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.

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.

The Chancer

The Chancer by Fiona Graham

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Fiona Graham’s debut novel, The Chancer, is a seemingly fun and easy read. However, there is a lot simmering under the surface. The story explores the fragile relationship between living an authentic life and fully abandoning oneself to a dream.  Purchase Here.

Somewhere on a crisp green field in Ireland, Donnie McNamara daydreams about joining the starry Hollywood sky. Despite having few opportunities to explore and hone his acting skills, he is determined to make it. However, his aspirations of becoming a famous actor are ridiculed by family and friends.

Just as Donnie’s hope starts dwindling, an unexpected gift from a dear friend and mentor lights the way. Tired of being a disappointment to his parents, who would have liked their son to follow his farming heritage, Donnie books a ticket to Los Angeles. His chosen path is windy and filled with countless obstacles, many of which are laid by Donnie himself, perhaps as an unconscious act of self-sabotage; or just simple recklessness.

Once in Los Angeles, Donnie’s path becomes intertwined with Abe Nelson, a fallen Hollywood star who gracelessly crashed from stardom. While an unlikely duo, the two seem to complete each other and become better versions of themselves.

Donnie’s quirkiness leaves many perplexed, but it awakens a lost sense of authenticity in a select few. His erratic behavior and uninvited honesty lead to rejection both in his professional and personal life. At the same time, Donnie lives a duplicitous existence that looms over his daydream and fragile happiness.

Fiona Graham constructs an intriguing plot that draws the reader into Donnie’s frantic fight to reach what might just as well be a mirage. On a backdrop of humor, she paints a neon bright picture of the ugly side of beautiful. While fame and popularity have a magnetic allure, these could be inherently dangerous. Falling from a great height can shatter one’s will to live. So, is it even worth trying to climb to the top?

I would encourage anyone to take a chance on Fiona Graham’s debut novel, The Chancer, to find out Donnie’s answer. This fictional story will likely ring true to many, as readers may easily spot a glimpse of themselves in the recklessly foolish dreamer.


The Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Poetic Version by Robert W. Watson

Book Reviewed by Michaela Gordoni

The Epic of Gilgamesh is popularly considered to be the oldest piece of written literature ever discovered. Robert W. Watson’s The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Poetic Version sets out to recount the story of the great King Gilgamesh in poetic verse across 120 pages. The timeless tale starts when a boy sees Enkidu, a strange beast, in the woods. He alerts the King, who sends a woman to bring out the beast-man’s humanity with a kiss. Upon turning into a much more human-like version of himself, he becomes enraged when he hears about the King’s unjust marriage plans. He starts a riot, and the King is the object of his fury. But somehow, the two stop their fighting and realize that they are one and the same, and a fierce and deep friendship ensues between the two. Together, Enkidu and King Gilgamesh embark on a monster-hunting quest, which eventually turns into a venture seeking eternal life.  Purchase Here.

Watson’s poetic retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh serves as an excellent introduction to this ancient epic. Though Robert W. Watson has taken a good dose of poetic liberty, it does not bear great significance in a recounting of this sort. The format is easy enough to understand and, for the most part, sounds pleasant when read aloud. Though there are a few instances where the key rhyming words are awkwardly placed, when reading aloud, the orator has to be aware of these and read carefully in order for the text to sound right and flow smoothly. Yet shaping the ancient story into a rhyme is a big task, and Robert W. Watson has still done very well, considering.

Robert W. Watson has also thoughtfully included pictures to go with sections of the epic. At first, the images seem slightly rudimentary and lack a bit of detail, but on further inspection, they seem to be in step with the kind of art that is often found in versions of the Bible. It seems like it is likely intentional, meant to be a subtle correlation to the time of the Old Testament. It suggests that the illustrations are intentionally designed to evoke a sense of time immemorial and align with the context of the ancient tale.

Overall, Robert W. Watson’s The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Poetic Version is a great way for readers of any age to learn about this ancient story of quests and friendship. Despite the occasional poetic liberties and minor issues with rhyming, Watson’s retelling captures the spirit of Gilgamesh’s epic journey. With its accessible format and accompanying illustrations, the book serves as a compelling entry point into the world of ancient literature, allowing readers to appreciate the enduring themes and engaging narrative of the Epic of Gilgamesh.


