difference. This story is no exception to this truth.
There are missing words, choppy storytelling where the dialogue cuts without a smooth transition, while fragmented sentences caused awkward dialogue and uncomfortable reading for those who are reading this story throughout.
Reviewer’s Note #3: the pages quoted are from my PDF. Actual page number in the book is in parenthesis:
PDF page 108 (actual page 100)
“’Not a bad shot from that distance. What you do with this slimy stuff?’ Boyce asked while wiping the red liquid.”
Missing words are apparent here, due to my MS Word program recognizing the sentence “Not a bad shot from that distance” as fragmented. Revision suggestion:
“’That was not a bad shot from that distance, Boots. What do you do with this slimy stuff?’ Boyce asked while wiping the red liquid.”
PDF page 113 (actual page 105)
“’He had the knack for it.’ Boyce hung his thumbs from a new wide black leather belt with a silver buckle.”
To me, this sentence feels awkward and borderline lazy. Revision suggestion:
“’He had the knack for it,’ Boyce said as he hung his thumbs from his new wide black leather belt with a silver buckle.”
PDF page 290 (actual page 282)
“After he finished coffee Boots stuffed in a fresh chew of Redman and mentally recounted their conversation at lunch.”
This sentence is missing a comma as well as a word. Revision suggestion:
“After he finished his coffee, Boots stuffed a fresh chew of Redman into his mouth and mentally recounted their conversation at lunch.”
PDF page 413 (actual page 405)
“Above the fireplace hung a framed color photo of the Blyth family patriarch, Walter Blythe.”
The name Blythe is misspelled in this sentence.
PDF page 414 (actual page 406)
“Sure did one helluva lot of work for you, although you never paid me right.”
This sentence looks a bit confusing and lazy to me. Revision suggestion:
“You sure did a helluva lot of work for yourself, although you never paid me right old man.”
PDF page 430 (actual page 422)
“Yes, the twine was thin enough not to jam the trigger. Yes, he tied it to a full can of Bud on the table. Yes, one bullet remained. Yes, he carefully cradled the gun in both hands so the chamber could move. And yes, he would keep a chew in his mouth when he kicked the Bud.”
I am struggling to understand the logic of the author using the word “Yes” in the final chapter. Is it symbolic of one of the other characters witnessing the goings on during this event? Revision suggestion:
“The twine was thin enough not to jam the trigger. He tied it to a full can of Bud on the table; one bullet remained. He carefully cradled the gun in both hands so the chamber could move. He would keep a wad of chew in his mouth when he kicked the can of Bud.”
PDF Page 430 (actual page 422)
“Finally he would belong . . . like the rest of them . . . to the land of the dead. And the stellar jay shrieked one last time.”
There is the misuse of the ellipsis, as well as the word “and” beginning the sentence. Revision suggestion:
“Finally he would belong like the rest of them: to the land of the dead, as the stellar jay shrieked one last time.”
Semicolons were used in place of commas at the start of the story (seen in the earlier chapters specifically), and were used improperly in the story at times.
Another item that concerned me is the extensive description of surroundings, notably with Boyce’s trip and his brand new car accompanied with reminiscing of past cars and thinking of other cars. Less is more in this aspect, where the extra words, sentences, and paragraphs could have been better utilized in character development.
On top of that, commas were MISSING in the places that NEEDED commas the most: This was seen THROUGHOUT the book! Citing the MASSIVE lack of commas, the sentences come off as borderline run-on sentences. This hurts the eyes of the readers, who need to know when to (reading wise) breathe during their reading.
Not good, Mr. Groh…
In regards to the twists and turns that Mr. John Groh promised us in his story, I would like to share a bit of dialogue from actress April Bowlby (who played Kandi) on the hit comedy show “Two and a Half Men.” She explains to Charlie Harper (played by Charlie Sheen) the difference between him and his brother Alan (played by Jon Cryer) when it comes to coital affairs:
Charlie Harper: So, how big a difference are we talking about?
Kandi: It’s *huge*.
Charlie Harper: Really?
Kandi: Oh yeah. With you, sex is kind of like going on Space Mountain. It’s a good ride, but there’s never any real danger.
[Charlie gives a perplexed look]
Kandi: With Alan, it’s like being in the back seat of a car driven by a really smart kangaroo. He may go up on the curb a couple times, but he’ll get you there.
Charlie Harper: Ok. Thanks for clearing that up.
[Kandi exits the kitchen]
Charlie Harper: [saying to himself, knowing he’s won] There’s a two hour wait for Space Mountain.
The point of my sharing this dialogue is that I would like to read a story that has the aforementioned twists and turns and have a great time reading it, just like Kandi had in her coital affairs with Alan.
Simple terms: I wanted to be driven around by a really smart kangaroo while I read “Counterstrike”; I wanted this ride to be VERY interesting.
SIDEBAR: I have NO IDEA which is worse…
Truth be told, the Ferrari racer in which I was hoping to ride to a terrifying climax is stuck in the traffic that is a SEVERE lack of punctuation marks, poor sentence structure throughout the book, flashes of misspellings, the ONE PARAGRAPH CHAPTER that is Chapter 27, and an Okay premise that (IF utilized properly) could have made “Counterstrike” a whole lot more than what was presented to me. Granted, there are some decent curves here and there, but no curves in the road that were in the shape of a hairpin that would have sent me careening off the cliff.
Honestly, we ALL have heard this type of story before in some way, shape, and/or form:
Survey Says: 4 out of 10 Stars
Despite my best efforts to enjoy “Counterstrike”, it was underwhelming. It was anticlimactic, clichéd, and predictable in several spots. Of course, this is my take on the story. You perception of this book may differ from mine.
Both reviewers look to be on the same page.
TRB Verdict: 4 out of 10 Stars
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