The Destination Birth

The Destination Birth by Alex Bisset

Book Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A uniquely perspective re-accounting of what for many, is known to be one of life’s greatest adventures, The Destination Birth by author and recent new dad Alex Bisset, shares the touching story of the unplanned birth of his daughter.  Purchase Here.

Altogether, this book is quite unique in and of itself, as it draws attention immediately by the book’s cogent content featuring twists and turns of events. Most times birth stories are told from the birthing mother’s perspective. She brings in all the gory, funny, happy, and/or sad details, of the awe-inspiring venture; meanwhile, the father’s voice in the birth scenario is almost inaudible.

However, this book brings into focus a different aspect. Told solely from his distinctive perspective of a new father, author Alex Bisset, unabashedly shares the heartwarming, humorous, intense, emotional, and compelling moments leading up to his daughter’s birth, as well as offering deep insights as to the occurrence of the unexpected with the unplanned birth of his and wife Lauren’s first child.

Moreover, the book starts with an introduction to their lives in general, including the fateful day that they found out they were pregnant. Things seemed to progress well until author Alex Bisset and wife Lauren wanted to attend a friend’s wedding in another state at 34 weeks pregnant. After attaining permission to take the trip from NY to Montana for the wedding, the couple looked forward to enjoying time with friends and celebration which for the most part they did enjoy. However, life can sometimes throw us incredible curveballs, and as it turned out one early morning while in Montana, Lauren’s water broke leading to the memorable adventure of having to birth a baby far away from home. Meanwhile, this is also a story flowing with twists, turns, and funny moments including transportation issues such as when seeking an urgent ride to the hospital, they forgot they could have called 911. As a matter of fact, not only would their child be born while present at a destination over 2000 miles away from their home and intended birthing setup but also, the baby was arriving weeks early and was breech.

Overall, I absolutely enjoyed The Destination Birth by father/author Alex Bisset. It is well-written, easily relatable, affecting, humor-filled and eye-opening. There is a lot to be gleaned from this wonderful event, especially for newbies embarking on the experience of childbirth. As well, there are life-changing lessons aplenty to be found within this documenting of a life-changing experience, especially the primary life lesson of expecting the unexpected when it comes to having a child. As a mother of six, I found this to be a refreshing take on the experience of having a child as told through the eyes of the father. I do heartily recommend this book to all expecting parents. It is a worthwhile read.

10% of all proceeds will be donated to the Bozeman-Deaconness Hospital NICU.

Saint Bloodbath

Saint Bloodbath by Frederick Douglass Reynolds

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

True crime stories tend to explore the darker facets of human nature and society. Yet, in Saint Bloodbath, Frederick Douglass Reynolds artfully highlights both the extraordinary and the mundane good that twinkles in the deep night.  Purchase Here.

The book is formed by carefully braided narratives that come together in a layered and captivating story. Starting in the fringes of society, we walk alongside those who exist on the periphery, the homeless, runaways, and disreputed gang members. We share their struggles, dreams, and aspirations, even if only for a brief moment.

A savage homicide scene propels two detectives into a complex investigation, where they work to substantiate gruesome details surrounding the crime. Five victims were brutally murdered in a homeless camp in Long Beach, California. The case becomes known as the “Quintuple,” based on the number of victims found at the scene.

The possibility of a socially targeted crime sweeps a wave of fear over the homeless community. Yet, in this tense environment, the detectives must unearth their initial leads. Taking into account possible gang-related and personal motives for the attack, a suspect slowly comes into focus.

When a severed hand leads to what appear to be the remains of a person who died under suspicious circumstances, the true magnitude of the bloodbath starts to reveal itself. A life ended in the desert becomes the missing catalyst that brings the “Quintuple” to the next stage.

Frederick Douglass Reynolds conducts an exhaustive analysis of the case to write a complex and compelling narrative of the tragic events. His keen vision underlines the interplay between psychological and social factors that give context to the unexplained.

