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And the Last Trump Shall Sound

And the Last Trump Shall Sound by [Harry Turtledove, James Morrow, Cat Rambo]

In the not-too-distant future, Mike Pence has ascended the ladder to the presidency, but the foundation that was laid during Donald Trump’s time in office still stands strong. The United States has become little more than a caricature of its former self as its people grow more and more extreme about almost literally every issue imaginable. Finally reaching a breaking point, the west coast declares its independence and comes Pacifica, prompting the northeast to consider following suit. As both nations adjust to the change, the stories that emerge range from terrifyingly feasible to laugh out loud absurd, with just a little of the bizarre thrown in for color.

And the Last Trump Shall Sound is a trilogy of novellas that explore a different aspect of the future of Trump’s America in the wake of Pacifica’s succession. Each entry is penned by a different author and as such, projects a drastically different voice. Although each story is connected and follows a linear timeline, using different authors helps to keep it fresh. 

“The Breaking of Nations” by Harry Turtledove illustrates the first days of Pacifica and the struggles faced by its leaders. Of the three, this one is easily the most frightening for its plausibility and passages that read more like non-fiction at times. Turtledove paints the picture of a future devoid of any semblance of morality or democracy and the people who want desperately to salvage what they can.

In contrast, “The Purloined Republic”, by James Morrow takes a more absurd approach to solidifying Pacifica’s status as an independent nation, a couple of years down the road. Taking a page out of classic spy and espionage novels, Morrow’s tone is much more tongue in cheek as our heroine Polly agrees to go undercover in the hopes of undermining Pence’s legitimacy, even among the most devoted Americans. What follows is a series of events that can only be described as both ridiculous and wildly entertaining. 

The final entry is “Because it is Bitter” by Cat Rambo, and this one gets weird. Set six years after the formation of Pacifica, it veers firmly into science fiction territory, and stops just short of portraying life in America as dystopian. It combines the implications of Trump’s future with a complete lack of privacy that raises plenty of questions about freedom and manipulation. It provides a fitting end to the trilogy as it leaves the door open for both hope and uncertainty.

For me, the opening story was the weakest of the three and made getting into the book a little slow, but it was nonetheless well written and a necessary read for the other two to make sense. I thoroughly enjoyed the differences in style and tone, and would love to read more from these writers in the future.

Pages: 257 | ASIN: B086Q1M8VQ

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Adam Frankenstein: Search for a Soul

Adam Frankenstein: Search for a Soul: A Collection of Short Stories (Adam Frankenstein Short Stories Book 2) by [Sheila English]

A more modern and brutish man than one may expect, this monster embodies both of his namesakes rather well, the innocent first man of lore and the man-made of many. The monster we meet in the collection Adam Frankenstein: Search for a Soul by Sheila English is all at once stoic and terrifying—yet he counts Mary Shelley and Van Helsing among his friends here.

In this continuation of a story we thought we knew, meet the man-made man for hire, Adam Frankenstein. He is not without his charms, however hideously disfigured. Some characteristics we may remember do remain; he is a man of few words, gigantic in stature, and will kill in terms of black and white logic. Adam has an unsettling presence yet, is profoundly gentle.

Poetically, and by murky gaslight, Sheila English dazzles the reader with pressing adventures and a companion by our side. Adam travels with his loyal dog Bella, who he protects to the bitter end of all who cross them.

In the first novella, Marked, we meet the street-wise Sabine and her charge, the young Celeste, who require help though at a glance we know they must have tremendous problems as both are more than capable of defense and have made their way through dark city streets until now, however they could.

Then, a monster’s point of view short story Last Man Standing leads the reader through a terrifying nightmare as an angry mob hunts Adam. Written in first-person, the shift is not as jarring as expected. This story is at least a refreshing change of pace and being the shortest story does not overstay its welcome. We land again on the cobblestone streets of London in another tale where we meet a vampire ally in The Madame and the Madman. While this is another kind of Dracula all together, the weaving of cherished horror stories together always makes for an entertaining read, and here is it done with both flair and grit. The reality of the sooty and smelly 19th century is used to brilliant effect in describing not only the fast-paced and bloody action, but what scant leisure time Adam is afforded. Between the two, English gives the reader a glimpse into what our hero sees in mankind when looking out of a monster’s eye. A very thoughtful creature Adam Frankenstein is, and one that readers of historical fiction and horror alike will be glad to have met.

