The Pulse

The Pulse: Book 1 by Owen Garratt

Book Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

The Pulse is the first novel in an epic post-apocalyptic series chronicling the quest of Jack Broderick. The novel tells the story of a man struggling to get back to his family on the other side of the United States after a solar storm destroys all electronics on earth. Unlike your standard end-of-the-world novel of today, there are no zombies standing in his way. Instead, the only monsters he faces are other survivors of the pulse.  Purchase Here.

 Owen Garratt’s tale of the fall of civilization in the days after a global catastrophe is both shockingly brutal and refreshingly realistic. He is able to convey myriad responses to this tragic event that all ring true. The characters in the novel are down to earth and believable, even with Jack Broderick’s ability to survive bordering on the supernatural. The Pulse feels like a genuine portrayal of a tragic event, with the characters enjoying moments of tranquility and humor that help protect them from being overwhelmed by the grief and horror of their situation.

 Owen Garratt’s writing is stripped down and vivid all at once. When reading, you are fully submersed in the scenario playing out on the pages without being bogged down by too many overly descriptive disruptions to the flow of the story. Jack Broderick’s history of growing up in rural America and later working as a health and safety professional gives him a near encyclopedic knowledge of how to manage in the new world into which he has crash-landed. 

 Jack is easy to like, and you find yourself rooting for him right away. Despite all the potential dangers he encounters on his journey to reach his family, the biggest obstacle he will face on the road may be himself. Jack’s savior complex gets him in trouble before the pulse hits, and continues to put him in harm’s way throughout the novel.

 The Pulse is an action-packed page-turner, with Jack Broderick constantly jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Upon completing the novel, you will likely find yourself searching the internet for news of when the next installment of the series will be available so you can continue the journey across a burning America with this broken man who can’t help trying to fix everyone else.

 Click Here to View the trailer for The Pulse

 

 

Dark Dweller

Dark Dweller by Garith Worthington

Book reviewed by Lilly Andrews

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”― Robert Greene.

So it is with “Dweller”, written by Gareth Worthington, a multi-award storyteller. Here, a helium mining mission to Jupiter by a team of explorers and scientists from the Earth is on course. Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe but it’s interestingly so scarce on the Earth. The team understands that acquiring it means getting rich as proved by the many scientists who have become billionaires after such operations.  Purchase Here.

Unlike what they expected, Jupiter’s orbital path seems altered and an escape pod revolving towards their vessel seems to not only jeopardize the mission but their lives seem threatened. The team suddenly stands mesmerized at the site of a young girl trapped in the pod. Her strange demeanor and fearful words are both scary. Who is she? A plan decades in the making is almost being ruined. Is she in danger or is she a danger to the mission?

A new assignment to pick a research scientist in Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons is about to derail their dream further. They are literally balancing on a knife’s edge. Aggravating challenges like gravitational shift, rapid temperature change, extreme nausea, radiation, and unimaginable cold atmospheres tear the team apart. It is now the survival of the fittest.

This ode boasts strong lucid language and solid action that will make you clench your fists and heave your chest in anticipation and thrill. Further, the oeuvre is peppered with an intense emotional atmosphere as exhibited in the outspoken and radical nature of the characters. Like a medieval troubadour, the sceneries careen through an array of emotions that are by turns poignant and vibrant. This leaves readers searching and hoping that the next chapter will introduce a ray of light to the already intense narrative.

This is a solid visceral read for everyone with an interest in knuckle-hard science fiction from one of the literary giants of our time. It is irrefutably several notches above what you usually get in any fiction work.

 

 

The First Assignment

The First Assignment by Billy Kramer

Book reviewed by Timea Barabas

What happens after death? This is one of the greatest questions. While there are numerous theories and visions of the afterlife, there seems to be no absolute universal certainty of what lies beyond. Billy Kramer joins the ranks of wonderers by offering a cohesive and immersive narrative of the afterlife and life in The First AssignmentPurchase Here.