The author helps readers meet protagonists as flesh-and-blood characters and not just victims. One of the most difficult feats for a true crime author is capturing the essence of real-life people in an honest yet considerate way. Nevertheless, Reynolds makes this seem effortless.

Containing violence and profanity, Saint Bloodbath promises to be raw and abrasive. However, Frederick Douglass Reynolds sprinkles in delicate introspective notes, amusing anecdotes, and witty comebacks to soften the experience. While not a comfortable read, the book invites us all to ponder our role in the magnetic dance of light and shadow.

The Moon That Fell from Heaven

The Moon That Fell from Heaven by N.L. Holmes

Book Reviewed by Lily Andrews

In “The Moon That Fell from Heaven” by N. L. Holmes, an emperor’s daughter is caught up in traumatizing anguish and despair, as she uncovers incomprehensible secrets at the helm of mockery by loved ones, due to her childlessness.  Purchase Here.

An unfathomable sense of misery has been growing in Queen Ehli-nikkalu’s heart, out of the resonant contempt and scorn that she has constantly received from her husband who is also her father’s vassal, King Niqmaddu. He rarely graces their matrimonial bed, yet accuses her of not bearing him any children. It is believed that a queen who doesn’t bear an heir is a liability and sadly for her, the loathing that has been coming with that assertion has severely eaten into her poise for years.

A familiar tone relaying a ton of sardonic utterances fills the air, the day unbeknownst to Ehli-nikkalu, life takes a new turn. She notices a small clay tablet drop from Niqmaddu’s sash, and onto his cushioned seat. Its inscriptions are chilling to listen to, as her secretary later interprets them from Akkadian, the formal diplomatic language that unites every kingdom. From it, she learns that her father’s kingdom back in Hattusha is in imminent danger of being taken away forcefully by his son-in-law, King Niqmaddu. An immediate alert needs to get to Hattusha, but little does Ehli-nikkalu know that this venture will not only open up a can of woes for herself, but for her loyalties also.

A stab of pity will engulf a reader as sad realities get unveiled regarding adorable characters such as Amaya, who is mourning her father’s demise after witnessing his horrendous murder. Deceptive individuals send the protagonist tiptoeing, and readers will want to see her judgment turn out right, regarding the people she chooses to abide with, such as Teshamanu and Rab-ilu. Readers will also find themselves emotionally bound to the gripping tale of a twist of fate, that she has little control over.

N. L. Holmes spreads out every new chapter with new developments and tantalizing details, that ably push the reading experience to the utmost edge and tension. Ehli-nikkalu and other major characters in this book are real, and the author does a great job of taking a reader back in history to Syria in 1213 BCE. Her new book, “The Moon That Fell from Heaven” is without a doubt a masterpiece that showcases the proficiency of women in defending civilizations and cultures, when given a chance. Holmes will once again gain a victory in your heart, with her heart-stopping creativity, and ideation, which has once again seen a difficult-to-let-go historical thriller produced.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters – Apocalyptic Action Thriller (Book 2 of The Pulse) by Owen Garratt

Book Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Jack Broderick is at it again in The Three Sisters, the second book in Owen Garratt’s epic apocalypse series, The Pulse. Garratt makes it easy enough to jump into the series about a world devastated by fires and a lack of electricity following a devastating solar storm, even if you haven’t read the first novel. He gives new readers the essential details they need without feeling like an unnecessary recap for those fans already hooked on the story of Jack’s fight to get home to his family.  Purchase here.

Jack Broderick is aptly named because he is a true Jack of all trades. No matter what obstacle he comes up against, he has the knowledge needed to overcome it. On top of that, Jack has the ability to handle himself in a fight. While skilled in combat, his ability to take a hit is what makes him a particularly dangerous adversary. The beatings he takes in the week after the pulse leave the reader wondering if anything can take him down.