A Friend of King Neptune

A Friend of King Neptune by Wm. Stage

Book Reviewed by Rahul Gaur

A Friend of King Neptune by Wm. Stage” is a story that revolves around the experiences of Francis and Dingus’s journey and their encounters with different people. Despite the unique plot, the story captures various aspects of the duo’s work life, friendship, and personal lives, making the characters relatable and memorable. Along the way, Dingus encounters several eccentric characters, including a suicidal Indian, a wicked sheriff’s deputy, and a crew of offbeat characters who inhabit an old general store. The interactions between the characters add depth to the stories, and the well-developed plot and well-paced story keep the readers engaged. The discovery of the treasure incited a series of comical deliberations among the group, including proposals to sell it for monetary gain, donate it for charitable purposes, and even consider its destruction, all of which I found amusing.  Purchase Here.

Although the book becomes mundane somewhere in the middle, Stage’s ability to infuse humor into even the most ordinary moments is truly remarkable. One of the strengths of the book is its ability to convey the strong bond between Francis and Dingus. Their friendship is the backbone of the stories, and the banter and camaraderie between them add humor and warmth to the tales. The story highlights the value of long-lasting friendships and the unique perspective that comes with experience. It implies that the author of the book has a deep understanding of the complexities of human relationships and the importance of maintaining strong connections over time.

Wm. Stage’s writing is witty, with clever dialogue and quirky characters that keep the reader engaged from start to finish. The author’s writing style is descriptive and engaging. The dialogue between the characters is so well-crafted that it immerses the reader in the scene, providing a vivid and realistic portrayal of the characters’ interactions. If you’re looking for a lighthearted and humorous adventure, look no further than this gem of a book.


Far Out

Far Out by Khaled Talib

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

If you are looking for an unconventional story, look no further than Khaled Talib’s Far Out. The fun story is a unique mix of witty humor, a glamorous lifestyle, thrilling action, and psychological inserts that lead to an unexpected read.  Purchase Here.

Some readers may already be familiar with the main protagonists, Goldie Saint Helen and Blake Deco from Gun Kiss. However, those unfamiliar with Khaled Talib’s previous book can still enjoy this story as an independent read. The considerate author includes details about any references to the previous novel, so you will still benefit from the wider context.

Far Out opens with a scenic drive along Pacific Coast Highway that comes to an abrupt end as movie star Goldie Saint Helen is severely injured in a car crash. Fortunately, she is pulled out of the burning wreckage by a group of teenagers who attend to her until the ambulance arrives.

As Goldie recovers at the hospital, it quickly becomes apparent that she suffers from Dissociative Amnesia. The condition not only threatens her career but also her independence and freedom. Goldie awakens as Gypsy Star, a funky detective from the 60s ripped from the movie script of the actress’ upcoming project.

Gypsy Star is immersed in a high-profile case where she is tasked to track down a missing girl who ran away from home. Her chase leads her to the midst of a secret CIA project that tests experimental drugs on hippies.

Following the doctor’s recommendations, Goldie’s husband, Blake Deco, plays along as Gypsy Star’s assistant. This allows him to stay with his wife and shelter her from harm while prompting her recovery. From details like current songs playing on the radio to modern cell phones, her reaction to anachronisms is erratic and difficult to guess.

The author achieves a captivating overlay of Goldie’s projection of reality. The movie screen plot carves a way into the real world, as Gypsy’s missing girl materializes and a malicious plot unfolds around the detective.

Far Out flows as an action-packed Hollywood movie sprinkled with unexpected twists and fun pitstops along the way. An adult audience will appreciate the adventurous read and the wider discussion it prompts on the dangers of conservatorship.



Deadly Droppings/Humble Pie by William LeRoy

Deadly Droppings

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Dispensing to mystery-thirsty minds, a winning combination of adventure, mystery, Pigeon racing, and private investigation,  is William Leroy’s Deadly Droppings, a work that faithfully adds to his series of Maximo Morgan Mystery books. Also, delightfully, there is an included, unique perk to this book, as the book offers a two-for-one read, while the other side of the book features another Maximo Morgan mystery, titled Humble PiePurchase Here.