This young adult fantasy novel opens the gates to a gripping tale of self-discovery, becoming, and the interconnectivity between people. The tale, characters, and events evoke a strange familiarity in the reader. Some elements seem like a distant memory lost in the fog of time or a dream that dissipates at first light.

The First Assignment centers on life after death following the experiences of seventeen-year-old Shawn Turner. After waking up under strange circumstances, Shawn finds himself transported to a brave old world. Alone among strangers, his survival instincts kick in while he tries to understand his new reality.

Shawn is just one of many recently deceased who were chosen to join Wayward Academy. An academy of the dead in service of the living. This complex institution is a learning center, work center, and living space for those enrolled. While reapers seem to take the center stage, this is merely one of the groups that animate the space.

Bombarded with new experiences and concepts, pulled down by the weight of the unknown, Shawn soon finds comfort in the familiarity of new friendships. He soon builds a connection with a few other first-year students at the WA. Through shared experiences, whispered secrets, and knowing glances, Shawn begins to gain strength.

After being subjected to a series of intellectually, emotionally, and physically challenging tests, the new students are assigned to their respective jobs. Then, Shawn receives his first assignment. Waiting for someone to die offers Shawn ample space for introspection. Bound by strict regulations and under supervision, he sees a glimmer of hope to break through the chains and make a difference. However, taking this path would mean silencing his survival instinct.

Billy Kramer creates a magical universe caught in a mystical realm somewhere between life and darkness. The First Assignment builds the foundation of a new worldview that invites further expansion. While Book 1 may be finished, Book 2 lingers on the horizon.

 

Blood Moon

Blood Moon: The Rising Series: Book 2 by Heather Graham and Jon Land

Book Reviewed by Russell Ilg

APOCYALPSE POW!

Those who thought the notion of teenagers saving the world ended with this season’s “Stranger Things” need to think again. Heather Graham and Jon Land go that great television series one better in the equally great BLOOD MOON, a riotous, rollicking, roller-coaster ride that makes us feel like kids again.  Purchase Here.

The book is actually a sequel to “The Rising,” the name now born by the series as a whole. For those unfamiliar with how the journey started, that prequel introduced us to high school All-American football player Alex Chin. Alex is the ultimate illegal alien because he’s actually from another world, smuggled to Earth in possession of a secret that’s the only thing that can prevent the total destruction of our, and now his, world.

We found out near the end of “The Rising” that the secret in question is actually an organic computer chip implanted in Alex’s brain. And, while it may be the only thing that can save humanity, it’s slowly killing him. BLOOD MOON pretty much jumps off from that point, with Alex and his former tutor, and current love interest, Samantha Dixon on the run from enemies both human and otherwise. They’re once again aided by Raiff, an adult refugee from Alex’s world whose own emotions are thrown into a tizzy when Elaina, the woman he has loved from afar since he was a boy himself, appears up close.

Elaina is Alex’s birth mother who sent him across the spacebridge, kind of a wormhole on steroids, with Raiff when Alex was a mere infant. Only Elaina understands the significance of the four mysterious keys Alex and Sam are chasing around the world, following cryptic clues outlined in an ancient manuscript written in a language only Alex can decipher. Having relied on Sam’s tutoring to survive high school, he now finds himself imbued with new skills and knowledge as a result of that leaky computer chip, and BLOOD MOON is as much a race to save Alex as it is to save the entire world.

Don’t let the science fiction label dissuade you from digging in. Graham and Land give us only what we need to know and not a shred more. That makes the sometimes fearsome, and sometimes throwback, technology accessible for even the least geeky among us. And readers will especially enjoy both the eerie origins of the Golem legend brought literally to life, as well as a brilliant homage to the skeletal swordsmen featured in the original “Jason and the Argonauts.”