In The Three Sisters, we see Jack continue to face one challenge after another, as he did throughout the first novel in the series. While the new world in which he finds himself is full of dangers, many of the perilous situations he gets himself into could have been avoided if he kept his head down. However, that is not who Jack Broderick is. Jack continues to be driven by a need to help those in need, no matter the personal cost. Furthermore, he puts himself at additional risk in an attempt to find one more moment of bliss in a world where the notions of peace, harmony, and beauty seem to be quickly disappearing.

The Three Sisters is nearly impossible to put down. With short chapters and a plot that pulls the reader along and leaves them desperate to know what will come next, Garratt makes it too easy to decide to read just one more chapter over and over again. Garratt’s writing is not overly dense but provides enough detail to give the reader a clear image of the world Jack Broderick is struggling through.

Upon finishing the book, the reader will be left eager for the next chapter in the saga of Jack’s journey from Florida to Washington state. They will also be able to take satisfaction in the idea that there are many tales left to tell as the journey across the country is a long one, and Jack Broderick has only just begun.

The Grave Listeners

The Grave Listeners by William Frank

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

While The Grave Listeners is just a brief incursion into life in a mystical medieval setting, it is a memorable visit. William Frank creates a strangely familiar yet distant world in which we cannot feel welcome but are tempted to linger as outside observers. The author answers the call by granting us a look at a whirlwind of events from an outsider’s vantage point.  Purchase Here.

The main character, Volushka, is the village’s grave listener. More than simply being his chosen profession, this is his birthright. The gift of listening to the dead was passed down in his family through generations. While a seemingly noble profession (given that it protects the living and the dead alike), Volushka is despised by most villagers.

As the story unfolds, William Frank reveals more details about the tools of the trade, and the reader becomes increasingly more familiar with what grave listening should truly be. While this vocation is intriguing, to me, the most entrancing aspect of the short novel is the social dynamic between Volushka and the villagers.

The relationship between the people and the outcast is elastic, it snaps when stretched, and the atmosphere is often tense. Although they keep Volushka in contempt, the villagers also need him; he is a seemingly indispensable part of their life. However, the day a stranger walks into the village, everything changes. His presence impacts the entire community and threatens to offer a more socially acceptable alternative to Volushka.

In stark contrast to all of Volushka’s other relationships is the one he cultivates with Benzi. Their interactions are filled with prolonged playful banter. If Volushka is associated with death, the child is a vivid representation of life. Benzi is joyful, lively, innocent, and beloved. While the scenes these two characters share highlight contrasting traits, on occasion, they also reveal some common ground.

This is a story about decay. Social. Personal. Carnal. The Grave Listeners is a daring incursion into an uncomfortable world where innocence does not survive long. This is the author’s first novel after having published numerous books of poetry. The vivid imagery and playful language scattered across the pages stand as a testament to William Frank’s previous literary work.

The Zone

The Zone: A Cyberpunk Thriller (The Zone, #1) by Stu Jones

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

A thought-provoking cyberpunk thriller, “The Zone” by Stu Jones, is an immersive tale that tingles all the senses. In an apocalyptic future, what remains of humanity insists on surviving while the elites reach for absolute domination. This futuristic dystopia may feel familiar to most readers, like an intense dream that lingers on into daybreak.  Purchase Here.

After a post-nuclear global event, a few livable hubs like Neo Terminus remain where survivors struggle to build a life. However, the strictly regulated access to limited resources creates a fertile ground for criminality.

The population seems enslaved by hi-tech visors that become an extension of their bodies. The constant stream of entertainment diverts their attention from the gloom and savagery around them. Visors leave many wearers oblivious to the rot but also the timid beauty that creeps along the infested streets.

While humanity clings to the brink of total collapse, the NTPD struggles to maintain order. Officer Chance Griffin fights crime alongside his devoted partner while trying to secure enough funds to pay for the surgery his infant son desperately needs. Just as the fragile family life starts slipping away, new hope finds its way to Chance.

