The Tell All (Locust Point Mystery Book 1) by Libby Howard

The Tell All (Locust Point Mystery Book 1) by Libby Howard, 153 pages, July 24th, 2017, Format: Kindle. Genre: Women Sleuths, Ghosts, Mystery. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

A quick and charming read, The Tell All by Libby Howard is a fresh take on the cozy mystery. Kay Carrera is a sixty-year-old widow, having recently lost her husband of many years. Prior to that loss, she dealt with not being able to have kids and her husband’s debilitating illness. Kay’s had some rough life experiences. However, she doesn’t let the past weigh her down. She is determined to move forward and build a renewed life for herself. What makes this a fresh take? Most modern American cozy mysteries jump into the action and plot pretty quickly. Howard gives us time to get to know Kay. Kay doesn’t feel like a stock character by the time the action begins. Kay feels like a real person, heading into a scary and exciting new phase of her life. Other characters are also introduced and we get to know a little more about them before the plot takes off.

Although a few hints and a couple of clues dot the landscape over the first half of the book, the bulk of the investigation takes place over the last half of the pages. In fact, it felt like it was over too fast. The story was believable; the characters relatable. Howard makes it a breeze to sympathize with the main character and her supporting cast. The plot was interesting, although I figured out the solution a bit earlier than I would’ve liked. As for the writing, the engaging style kept me turning the pages, although I did find a couple of minor editing errors in the text.

I’d recommend this one to readers who like cozy mysteries and quick reads of around an hour. I look forward to reading the next book and seeing how Kay’s new life develops.

You can find this one at The Tell All.

Book Description:

Life at sixty isn’t quite what Kay Carrera expected. She’s working as a skip-tracer for a PI who is desperate to land his own reality TV show. She has a new roommate who arrived with more than the usual amount of baggage. And her attempts at knitting are less than stellar – way less than stellar. Worse, the cataract surgery that restored her sight has also delivered an unexpected and disturbing side-effect.

Kay sees ghosts. And when the dead turn to her for help, she just can’t say no.

About the Author:

Libby Howard lives in a little house in the woods with her sons and two exuberant bloodhounds. She occasionally knits, occasionally bakes, and occasionally manages to do a load of laundry. Most of her writing is done in a bar where she can combine work with people-watching, a decent micro-brew, and a plate of Old Bay wings.

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Handbook For Mortals: Book 1 of the series by Lani Sarem

Handbook For Mortals: Book 1 of the series by Lani Sarem, Geeknation Press, 477 pages, August 16th 2017, Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Handbook For Mortals by Lani Sarem is a magical realism novel aimed at young adults. Its purpose is to entice you to see the film that will be made from the screenplay the book is based upon (also written by Sarem). As a series of films are in the works, a series of books based on the screenplays for the films are in the works. This book seems designed largely for promotional purposes. It’s divided into 22 chapters, each based on a tarot card of the Major Arcana of the deck. Note: I read the entire book and am giving my honest opinion of the book itself and only the book from this point forward.

Zade is a young woman raised in Centertown, Tennessee, a town of Christians who despise and bully tarot readers by day, but come to them for advice at night. Her mother raised her alone and they have a few tense moments as Zade insists on leaving town for good to audition in a magic show in Vegas. Zade uses genuine magick, i.e. the manipulation of energy to create supernatural effects, to perform her signature trick. She’s adored by Charles, the producer and lead of the show, and immediately given a generous contract. There are several hunks working on the set, all of whom find her attractive. It quickly boils down to two guys: Jackson, the carefree, rolling stone musician; and Mac, the technical lead who hates her due to his tortured previous relationship, but falls for her at the same time. Jackson is laid back and accepting of others. Mac is logical, judgemental, and abrasive. Since Jackson and Mac met her around the same time, and they’re friends, they develop a ‘let the best man win’ attitude about dating the same girl. Zade knows she needs to choose between them, but drags out the process for several months. Roughly half of the book is dedicated to Zade’s process of fitting in with the show’s crew as she practices her trick for the show and trying to decide between her two boyfriends. The best part of the book is the last 20%. That’s where the plot makes an appearance and things start to get a bit interesting.