Graham and Land have concocted an action-adventure tale of rare pathos and heart, layering emotion atop a constant stream of escalating set pieces that turn BLOOD MOON into one long, unabated chase scene that goes from zero to sixty in a nanosecond. The book’s relentless pacing leaves us even more breathless than our young heroes as we race alongside them, cheering every step of the way. This is storytelling at its absolute best, a smooth and savory blend of “Terminator” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” blended with the best from the old “Outer Limits” TV show. Tumultuous and terrific, BLOOD MOON is an instant classic that’s a masterpiece of form, function and fun.

Against the Current

Against the Current in the Silent Service by R.W. Herman

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Against the Current in the Silent Service is a gripping memoir by R.W. Herman about navigating the uncharted waters of life. Through the pages of the book, the author takes a deep dive into his personal life while in the service of the Navy and his winding road of self-discovery.  Purchase Here.

While this memoir was written as a continuation of the author’s debut book, The Unopened Letter, it is well-rounded enough to stand as an independent read. This first book details the author’s experiences in the Navy during the Vietnam War Era, offering a peek behind the curtain of history from a uniquely personal perspective. Readers already familiar with the author’s life will finally know the answer to what happened next and why the author is called Commander. Those freshly introduced to R.W. Herman’s writing will discover an alluring and thrilling personal universe.

After building a reputation as an exceptional sailor (with an intriguing rebellious streak) R.W. Herman aims to become a commissioned officer. However, career advancement lies at the end of a winding road sprinkled with obstacles. To succeed, Herman must navigate the troubled waters of the system, inner struggles, and family life. At one point – which turns out to be a stepping stone for his dream future – the author is thrown into the foreign universe of submarine service.

Herman’s life story of trials and tribulations is an inspiring illustration of how hidden currents may guide our lives to the shores that we recognize as home. Also, his drive and ingenuity in thriving in adverse conditions keep the reader glued to the pages of his life. What is more, Herman skillfully decodes hostile conditions and uses the data and his knowledge as a world-building kit.

Readers might expect the setting for Against the Current in the Silent Service to be within rigid Navy and Marines confines. However, that is not the case. The story expands from within these systems touching on some of the great literary themes of love, loss, self-discovery, and freedom. The author interprets freedom as self-acceptance and allowing oneself the liberty to pursue the realization of a future self and a future us.

What is truly impressive about the read is the multiple levels of complexity that embrace the core story. The systematic exploration of social dynamics stands out as particularly relevant. Herman captures the fragile and subtle couple dynamics as two individuals jointly venture into a shared future. However, he also peers into the cracks of a seemingly rigid and stern system to uncover shifting and often unpredictable dynamics driven by a complex mixture of self-interest, duty, preservation, and sacrifice.

Against the Current in the Silent Service is an effortless read that can easily entrap readers into its flawless web of writing. While Herman displays an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the Navy and communication systems, his life story is not weighed down by technicalities. All that remains is to witness a most captivating life unfold in the pages of this book.

Abigail and Sega's Magical Train Ride

Abigail and Sego’s Magical Train Ride by J.A. Kundert

Book reviewed by Teri Takle

The year 2026 is almost upon us.  What does that mean?   That will be the 250th birthday of our country.

What could prepare you for this event?

A unique book about the 200th birthday with a multitude of historical events which strongly shaped our country and culture would be perfect.

It is 1976 in Chicago.   Eleven-year-old Abigail Stromberg has a challenging Bicentennial Assignment for school.   The project focuses on how her ancestors contributed to the country between 1776 and 1976.   For Abigail, her father’s Swedish ancestry is clear and straightforward.  Abigail has straight dark hair and does not resemble her father.   Why won’t her mother talk about her past?  However, her mother is evasive about her background.  What secrets is she withholding?

How can Abigail complete the assignment with only one side of her family?  Purchase Here.

Abigail and Sego’s Magical Train Ride is a time warp story roller-coasting throughout the Transcontinental Railroad to the present time of 1976 while intermixing lifestyles, events, and influential people of both times.  Adding supernatural assistance helps to explain the past in their current time while fulfilling a family’s lifelong dreams.