Out of absolute desperation, Chance succumbs to the siren’s song and decides to join the biggest social experiment turned live entertainment, The Zone. This is the worst part of the old city, infested with dangerous criminals. Those convicted of severe crimes are sent to the walled-off sector and left to fend for themselves.

Building on the Ancient Roman gladiator fights, this wasteland becomes monetized by streaming live battles for entertainment. Elite officers who undergo bio-technological enhancements are also thrown into The Zone with the sole mission of survival.

Lured by the prospect of financial security and the possibility of treating his son, Chance sheds the only life he knew to equip the Enforcer uniform. As soon as the shock caused by the sudden transition to the new life wears off, Chance seems to soar to new heights. However, the elevation gives him a shocking perspective of secret plans unfolding over the general population.

As a veteran law enforcement officer, Stu Jones leans on his knowledge and experience to create a realistic universe populated by flesh and bone characters. “The Zone” is a masterfully layered book that invites personal and societal introspection.

Vessels of Wrath

Vessels of Wrath: A Big Ray Elmore Novel by Thomas Holland

Book Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Vessels of Wrath is another strong showing from the talented Thomas D. Holland. Protagonist Ray Elmore, or “Big Ray” as he is commonly known to his chagrin, finds himself once again investigating a murder in the small, less-than-peaceful town of Split Tree, Arkansas. As the chief of police for this small town, Big Ray is pulled out of his normal routine when the county sheriff asks him for help investigating the apparent suicide of a friend.  Purchase Here.

This third installment in the Big Ray Elmore series does not require the reader to have previous knowledge of the series to enjoy the story. However, diving deeper into the happenings of Split Tree will certainly enhance the experience. Set in 1963, the novel details a small-town murder investigation set against the backdrop of a country in turmoil amid the civil rights movement and the growing anticipation of the U.S. fully entering into the Vietnam War.

Mr. Holland’s character work is in top form throughout the novel, painting a clear and realistic picture of the players. Ray Elmore is the quintessential reluctant hero. Never having sought a position of power, Big Ray had the role of police chief thrust upon him years earlier. Despite a clear affinity for the job, he consistently downplays his aptitude while quietly punishing himself for his self-perceived shortcomings.

Vessels of Wrath pulls you back through time and firmly sets you down in a fictional town that is all too real. While set sixty years in the past, the novel echoes back the violence, hatred, and uncertainty that abounds today. The story expands beyond the investigation of a crime in a small town to explore the larger issues present throughout the world.

As he attempts to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Ring Johnson, Big Ray is faced with battles on several fronts. Between allegations of misconduct, the threat of an escaped convict, relationship issues regarding those closest to him, a personal nemesis, and the ever-present ghosts of war, Big Ray has his hands full as he attempts to solve the crime and keep the town of Split Tree and its inhabitants safe from harm.

This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass by David Yuen

Book Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Continuing to share his altogether discerning, literary journey through life, author David Yuen supplies another artistic tour de force with his work in This Too Shall Pass. A thought-filled work that artfully presents an insightful collection of his poetry, prose, and essays, while inviting the mind, heart, and soul of readers to experience life from his decidedly intelligent and Christian perspective. Purchase Here.

Immediately, author Yuen engages the mindset with his stirring discourse, This Too Shall Pass, an essay that is also the title of the book. This well-known adage presents a penetrating and thoughtful look at the true experience of life’s events, which does well to set the poignant tone for the remainder of the book. Moreover, positing the general theme throughout the book that while change is inevitable whether good or bad there is always a reason for it and nothing that happens in life occurs and remains in a stage of permanent stasis but eventually will pass, as life is always a series of emotion rending fluxes. This essay is just the beginning of many well-written excerpts which show the impermanence of life’s events, while many of author Yuen’s poetic works serve to inspire, with elegant locutions embodying stalwart personal strength, morality, faith, and endurance.