Albeit, this narrative,  presents a deeply entangled story that piques the interest on many levels, things start out simply. First, we meet Maximo Morgan, a robust character, both physically and mentally. He’s in his office so to speak which is his desk in a Mr. Quickies copy shop where he works as a notary public servicing Quickie shop customers in exchange for desk space which is where he also provides another service, private investigations, selling his investigative talents to the interested public at large.

Moreover, Maximo is not alone.   He has company, Bill Crowe, a former co-worker from the United States postal service where the two worked together at one time. As they talk and trade stories, the tone of their conversation changes as Bill expresses that he has a problem.  His pride and joy, Homer Crowe is missing and he needs Maximo Morgan to be on the case, especially because his price is right.

Meanwhile, Maximo along with his teenage sidekick, (a young admirer who wants to be a private investigator), begins to sort things out and works on the investigation. However, as the investigation proceeds, Maximo, realizes something is not quite right as clues begin to point towards quite a different situation. An earnest Maximo believed he was looking for a friend’s missing teenage son but as he sorts through evidence he soon comes to realize that things are not as they seem. Max is really looking for something of a different nature and not a possible teenage runaway. As time ticks and a competitor rears his “ugly” head, Maximo has to make moves to get to the heart of the mystery of the disappearing Homer.

Altogether, I was delighted in reading, Deadly Droppings.  This colorful, intelligent, and twisted detective fiction was not only a creative romp through the “hard-boiled detective” genre but it was also creatively twisted and even edifying in its content. In particular, the aspect concerning the multi-faceted, world of pigeon racing, especially the history and use of pigeons in general, I found not only intensely engaging but also refreshing as this is a topic not often visited in mystery books. I enjoyed the journey into the world of private detectives and learning their standards of investigation, the sorting of evidence, the process of eliminating suspects, the vibrant characterizations, detective vernacular as well the quick dips, into other well-known, hard-boiled detective stories. This is definitely a great addition to any mystery lovers’ library especially those into uniquely formatted, collectible books and I definitely do recommend it.  As a matter of fact, this would make a great TV/cable mystery series.


Humble Pie

Reviewed by Rahul Gaur

Humble Pie by William Leroy is a captivating and thought-provoking novel that explores the complexities of family dynamics, mental illness, and the pursuit of success. Divided into twenty-one chapters, the book takes readers on a journey through the lives of Maximo Morgan, Mimi Everheart, Mamie Motley, and her son Algernon.  Purchase Here.

LeRoy’s writing style is engaging and accessible, with vivid descriptions of food that are sure to make readers’ mouths water. From the opening chapter, it’s clear that he has a talent for creating realistic and relatable characters, as well as a knack for pacing and plot development. The plot is well-crafted, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged throughout. LeRoy deftly weaves together themes of family, love, loss, and redemption in a way that feels both authentic and uplifting.

One of the book’s strengths is its focus on character development. Maximo is struggling to make ends meet and has no cases to work on, while Mamie Motley and her son Algernon, who has returned home with the dream of opening a restaurant despite his diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Mimi Everheart, a wealthy woman who believes herself to be of noble birth and holds a grudge against Camilla. The novel provides insight into the characters’ thoughts and struggles, with each character facing unique challenges and aspirations. The author’s writing style is descriptive and engaging, drawing the reader into the characters’ lives and making them feel invested in their stories.

One of the most compelling aspects of “Humble Pie” is the way LeRoy explores the theme of mental illness. The portrayal of Algie’s verbal self-stimulations (The person speaks very loudly and frequently says things that are not appropriate.) They often repeat words and phrases that they learned as a child, especially from nursery rhymes, which they still remember very well) are so real that they give goosebumps.

What sets Humble Pie apart as an enjoyable read is the variety of its characters and their individual experiences. The book also touches on important social issues such as autism, privilege, and mental illness and does so in a way that is both sensitive and thought-provoking.