The things I liked about this book include Zade’s determination to cut the apron strings and make a new life for herself, her preference to shirk norms and adopt a do-it-yourself attitude, the Vegas show circuit setting, and a magician who is really a magickian. Zade’s self-reliance and positive attitude are endearing traits. On the downside, Zade sure is rude to her own mother in the first chapter. She is obsessed with her own physical appearance and describes herself at length many times. The premise shows promise. With quite a bit of work on the technical side of writing and editing the piece, it could be entertaining.

Although I read an article in which Sarem said three editors had seen her book prior to release, this book does not appear to have been edited at all. It reads like a rough draft that’s never been read by anyone but the author. The story is told mostly in first person with a conversational tone, with Zade breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the reader. At other points, the text switches to third person and italics. There aren’t many of these sections and I felt most of the pertinent information in the scene switches could’ve been worked into the first person narrative in other ways. Later in the book when her mother tells a story to Mac about the past, her mother narrates the story. This section could’ve benefited from expanding to “show, rather than tell” in flashback form while the “fretting over who to date” portion of the book could’ve been reduced by half. The pacing is off, making the first 3/4ths of the novel a difficult slog.

I’m not sure what the point of having Zade meet Carrot Top and Wayne Newton at the mall was. Even if they’re slated to appear in the movie, the scene serves no purpose. It doesn’t reveal character or drive the plot. It just makes me wonder if Carrot Top lets random strangers hug him at malls. One particular scene that rubbed me the wrong way took place at a lemonade vendor in the mall. A young beverage clerk tries to flirt with Zade who shows no interest back. His co-worker girlfriend gets mad and calls Zade foul names, implying violence may occur if Zade doesn’t magically make lemonade girl’s boyfriend stop flirting with Zade. Zade becomes angry over the girl’s behavior and instead of asking to speak with the manager on duty, she wields magick to explode the lemonade vat so gallons of sticky, delicious lemonade leap forward and knock the girl to the ground. Not only did Zade misuse magick for petty, unnecessary, vengeful, dark purposes, but she wasted all that lemonade.

Now I want lemonade.

You can find this book here: Handbook For Mortals .

For more information on the book’s controversy, check out The Shocking NYT Bestseller Debacle That Won’t Die.

My Rating (Based on My System)

Dimension (characters and setting): 2

Execution (dialogue, prose, originality): 2

Experiential (connection, enjoyability): 2

Technical (grammar, spelling, formatting): 1

Structural (plot, pacing, scene structure): 1

Total: 8/5= 1.6 (2 out of 5 stars)

The Trailer

Another Book Review by Perpetual Fangirl for Handbook For Mortals

Book Description:

Zade Holder has always been a free-spirited young woman, from a long dynasty of tarot-card readers, fortune tellers, and practitioners of magick. Growing up in a small town and never quite fitting in, Zade is determined to forge her own path. She leaves her home in Tennessee to break free from her overprotective mother Dela, the local resident spellcaster and fortuneteller.

Zade travels to Las Vegas and uses supernatural powers to become part of a premiere magic show led by the infamous magician Charles Spellman. Zade fits right in with his troupe of artists and misfits. After all, when everyone is slightly eccentric, appearing ”normal” is much less important.

Behind the scenes of this multimillion-dollar production, Zade finds herself caught in a love triangle with Mac, the show’s good-looking but rough-around-the-edges technical director and Jackson, the tall, dark, handsome and charming bandleader.

Zade’s secrets and the struggle to choose between Mac or Jackson creates reckless tension during the grand finale of the show. Using Chaos magick, which is known for being unpredictable, she tests her abilities as a spellcaster farther than she’s ever tried and finds herself at death’s door. Her fate is left in the hands of a mortal who does not believe in a world of real magick, a fortuneteller who knew one day Zade would put herself in danger and a dagger with mystical powers…

Handbook for Mortals is the first book in the series of this urban fantasy, paranormal romance series by author Lani Sarem.

Following Zade through the trials–and romance–of finding her own place in the world, readers will identify with their own struggles to fit in, reflected in the fantastic, yet mundane world of Zade’s life.

Handbook for Mortals is in development as a motion picture set to debut in 2018.

About the Author:

Lani Sarem basically grew up in the entertainment industry. She began acting at age three and continued to perform through her early years. Lani began writing scripts when she was eleven. She has developed into a resourceful jack-of-all-trades in the music business. At the age of fifteen, she became a rock n’ rolly gypsy, touring with bands and working on festivals. She’s worked with everyone from Ryan Adams to Gnarls Barkley. She was also one of the youngest female managers in the business with clients that include the Plain White T’s, 100 Monkeys and Blues Traveler. Lani has appeared in films such as Mall Cop 2, Jason Bourne and Trailer Park Shark.