Meanwhile, throughout the remainder of the book, there is a diversity of themes covered including multiple essays containing revelations on the Invasion of Ukraine, War in Ukraine, and the atrocities thereof. As well, author David Yuen also presents with eloquent articulation his personal experiences with COVID. Also, he presents many meditative works which flow like stream-of-consciousness narratives where he covers topics including; Fasting, Atrocity and Death, and Impermanence.

Additionally, the poetic works included are stellar intimations of reflection, as they are thoughtful, provoking, insightful, and fulfilling. While I enjoyed all his poetic entries a few remained with me, well after reading them; I Am Man See Me Stand; which engages the prowess of inner strength, All That Remain; which focuses on surviving adversity through maintaining a strong character, So Much So Little; demonstrates the character strengths and weaknesses of appreciation and disregard, My Fragile Foolish Self; embodies a stark look at negative perspectives. Albeit most of the included works were more of a serious nature, there is also included humor with A Poet Argues with His Coffee over Coffee, (this is my personal favorite).

Altogether, I enjoyed David Yuen’s expressive works in his book, This Too Shall Pass, the whole of his works this collection promotes faith in God’s hand in our lives, and although life can be imperfect, it is actually perfectly imperfect because God is always there teaching us through the perceived imperfections. This is a work of intellectual depth, both well-written and observant, which may bring about a change in perspective for readers toward life and all that it entails. As a whole, this luminous literary culmination penetrates the reading experience with lucidity and aplomb and I do highly recommend it.

All Hope of Becoming Human

All Hope of Becoming Human by Lonnie Busch

Book Reviewed by Rahul Gaur

When Ben Jonson first came up with the saying “Curiosity killed the cat,” he probably didn’t imagine that it would continue to be used to describe humans for a long time. We’ve seen this idea in many movies, books, and this story is no different. But what makes it interesting is how he presents this theme in a captivating way.  Purchase Here.

The opening chapter sets a chilling tone as Officer Reggie’s peaceful surroundings clash with the horrifying reality he uncovers. The vivid descriptions and palpable tension create a sense of unease that permeates the entire story. I must say that the opening chapter serves as a fantastic hook for the reader, just like an exciting thriller movie.

As the plot progresses, we are introduced to a diverse cast of characters, each with their motivations and struggles. From Professor Braden’s archaeological expedition to Karen and Lizzy’s fight for survival, the chapters seamlessly intertwine, propelling the narrative forward while leaving breadcrumbs of intrigue along the way. The characters are well-developed. I felt like I got to know them and understand their motivations. The characters’ individual experiences, struggles, and encounters with the extraordinary events happening around them add depth and complexity to the narrative. Each character brings their perspectives, motivations, and reactions, shaping the overall dynamics of the story.

One thing that deserves attention is the pacing of the story. In some places, it felt like the story was moving too quickly, and I didn’t have enough time to get to know the characters or understand what was happening. Some part of the story felt like it was dragging on, and I was eager to get to the next part. However, the plot effectively grabs hold of the reader, generating a sense of intrigue and leaving them excited to uncover the unfolding narrative.

The author skillfully blends elements of horror, suspense, and the supernatural, crafting a gripping tale that defies traditional genre boundaries. The characters and their world are in a state of constant dissonance, which mirrors the unease that permeates the story. It is a testament to the author’s storytelling prowess that even in the most dreamlike moments, a sense of realism summons the reader into the story.

This story stands out by compelling readers to contemplate the duality of humanity and the decisions we make when confronted with extraordinary situations. Given that people continue to live as they do now, the events depicted in this book may come true one day. Some may call my perspective pessimistic, but I see pervasive chaos all around, which makes me wonder when we will develop the ability to coexist harmoniously with nature. What price must we pay to rediscover our humanity? Is there any hope for our collective return to a more humane state, or have we lost that opportunity entirely? The answer lies in the latter portion of the idiom, “but satisfaction brought it back.”

View the Trailer for All Hope of Becoming Human

All Hope of Becoming Human_26 second trailer from Lonnie Busch on Vimeo.