Abigail and Sego’s Magical Train Ride is a delightful romp for those of us over the half-century mark.   Numerous references to people and events of a prior time are enjoyable to remember, such as Nancy Drew books, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Polar Express Line, Ted Nugent, Moon River, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and many references to our country’s western expansion.

The reading level of this book is perfect for tweens, and I highly recommend they make a list of references they don’t understand and either research them or discuss them with an older adult.

Abigail and Sego’s Magical Train Ride is a perfect intergenerational story for a family to share.   There is a multitude of historical references to both people and places that require a little background for most teenagers.   As a stand-alone novel, the author could also add author notes explaining the importance of these people and places.    Also helpful would be a preface explaining life in Chicago during 1976 explaining the Navy Pier, the Gold Coast, and places unique to the area, including the Chicago L train.

All in all, Abigail and Sego’s Magical Train Ride is an enjoyable romp through time.

 

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Two for the Show: A Maximo Morgan Mystery By: William LeRoy

Book Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Two for the Show: A Maximo Morgan Mystery, by the talented author, William LeRoy, combines the best of two literary genres, detective mysteries and satire, into one thoroughly enjoyable and page-turning read that is sure to please fans of both genres. Borrowing its title from a poker term, Two for the Show features Maximo Morgan as its main character. Hopefully, there will be many more of them to come.   Click Here to Purchase

What does Maximo know about poker? Very little, to nothing; but, that does not deter him from taking a case involving said game when he is approached by a dame in distress, Leona Morris, who hires him to use all of his deductive powers to figure out what (and who) put her husband, Buckley, into the hospital, with a blow to his head he received either before or after what appeared to be a hit-and-run accident. Though Buckley had been in a jogging suit, he had also been wearing a black ski mask and had black shoe polish on his face. 

Besides these irregularities, the dame, Leona, also wants Morgan to get to the bottom of why the other regular pokers players who are Buckley’s friends (the so-called “Motley Crew”) so strongly desire to continue playing poker in her basement, even though Buckley is recovering from his injuries and is unable to join them.

The Motley Crew, who Buckley refers to as the “Losers’ Club,” because they consistently lose to him whenever they meet together and play in his basement, claim that Buckley would want them to continue playing, but Leona is convinced that they have an ulterior motive other than the bond of friendship and soon, Morgan is soon hot on the case. He and his smart-aleck also overweight protégé, who is quick to remind Max of the detective’s vast ignorance of poker, are influenced by the cases of famous detectives, most especially those of Brad “The Fatman” Runyon, as they attempt to solve the Case of Rats in a Basement.

Morgan has a lot on his plate, so to speak, in Two for the Show. Besides various complications that arise, such as Morgan’s discovery that the Motley Crew has been possibly digging a tunnel under Buckley’s basement or through a basement wall, a femme fatale, Billie Jean Biggs, seems to have revenge on her mind against the members of the Motley Crew. The big-breasted beauty, who has a somewhat peculiar “beauty mark,” in the form of a mole between her eyebrows, adds both to the sly sense of humor that pervades Two for the Show and to Morgan’s solving the rather odd case.

Anyone who enjoys reading mysteries with a blend of satire thrown in for good measure will get a kick out of checking out Two for the Show by William LeRoy. Split up into sections over a period of four days, Thursday, September 29, through Sunday, October 2, of 2022, Two for the Show is a page-turning book that is sure to tickle your funnybone. I highly recommend it, and with any luck, we’ll see many further Maximo Morgan Mysteries in the near future!

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Please Feel Bad I’m Dead by M. Price

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Please Feel Bad Im Dead by M. Price is not your typical pleasant and easy read, but it is a memorable one. This satirical take on the absurdity of life and modern society aptly mirrors a shattered mind. The substance of the book can easily seep between the readers fingers as they are distracted by the authors entrancing stylistic dance.  Click Here to Purchase

It all begins with Jhaegar Holdburn, a teenager living on the border, but where does it end? Jhaegar is a social outcast exploring the border regions of society, drifting through the incoherent flow of life. Even when hes caught amid the action, he is enveloped by a sense of dissociation, drifting away on a self-reflexive cloud.