Handbook for Mortals is her debut novel of a series of books, which are also being made into films.

You can follow Lani on her social networks to keep up with her many adventures. Keep an eye out for her at a Wizard World Comic Con near you.

The Agben School (The Legend of the Gamesmen Book 2) by Jo Sparkes

The Agben School (The Legend of the Gamesmen Book 2) by Jo Sparkes, 384 pages, Oscar Press, July 19th 2014. Genre: Sports/Fantasy. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

(I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review)

I thoroughly enjoyed The Birr Elixir, the first book in the series. I didn’t think the next one could get much better, but it did. The descriptions painted vivid imagery, the characters were relatable and their actions and reactions very human, and there were plot twists I never saw coming. This is shaping up to be a unique and highly enjoyable fantasy series.

In this installment, we follow Marra and the Gamesmen across the sea to the capital of the Skullan people, where the major games and tournaments for Comet take place. Among them is a new character, Tryst, a Skullan pretending to be a Truemen. He was originally under a strong sleeping spell. Having rescued Tryst from men who were up to no good, the Gamesmen dragged his sleeping body along for the ride while Marra, their ‘Brista’ or herbalist, continued to try different potions to break the sleeping spell. Tryst gratefully helped the group in any way he could, such as teaching them self-defense, new Comet moves from the main continent, and joining the team for games when they needed another person. Once they arrive at the city, Drail and the team realize things are tougher in the big leagues than back home. They encounter prejudice from the Skullan teams for their Truemen racial heritage. The Prince of the Skullan people has been missing and is presumed dead, at the hands, they say, of Truemen, heightening racial tensions within the city. Drail starts to lose heart, but regains his determination and drive to succeed at Comet, despite the obstacles and hard work it will take to get where he’s going. As the story moves forward, twists occur that keep you reading on.

What’s unique about this series? This series blends a fascinating fantasy setting with team sports. The sport is called “Comet”, a game in which teams of men try to sink balls in different hoops. The tricky part is you may not know how many points a particular ball will be worth until after you sink it, however, that just adds the element of strategy and keen wits to the game. It’s not just about physical prowess, it requires real thought behind the plays and a study of the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Jo Sparkes brings the sport to life, making you feel as though you were in the stands watching the game, rooting for your favorite team. I found myself yelling “Sink that ball!” and “No!” at my kindle a couple of times, as if the players could hear me.

If you haven’t read The Birr Elixir, the first in the series, I recommend starting with it and getting them both. If you enjoy sports and love fantasy novels, this series is right up your alley. Even if you’re not that into sports, you’ll still enjoy it as a fantasy genre fan.

You can find this book at The Agben School.

Book Description:

Agben had stood for a thousand years. A mysterious school housing more than students, it was the seat of the powerful Women of Agben, and the center for harnessing the potency of herbs. Few knew all that transpired within the walls.

And now Marra stood at its gate.

With friends and support stripped from her, the fragile life she’d built for herself now lay in tatters. And the source of this evil hunted her like a deer culled from the herd.

The gateway before her was her only hope.

For as the city itself crumbled, all depended not on a prince trying to save his people, nor the valiant men who’d brought them this far. Everything depended on finding a magic powder in the vaults of Agben itself.

Everything depended on her.

About the Author:

Check out my interview with Jo Sparkes!

From television shows to football articles, Jo Sparkes can’t put the pen down. She’s interviewed Emmit Smith and Anquan Boldin (as Arizona Cardinals), taught screenwriting at the Film School at SCC, and went on camera to make “Stepping Above Criticism”.

An award winning writer, she lives happily in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their dog, Oscar.

Inevitable Ascension by V. K. McAllister

Inevitable Ascension by V.K McAllister, 342 pages, KZA LLC, September 12th 2015, Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian/Time Travel. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

By Leigh Holland.

If you could look into the hearts of all mankind, and determined they were wicked, what would you do?