When we come to the modern world of 1976 in Freak Show, the stage is set since we now know Adam and his cut and dry way of reasoning. Considering the people he encounters, it is a balancing act in each story to decide which of the two sides are truly flawed – questions that good fiction raises in a reader reflecting on society, and our wants and needs as earthly inhabitants. While there is a bonus story in this collection, Doll Therapy, that fits in bleak outlook and poetic prose and is presented separately. Other stories by the same author feature the titular Adam Frankenstein and with luck, there will be a larger collection for them all someday. It would be an opportunity to update the cover art as it does not reflect the high-level character crafting and adventurous ideas here that lead to wanting to read more. Adam Frankenstein himself is all five stars of five in here and recommended for a highly entertaining read that puts a cavalier edge on this classic human monster.

Pages: 138 | ASIN: B07RG7JZ42

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RISKING FOREVER

RISKING FOREVER: Vol 1 (The Forever Series): New adult college romance by [GALLINA, TARA]

Ainsley Belle is the 21-year old college student who provides the first person narrative in this story. She’s a funny, sweet and innocent girl in the prime of her life. She and her best friend, Harper Gentry, are students at Ryland. Unlike most of her classmates, Ainsley wasn’t born into a wealthy family and works hard to afford her education. She is desperately seeking independence from her controlling mother. When she loses her employment and an enticing job opportunity presents itself she is more passionate than intrigued. The fact that the job comes from a handsome older classmate makes it all the more intriguing. The reader joins Ainsley as she enters in to a world much bigger than the one she’s known.

The flirtatious build-up between Sebastian and Ainsley is enticing. It’s almost a little irritating how Ainsley doesn’t realize Sebastian is coming on to her or why he might be interested. She’s clearly an attractive girl and playful. She’s written as a virgin which is a little cliche but because we experience it through her eyes it helps define it a bit more.

I love that this book is a serial novel. I haven’t read many serial novels but the idea that’s it made for people who don’t have time to sit through a full length book is very desirable to me.

This was easy to digest and flirtatious throughout. It had a youthful sexy vibe that made me feel young and flirty. I enjoyed the time the author took to organically grow the relationship between Sebastian and Ainsley, although sometimes I wanted it to move faster. I also loved the friendship between Harper and Ainsley. It was very believable and playful.

I think the author could have given us a little more grit outside of the innocent flirting between the two main characters. Maybe this will come out more in the next books in the series. I also look forward to more levels as far as the romance! In all this book was entertaining with endearing characters and an intriguing plot line. I’m definitely interested in reading more about these characters and seeing where the story goes. Serial novels have a way of drawing you in! There are some adult themes so this is better for the older set. Smooth writing helps with a somewhat slow story. Enjoyable book

Pages: 149 | ASIN: B07NQ99MGF

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The Tattooed Cat

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It all begins innocently enough: a woman finds an animal that has been the victim of inexplicable torture. However, neither the cat nor the woman are average in Natrelle Long’s The Tattooed Cat. This short novella grips readers from the get-go as it plunges directly into the meat of the story. Charley, our bad-assed protagonist is elegant and rough all at the same time. She is determined and passionate. She will find who exactly has hurt the cat she saved. The journey will lead her face-to-face with the darkness of humanity as the man-hunt reveals much more is going on than animal abuse. What begins with a cat ends with a corpse.

This is the perfect kind of book to tuck into during a quiet afternoon. The short length of the book lends itself to easy reading and the story is perfectly contained within the minimal pages. There is no room for filler or other such garbage in this tale. Every sentence has purpose and each character has meaning. The characters Long creates are true to modern interpretations of humanity. The characters speak like real people, especially Charley, and it all drives the point home.

It’s a quirky book in that there is enough content to write something even twice as long, but yet the ending is neatly wrapped and perfectly delivered that the need to drag the story out disappears. By being able to devote attention and detail to this short book Long still succeeds in creating a whole world with minimal building. Many novellas have the issue of limited time to grab a readers attention and explain the world to them at the same time.

Maybe it’s the cat, maybe it’s the fact that Charley is so determined to unravel the mystery she finds herself knee-deep in that makes The Tattooed Cat by Natrelle Long so interesting. Once your attention is grabbed there is no escaping the desire to read every single word and find out once and for all how the cat and the nefarious deeds of a single man are interconnected. We are reminded of humanity’s darkness and weaknesses and that the world is not a beautiful place. But we also get to see the beauty of a single person working towards polishing this ugliness. This is a book you won’t regret picking up.

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Imaginative Creation

Kate Robinson & Joe DiBuduo Author Interview

Kate Robinson & Joe DiBuduo Author Interview

The Contest and Other Stories is a collection of inspiring stories that got me to think and reflect. What was the inspiration behind this collection?

JD: I originally wanted to create a coffee table art book with all paintings connected to a framing story.

KR: Around 2007 or 2008, Joe started bringing these quirky short stories inspired by paintings to the critique group in Prescott, Arizona that we both belonged to.