The book is a whirlwind experience of an imploding mind. Readers experience the nearly 300 pages of the book, from the mindset of Jhaegar, as an often incoherent, cinematic, and disruptive ride. Thus, the author aptly embodies mental illness in the form of Please Feel Bad Im Dead. This chaotic narrative kidnaps readers and takes them on a surprise journey of self-destruction.

As characters, scenes, and settings keep changing at an increasing speed, Jhaegar seeks escape in death. Yet, the grand plan is met with a series of mishaps. When eventually he seems to find the coveted ending, he only finds a new beginning. The scenes and characters are mere shifting shadows of the others, acting out satirical chunks of life.

The narrative flow is often disrupted by sherds of screenplay and movie reviews that appear loosely connected to current events. But is there more to these deviations than meets the eye? Such breaks from the narrative invite the reader to reflect on meanings as a construct that subdue realities. Or the lack thereof.

What may initially seem like an egotistic narrative unravels into a critique of society. Whether or not the reader aligns with the characters views seems of little relevance, as the book offers multiple planes of reading and interpretation. After peering into a feverish mind, readers are left grasping at a disjointed bundle of meaning.

Please Feel Bad Im Dead by M. Price invites the reader to explore in-between spaces. The often blurred lines of sanity and illness, the void of daily dialogues, the societal gaps which engulf misfits, and whatever lies between life and death.

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Grasp: Poems, Prose, and Essays by David Yuen

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A penetrating observation of life portrayed through the lens of an astutely perspective awareness, David Yuen’s Grasp offers a collection of his literary mentations through poems, prose, and essays.  Click Here to Purchase

The variety that author Yuen presents makes for a creative mixture of literate inserts flowing with emotions, life lessons, spirituality, and intelligent inspiration. Meanwhile, there is no particular order to the book as a whole, but the reading still flows well with each narrative in the book bringing forward engaging food for thought.

Initially, what captures the attention within this book is the demonstration of author Yuen’s engaging writing skills starting with “Grasp” a chronicle that flows well while vividly setting the thoughtful framework of the interconnected elements of life, both seen and unseen, for the remainder of the work. In total, this is a work rife with the spiritual and worldly complexities of living life in this modern world.  Flowing with insightful works like The Lessons So Far, as well as the emotionally inciting Death To Self, this is a book that is overall easily engaging and often keeps one rapt with intelligent dives into the light and dark aspects of being human in an often inhumane world leading to instances of quickly becoming disconnected from one another, as emphasized by his poetic excerpt of life in his poem-Rifts.

Moreover, exploring relationships, David Yuen’s essay An Aging Father’s Words To His Son, as well as the ensuing A Son’s Words To His Aging Father, are works that touch the heart of the necessity of communication in life in general; but especially in parent-child relationships.  If not, regrets could ensue.  Additionally, he touches on the spiritual relationship with several enjoyable renderings such as Saint Gregor and The Young Prince and The Outcast God.  As well, author Yuen touches on the humor that can be found in life with a humorous excerpt titled Ode To Professionalism which also happens to be one of my personal favorites. I Live (a poetic work) exemplifies living with faith. Ramming Fists Against Wall delves into perceptions of anger. He also waxes inspirationally with works like Master Thyself and Rise.

Generally, Grasp as a whole is an engaging read. I enjoyed sharing in author Yuen’s flow of consciousness which swelled with the intriguing elements and experiences that life does foster such as the kind of grasp that one may have when it comes to handling the trials and tribulations of life. Author Yuen does well at exemplifying the complex aspects of living life in a world of duality.  His written works often emphasize the contrast of duality in life; the light with the dark, the positive and the negative, and the humorous and the sad. Overall, each narrative brings into focus emotional food for thought which may incite one to experience deep thought and ensue personal revelations.   I do recommend this perceptive read.