This is the story of Violina and Lux, two thieving gals making their way the only way they know how in a corrupt world run by oligarchic criminals. They’d rather not hurt people, just take what they need to save up for retirement and, well, retire. So they can stop all the thieving. Speaking of vicious cycles, this book has many of them. Its twists and turns unfold at well-paced intervals to keep you turning the pages. Once the duo began traveling through time, I couldn’t put it down. Revelation occurs for the reader as it does for Violina, making it a pleasure to read. It was as if I was traveling with them, rooting for their survival.

The action goes by so quickly it’s not until you pause to come up for air that you realize there are deeper questions simmering in your mind. Mankind has built and destroyed how many civilizations? Yet we keep trying. Wow, humans are completely insane, or completely corrupt, with the ones who aren’t insane or corrupt just trying to avoid the crosshairs of the ones that are. Which pretty much sums up why everyone in a position of leadership and power is either insane, or corrupt, or both. Will we ever get it right? What does getting it right even mean?

I loved this read. It was quirky with charming, memorable characters. It’s a fast-paced, thrilling ride with surprising twists.

Check this one out at Inevitable Ascension.

Book Description:

If you knew your world would soon be torched to carbon, would you fight to save it?

…Or light a match of your own?

Violina, a girl polarized by love and loathing, finds herself thrown into a post-apocalyptic world with mankind on the brink of extinction. Discovering the means to travel back in time, she teams up with the ever-optimistic, pun-loving Lux and sets out to prevent the apocalypse from ever happening in the first place. But as her crusade advances, she becomes increasingly disgusted by humanity’s apparent *lack* of humanity and comes to a frightening realization: To build a new world, she must first tear the old one down.

Inevitable Ascension—The twisted jigsaw puzzle of a story with equal parts rapid-fire action, humor and charm. It’s got a host of twists that will literally make your brain explode! Actually not literally, you know, because otherwise that would be really gross.

About the Author(s):

We’re a husband/wife duo (Andrew and Sasha McAllister) with a unique approach to writing. We work simultaneously and in secret before combining what we come up with, resulting in dramatic and unexpected twists that surprise even us! Crazy? Yes, yes it is, but it’s surprisingly fun and effective. 🙂 We pretty much live for the Inevitable Ascension series and did just about everything ourselves—the writing, the editing, the publishing, the art (well, Andrew did the art, but Sasha provided invaluable consulting when it came to eyebrows), the audio book, the trailer—everything. We’re basically a one-man band, except with two people… and no music… so perhaps not the best metaphor, but we’re confident you get what we mean.

Deamhan (Deamhan Chronicles Book 1) by Isaiyan Morrison

Deamhan (Deamhan Chronicles Book 1) by Isaiyan Morrison, 287 pages, 2nd Edition, May 9th 2015, Genre: Metaphysical/Occult. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Meet Veronica Austin. She’s the daughter of Darth Vader the President of the Midwest Division of a fanatical organization with super shady intentions towards mortals, vampires, and Deamhan alike. They’re known as The Brotherhood. Her mother, Caroline, went missing when Veronica was a small child. Veronica is searching for clues to what happened to her mother. Her quest flies in the face of what her father wants and embroils her in the dangerous world of supernatural beings who both admire her resolve and bravery, and want to eat her.

Veronica’s father loves power and prestige more than anything. I’m fairly certain he’d do anything, sacrifice anyone, to maintain his power in the order. I never got the sense that his daughter was more than a thorn in his side to him, a thorn that’s in a place where pulling it out will hurt more than just leaving it alone. It’s commonly believed he murdered Caroline. He never shows any sign of mourning or regret. What he is good at doing is sending the worst possible choice to try to stop his daughter from finding out the truth about her mother’s fate, i.e. “Sean” the guy who secretly carries a torch for Veronica and is known for breaking the rules of the Brotherhood regardless of personal consequences. Naturally, Sean helps her find the truth and he abandons the Brotherhood. Sean is loyal to Veronica, even taking on a job pretending to be her dad’s spy while secretly plotting to help her instead. Sean’s a good friend and hopes to become something more to her.

I admired Veronica’s tenacity and determination. Her dedication to finding the truth about her mother was a shining beacon she clung to like a ship lost on the tempest-tossed sea. She possessed the bravery-almost-stupidity that I like in a mortal hero who’s surrounded by human-eating, powerful supernatural critters. Veronica isn’t foolish enough to not be afraid of them. She is afraid of them. She knows fear won’t do her any good and acts in ways she feels will aid her in her quest.

