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.


Cooking for Cannibals

Cooking for Cannibals by Rich Leder

Book reviewed by Daniel J. Ryan

Cooking For Cannibals is your classic love story. Boy meets girl. Girl gives her mother and her mother’s friends a miracle drug that makes them young again. Corporate hit-men come in search of miracle drug. Drug comes with the side effect of craving human meat. Youthful 90-year-olds start killing people of questionable character. Boy starts cooking up a cannibalistic feast. It’s a tale as old as time.  Purchase here.

Rich Leder takes us on a wild ride in this darkly comedic thriller and if you are willing to suspend your disbelief a bit you will be joyfully swept along. It’s not the drug that takes the elderly back half a century that is hard to believe. Nor is it the fact that a side effect of the drug is cannibalism. Rather the most unbelievable part of the book is in the insane luck that our protagonists seem to be blessed with as they are constantly jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire while remaining unscathed, with death and destruction looming all around them.

Leder mixes his dark humor with a compelling storyline full of twists and turns that is immensely readable and hard to put down. Cooking For Cannibals is ideal for lovers of fast-paced high-concept thrillers. As the insanity continues to build exponentially throughout the book it becomes more and more difficult not to read “just one more chapter” as you find yourself craving to find out just how crazy things are going to get. This is the perfect book for a binge read. A great choice if you have a long flight.

The book is filled with a slew of incredibly compelling characters, from Carrie, a nerdy scientist girl gone bad, to love interest Johnny, an ex-con cook with a short fuse trying to get his life together, to the hedonistic young again group at the old folks home, to the starkly contrasting corporate hit-men. There isn’t a dull character to be found.

Generally, Cooking For Cannibals doesn’t dive down too deep in the emotional spectrum, preferring to keep things light and breezy and on the humorous side of a story, which, if told with a different tone and few small changes, could easily be a horror-thriller rather than a comedic one. He does however touch on the surface of a few deeper ideas, such as “What would you do if you had a second chance at life?”. Hopefully for most of us though, the answer wouldn’t be cannibalism.