I spend A LOT of time reading on my computer. Because of that, I did not think I would mind reading this book online. However, when it comes to reading for pleasure, I just want to hold the book in my hands and turn the pages. I would not rule out reading another e-book, but clearly it is NOT my preferred format. Particularly with this book, I found the non-standard font and the lack of page numbers distracting. It simply did not feel like a "real" book, and I missed that.
Still - Sleight of Hand by Deanna Blackhurst (an e-book published on Smashwords) was such an intriguing read that I couldn't put it down.
The book deals with concepts of choice and accountability, justice and mercy through the story Daniel Cabrero, a con man who has manipulated, cheated, and lied his way through life. Daniel dies of a heart attack on page 5 of the book. The rest of the story deals with how he comes to terms with the "afterlife" he finds himself in.
Daniel is transported to a lovely rural setting that SEEMS like heaven. It's not. When his spirit guide, Jonah, explains that Daniel is actually in "Wasteland", Daniel begins to scheme like he has never schemed before in order to con his way out and into the comfort of Paradise City. After all, those skill sets had worked for him in life, why not in death as well?
While Blackhurst is an LDS author and some of the concepts of afterlife are clearly influenced by the doctrines of her faith, this book is NOT "Mormon Fiction". It is very much a non-denominational speculative tale about what MIGHT be around the corner when we die. It does not preach or proselytize. Blackhurst addresses serious themes in ways that are sometimes humorous and sometimes thought provoking.
As I was reading descriptions of the frustration Daniel felt at being able to drink all the cold beer he wanted but could never get that familiar warm "buzz" of intoxication since he had no body, it made me wonder what sort of things I would most miss.
However, the notion of being able to savor all of the richest, most decadent foods you might dream up with no health consequences sounded pretty heavenly to me.
As Daniel is faced with choices for the next steps he will make in his spiritual progression we are given flashbacks into the ill deeds he has committed throughout his life. This is clearly the G or PG version as the language is generally tame and our bad boy protagonist keeps showing a certain reserve of scruples that stop him from doing things that might be considered truly vile.
Nevertheless, we witness the many ways that one person's choices can impact others as Daniel is forced to recognize the harm he has caused. What he chooses to do about that will determine what his ultimate fate will be.
There were parts of the book I REALLY liked. I appreciated some of the little details about the physical environment...
"The path they traveled curved slightly to the right and then to the left, Daniel noticed, as it meandered its way through the greenery. The foliage was dense, sometimes creating a canopy above their heads, but there was nothing dark or shadowy about the place. In fact, there were no shadows at all, and when he looked up, Daniel could find no trace of sun above them.
"We don't require a burning star for light or warmth here", Jonah said, as if reading Daniel's thoughts. "Each living thing has a light within itself. The purpose of the sky is simply to reflect that light."
There were parts I did not like. Some of the supporting characters seemed a bit contrived. There was never really an adequate explanation about Jonah's predicament.
Also there was one plot twist that served to add suspense and build depth to the Daniel Cabrero character, but the details seemed very unrealistic to me.
Still, overall it was a good read. I enjoyed it and will more than likely look for other work by this same author.
If you are interested to see what OTHER people had to say about this book - check out the side bar of Tristi Pinkston's virtual book tour site. Mine is the second review so far. Others will be added in the coming weeks.
One last note - I would caution the writer to be a little more careful when selecting a title.
When doing a Google search for "Sleight of Hand ebook" I found another that was ALSO published on Smashwords - a completely different novel with the same title by CJ Lyons.
There is a Nook ebook about tribes and vampires by Lauren Dane ALSO titled Sleight of Hand.
There is a mystery for Microsoft Reader by Wilhelm Kate by that same title.
There is an ultra steamy bodice-ripper romance for Kindle by Katrina Strauss of the same name.
There is a thriller that takes place in Las Vegas by Jeff Marriotte with AGAIN, that same title.
Mind you, these are just e-books. There are others in traditional print format.
So my advice to any authors out there is do a little research before you pick a title for your baby book. It can avoid a whole lot of needless confusion.