I was confused about why Veronica felt researching the burnings of sanctuaries would yield information about her mother, as this was never explained and it didn’t lead her in the right direction. Other than that, the plot was well-paced and intriguing. Overall, the plot was engaging and kept me turning the pages.

If you’re looking for an original spin on the ancient myth of vampires featuring a relatable and strong female protagonist, Deamhan is the book for you!

You can find this book at Deamhan.

Other books in the series include:

Kei: Family Matters (Book 1.5)

Dark Curse (Book 2)

Deception (Book 3)

Divination (Book 4)

Book Description:

Deamhan have survived by remaining hidden in the shadows. Ramanga, Lamia, Metusba, and Lugat have been overshadowed by what humans know as the modern vampire. But what if vampires aren’t the real threat?

One woman’s search for her mother who disappeared without a trace on the streets of Minneapolis takes her into the precarious world of Deamhan, psychic vampires who rule the underground nightlife in the city’s most darkest corners.

She gains the trust of the only other human familiar with the Deamhan lifestyle. With his help she finds not only can the Deamhan not be trusted but it s her own father, president of a ruthless organization of researchers, who has diabolically maintained that distrust.

About the Author:

A veteran of the Armed Forces, Isaiyan Morrison was born and raised in Minneapolis.

Her passions include writing, reading, and researching historical events.

She also spends her time gardening, playing video games, and hanging out with her three cats and beloved pitt bull.

She’s the author of The Deamhan Chronicles and the novel, Old Farmer’s Road.

Be sure to sign up for her Newsletter to be notified of Isaiyan’s newest releases!

http://eepurl.com/cSxchr

You can also find her at:

Website: http://isaiyanmorrison.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/isaiyanmorrison

The Red Grouse Tales by Leslie W P Garland

The Red Grouse Tales: The Little Dog and Other Stories by Leslie W P Garland, 358 pages, December 2nd 2015, Genre: Contemporary Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

The Red Grouse Tales is a collection of four novellas into a larger work. Each tale is tied together by style and theme. The style of the work is first person storytelling narration. A person is telling the story to another person for the duration of each tale. This is my least favorite style, but that’s a personal preference. Others may like the way the stories are presented.

The theme that binds the tales together is the nature, origin, and manifestation of evil in our world. Each tale presents ‘evil’ in a different way and compels the reader to reflect on it. What is evil, truly? Can we know someone is ‘evil’? Is evil a sentient force striving to release itself and cover the world? Or is evil just a name we give to things that horrify us? How do we confront evil when others can’t see it for what it is?

Of the four tales, my favorite is the third one, “The Golden Tup”. In this tale, a couple having marital problems discovers a journal from one hundred and fifty years ago. The journal reveals information about an evil on their farmland. Once the couple agrees as to the place where evil dwells, what they do to remedy the situation is truly horrifying. Were they right? Or were they now “evil”?

Overall, I really liked the concept of each story. I think the style made it more difficult for me to really get into it. The stories weaved the theme well throughout the work and the style remained consistent.

You can find this book at The Red Grouse Tales.

Book Description:

Comprising four intriguing novella length contemporary adult fantasy stories which contain mystery, a hint of the supernatural or paranormal, together with a passing nod towards philosophy and religion – though in these modern fairy or folk tales the fantastic doesn’t happen in some remote fantasy world, but right here in this one, in very ordinary, almost everyday circumstances!

The Little Dog – a story of good and evil, and retribution.

This tales is told by Bill, a retired forester, and takes the form of most of the stories in our lives, namely, that we have no idea that we are living a story until later when previous events suddenly seem to fall into place and make some kind of sense.

Bill recounts a week in his early working life when, paired with an older, unsavoury and unpopular colleague, they find a little dog sitting beside the forest haul-road way out in a remote part of the forest. What is the little dog doing there? As the week progresses Bill finds himself becoming emotionally attached to it while also becoming increasingly concerned about just who is his objectionable workmate, and when he notices that the little dog is no longer present at its usual spot his concerns heighten, as he cannot help but feel that his workmate has something to do with the dog’s disappearance.

Although a troubled Bill has a conversation with his local priest and learns of the nature of sin and evil, he remains blind to that which is right in front of him. However the very next day events suddenly take an unexpected turn and the young naive Bill starts to learn some awful truths.

The Crow – a poignant tale of misunderstanding, dying, blame and bitterness.

This story, which centres on our almost desperate desire to leave something to mark our lives upon this earth, is told as a history recounted by Dave, of the time when he, as a child, was taken by his mother to a hospice where he met a dying and embittered old Irish priest known as Mad Father Patrick, who told him about the school days and subsequent rise of a local councillor, Reginald Monday, and of his (Monday’s) involvement in the construction of a dam which flooded a valley. Father Patrick’s increasingly mad tale is told with a blend of biblical quotations, philosophical musings and wild fantasy, but how does it end and just why is he so bitter?

The Golden Tup – a dreadful tale of paradise being cruelly taken by latent evil.

Can evil be in a place? The tale opens with Verity, a farmer’s wife, recalling how a young couple were arrested a few years previously for killing their newborn baby. How could such a nice young couple have done such a dreadful thing? Through a series of flashbacks we learn how they had created their rural idyll, how an enigmatic man had come into their lives and how their idyll and relationship had gradually fallen apart – how, with references to Milton’s Paradise Lost, their paradise was lost. Gradually the young wife reveals a dreadful past, but Verity realises that she is holding something back, but what? What is the terrible truth that caused her and her husband to kill their baby?

The White Hart – a happy ghost story, if there can be such a thing!

Told by a likeable male chauvinist, bachelor and keen fell-runner, Pete Montague recalls three strange incidents which he initially thought were unconnected. The first is his encounter with a little albino deer which he found in the forest when he was out for a jog. The second is that of a chance meeting with a beautiful, young but somewhat enigmatic girl in a remote chapel, and of their conversation in which she told him of the tragic story of the daughter of the family which built it. And the third incident …. A ghost story with a happy ending!

Adult fantasy stories for those who like to think about what they are reading

(Warning to sensitive readers; these tales are for adults and so do contain some bad language and references to sex).

About the Author:

Leslie Garland was born in 1949, qualified as a Chartered Civil Engineer and worked for several years on projects in the UK, the Far East and Africa. During this period he won the Institution of Civil Engineers “Miller Prize” for a paper on tunnelling. Changing times resulted in a change in direction and after qualifying as an Associate Member of both the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society he started his own stock photograph library and wrote for the trade press. An unexpected break in his Internet connection fortuitously presented the time to make a start on a long cherished project of a series of short stories, and the first two of “The Red Grouse Tales” were drafted. Two more tales have followed and he is now working on a second batch of tales. He lives with his wife in Northumberland, England. More information is available on http://www.lesliegarland.co.uk.

Birth: The Exquisite Sound of One Hand Falling Off a Turnip Truck (Chakra Kong Book 1) by S. T. Gulik

Birth: The Exquisite Sound of One Hand Falling Off a Turnip Truck (Chakra Kong Book 1) by S. T. Gulik, 290 pages, Sausage Press, November 26th 2016, Genre: Satire/Dark Humor/Science Fiction/Adventure. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

This is not a book, but a prophecy, written no more than one hundred years prior to the events it will inevitably depict. This is important because quite frankly, I’m getting tired of all the old, rehashed prophecies of ages past. Yes, yes, who can forget the words of Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Inspirational, straightforward. Come to think of it, I rather like that. At any rate, this book depicts our absurd future in the most absurd manner possible. What else should we expect from a prophetic magical cockroach?

This is a gospel of Max, a highly unlikely, unheroic hero. He awakens in the (not so) distant future in a tub of ice, wounds on his sides sewn up with dental floss, and his kidneys removed. How can he survive such a thing? Well, for that explanation, you can click the link to the appendix where you can learn about The Divine Disturbance, an event that transformed human consciousness for ten minutes, rose zombies from the grave, and made people who were dying able to live without vital organs. This event stems from the hair metal band Poison Candy getting irritated that they were underappreciated. There’s more to the explanation, feel free to read the appendix to find out. I did. At length. It was hilarious and absurd.

Max has a nymphomaniac girlfriend and a pet cheek worm named Cakey made from his DNA. The cheek worm, not the nympho, is made from Max’s DNA. He’s called Cakey because he’s addicted to snack cakes, which are FUD. FUD is what we eat in America now. It’s not real food and the folks of the future differentiate between the two. Max and Cakey go to buy Halloween costumes. The store is attacked by a group of Iites (see Appendix for more info, basically mutants who live in the sewers and leave nobody alive). Somehow, Max and Cakey kill all the Iites and survive, placing a giant target on their heads. The Media wants him to do speaking shows to cash in on his fifteen minutes of fame while the Riot Nrrds, enemies of the Iites, want him to help take down their foes and the entire government. What does Max want? Well, Max just wants everyone to leave him alone and to go back to his normal, boring, self-interested life. Unfortunately for Max, with a target on him, he has no choice but to choose to be a hero. Well, sort of.

By the time I reached the end, I reflected on how this, at times, presents a completely inconceivable future. At other points, I realized how true some aspects could be. FUD exists now, it’s just not labeled as such. Even if it were, it wouldn’t change a thing. People would still eat it in large enough quantities for its producers to remain profitable. The Media is not one conglomerate out for money and to distract the populace, it’s six, but one day it could meld into one. Will anyone stop it? No, probably not. None of the rival factions and parties presented in the book are any better or worse than the others, just different, and equally corrupt and after power. That’s always been true and always will, despite our very human tendency to label such parties and factions as “good” or “bad” depending on our own views.

I loved this. If you love Absurdist literature, you’ll love it too. This is a roller-coaster ride of utter oddness that begs to be ridden. The author uses a lot of surprising, ridiculous similes and metaphors.

Some of my favorite lines from the book:

The air hit his face like a fat hooker’s cleavage.

Pope’s eyes burned with grandiose delusion you could light a cigar on.

Max wasn’t sure if it was her tone or the pricy alcohol, but his nervousness left as fast as a conservative grandmother at a John Waters film.

You can find this book at Birth.

Other links:

Birth by S. T. Gulik

Book Description:

After defending himself against a group of mutant terrorists, Max is caught in a web of global conspiracies, terrorist networks and esoteric gibberish at the heart of an underground war for global domination. He doesn’t like humans, but the only way to free himself is to liberate mankind by destroying the shadow government who want him dead. Birth is the first in a trilogy of epic, black comedies. The next book is entitled “Sex (Or Busier Than A Three Legged Cat Trying To Squeeze Blood From The Tip Of An Iceberg)”.

About the Author:

S.T. Gulik is a magical cockroach. He started his life as a common wood roach in 1681, living in a small castle outside of Dublin. One day, a human alchemist blew himself up while trying to brew the elixir of life. S.T. survived the blast, but the fumes cursed him with self-awareness and immortality. A lot has happened in three-hundred-thirty-five years. Everyone he knew and loved has died. Vampire movies make him cry. On the upside, he’s had countless adventures and learned many things. He worked for the goddess of chaos for one-hundred-twenty-three years. About thirty years ago she turned him human and disappeared, which is fine because humans are smart and likable. Oh, and he writes absurdist fiction. That’s important. Gotta mention that.

Assiyah Rising (Part One) by T. H. Ansz

Assiyah Rising (Part One) A Novella, by T.H. Ansz, 122 pages, June 24th 2017, Genre: Science Fiction/Metaphysical. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Lt. Michael Grant is randomly chosen to be involved in the greatest revelation thus far granted to mankind: we are not alone. Michael works with Jennifer Smith, an attractive NSA agent, to bring in a bland, banal American civilian, Todd Miles, to meet the President. Everything is veiled in secrecy as it becomes apparent to Mike that the President doesn’t trust everyone in the chain of command. The message is revealed: We are not alone, aliens have been observing humanity for some time now, and they have an even more important message to deliver to the world leaders at a UN summit at a scheduled time and date. Mike’s superior orders him to put together a team to determine if the aliens are friend or foe, and what weaknesses they may have in the event they’re hostile.

I enjoyed that the aliens understood the sad but true state of human nature. They knew that the only way we’d ever stop destroying each other and work together to make the world safer and better is if we’re unified against a common foe. Without a common foe, we devolve into national, religious, and political tribes hellbent on destroying each other politically or literally (or both). If we cannot subdue this violent aspect of our nature, will we eventually destroy our own species? Our own planet? The theme is the central focus of this story.

In one scene, the President thanks Mike for making an outburst earlier in the scene, however it was the general that made the outburst while Mike passively observed. This confused me. Other than that, the novella flowed along well in a straightforward, third person style. As this was a shorter work introducing the reader to the beginning of a larger story, the characters are in the early stages of development and self-revelation. The primary viewpoint, and most defined, character was Mike.

Ansz’s Assiyah Rising was an entertaining, relatively quick read. It’s a promising start to the series and I’m interested to see where the author takes the story and characters.

You can find it at Assiyah Rising (Part One).

Book Description:

Assiyah (ah-see-YAH): Noun. The physical world we currently live in. A world of action. The fourth and lowest realm of existence. A place where the Creator hides from its creation. (Kabbalah)

A young Army intelligence officer, an NSA agent, a physicist, a DARPA biologist, and an unassuming man from the Midwest are swept into a powerful current of events cloaked in secrecy and driven from the very top of political power. They soon discover an intelligence that has descended upon the Earth, forcing humanity to reconsider their position in the world and in the cosmos itself.

Southwest on the A303 by Adam Gary

Southwest on the A303 by Adam Gary, 92 pages, July 21st 2017, Genre: Coming of Age. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Alex is a young adult residing with his parents in England. He’s always been one to play by the rules, avoid trouble, and disavow unpleasant or undignified situations. Throughout his young life, he developed a close relationship with his maternal uncle, Bill. Uncle Bill was the opposite of Alex- in Bill’s youth, he lived wild, carefree, with spontaneity and wanderlust. Their relationship was meaningful to both of them. One day, his Uncle Bill died. Alex is somber and sulky, as most folks are during grief. However, Uncle Bill left behind some very specific instructions in his will. Alex is to take the two weeks leading up to Uncle Bill’s funeral and experience life the way Bill lived it- with spontaneity and a carefree attitude.

I choked up and teared up a bit at one point- shortly after Bill’s death. It struck a chord with me, that sense of loss and sadness. For this reader, that made the journey that Alex takes through the rest of the book more meaningful. The road trip, and everything Alex does and learns from it, is his way of honoring his Uncle Bill’s life. Uncle Bill leaves behind sticky notes for Alex to find at certain junctures. Bill was still mentoring, providing for, and caring for Alex even after his own death.

There was a question I was left with towards the end, but as I don’t want to give away too much, suffice it to say there was something that struck me as unrealistic. However, overall, I enjoyed this coming of age tale about a young man learning that life isn’t always safe and sometimes that’s the best thing about it.

This book can be found at Southwest On The A303.

Other reviews of this book to check out:

BigAl’s Books and Pals Blog

Book Description:

Arguably one of England’s most cherished and notorious roads, the A303 is filled with history, wonder, and magic. Adam takes us on a journey of adventure, self discovery, and touching family bonds in this moving coming of age tale.

Alex is a young man in his early twenties who has fallen into a miserable state of mind, losing his motivation and love for life. When he receives the heartbreaking news that his beloved uncle has passed away, leaving Alex with all of his belongings – including his renowned VW Campervan – he sets out to Cornwall for the funeral, rediscovering his love for life along the way.

Readers feeling like they’ve lost the spark of life will immediately relate to Adam’s tale, and find inspiration to go out and seek adventure wherever possible.

Southwest on the A303 is Adam Gary’s debut novella.

About the Author:

Adam Richard Charles Gary was born on May 5th 1992, and raised in London, England. He is the son of Yvonne Richards and Darryl Gary. Adam’s creative talents trace back to his mother – a dancer- and his great, great grand parents, a theatrical agent, and stage actress. Adam also shares his creative talents with a line of painters and writers on his father’s side.

Adam first realised his interest in acting at the age of 6, and has gone on to perform in many various productions, and worked on major Hollywood blockbuster film sets. Adam is now a member of The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, an exciting charity and theatre company that has nurtured some of the greatest British talent throughout the last sixty-one years.

Currently Adam is extremely busy with his writing. Working on the new television series, ‘Nerdians’ as well as a his debut novel, ‘The Adventures of Norgara and Lilithien’ to be released side by side with the series. His brand new novella, ‘Southwest on the A303’ is also due for release in May 2017.

Adam is also working on a new collection of poetry to raise awareness around depression, titled ‘;’ in association with The Jermyn Street Theatre in London, and another collection of poems, ‘Love Letters from the Heart and Soul’ which is due for release in Febuary, 2018.