In February 2011, he shared his draft and invited me to assist with the project as a co-author. We continued to work on polishing the stories and the connecting novella together. In our bios, we say that he has the vivid imagination and I have the word-whacking polish, but the truth is, we both contributed to the imaginative creation and to the nuts and bolts polishing and editing. We multiplied our mind-power by working together!

Joe DiBuduo

Joe DiBuduo

What were some themes you find yourself exploring in your short stories?

JD: The relationships artists have with drinking, higher consciousness, and insanity.

KR: As Joe says, some of the stories explore the artists’ lives directly in the genres of magical realism, dark fantasy, horror, the paranormal, and alternate history, or as a fabulous motif. The other stories were developed using a painting as a prompt, but have no relation to the artist or their work. Those stories explore life challenges and transitions such as birth, death, falling in love, relationships, family life, and work, also through the medium of various fantasy genres. The connecting novella explores the archetypal overbearing father who insists that his only son follow in his footsteps, while the son rebels to make his unique contribution to arts and literature.

What is the collaboration like between the two of you?

JD: Long distance.

KR: By the time Joe and I started working together on this project, he lived in Arizona and I had landed in California. So we shared thoughts and drafts for The Contest and Other Stories via email.

Will you be putting together another collection of short stories?

JD: We’ve been working on solo projects lately. I completed a connected short story collection in 2016 titled Story Time Karaoke @ The Chicagoua Cafe.

KR: I’ve been working on stories inspired by dreams and a novella created entirely from a series of dreams, with a working title of Loop: Life is But a Dream.

As for other joint projects, Joe and I just published a humorous dystopian sci-fi novelette, Space Race: Robot Rebellion in the Future Wild West (Tootie-Do Press, 2018). We also have a YA story, Thirteen, published in an anthology called 31 Nights of Halloween (Rainstorm Press, 2011). Neither of these stories fit the theme of The Contest, so we searched for other alternatives for publication.

Author Links: Amazon | KR Website | JD WebsiteGoodReads

The Contest and Other Stories by [DiBuduo, Joe, Robinson, Kate]Inspired by the works of international artists, this collection contains nineteen spellbinding Young Adult – New Adult magical realist, paranormal, slipstream, alternate history, and fabulist tales linked by a novella: Peter John Rizzo, a 1960 graduate of Yale University’s journalism program, inherits a floundering art magazine from his uncle, John Rizzo, with the provision that he must increase the circulation or forfeit all assets to creditors. Peter Rizzo, Pete’s father, is a banker who scorns careers in the Arts and Humanities, and is jealous of his late brother’s influence upon his wife and son. Classic Art Expose’s devoted but unorthodox editorial assistant, Jason, and two university interns, sisters Shirley and Evie, help Pete start a monthly short story contest with artwork prompts, hoping to expand and save the business. As the four friends publish the winning (and sometimes disturbing) stories over the following eighteen months, Pete battles his father’s attempts to ruin his business and his reputation, and in the process, discovers a sordid family secret. What else could possibly go astray?

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Angel Virus

Angel Virus: A Novella Trilogy by [Squire, Joshua]

Think of the worst scenario you could possibly imagine. Got one? Chances are Joshua Squire can think of something worse. Angel Virus, Squire’s inaugural novel, paints a nightmarish scenario: all of the world’s children suddenly, inexplicably die. And the rest of world might not be too far behind. The story follows the lives of four people (Dutch: a Wisconsin metal worker, Jin: a small business owner in Beijing, Aletta: a European pediatrician, and Aysi: a teacher at a church in Africa) all of whom are recovering from past demons when the world starts falling apart. The novel wastes little time detailing the titular epidemic that kills the world’s children before zeroing in on the lives of these four protagonists. Squire, a poet by nature, flexes his linguistic muscles best in these personal scenes. At one point I found myself wishing that Squire would show the exposition instead of telling it. But when the narration focuses in on the individual suffering, the scenes cut deep enough to make the reader yearn for the safety of the omniscient narrator.

It’s in these dark, visceral images where Angel Virus shines the brightest. Subtle details such as place names and character backstories invite close reading. But at other times the reader races forward at full speed as characters flee through the jungle, get entombed in the city, or suddenly discover that allies can become one’s worst enemies. In addition to great images, Squire successfully creates realistic characters who inspire empathy within the reader. The dialogue comes off as believable while still maintaining a poetic quality.

Unfortunately, Squire’s excellent descriptions and well written characters also work against him. Angel Virus takes place over a wide variety of settings and includes many secondary characters. All of this helps create a believable disaster on a world-scale. But trying to tackle this much material in a novella length story sometimes becomes disorienting. In addition, while each of the four protagonists add compelling drama to the story, they all follow a similar path. Since the story is relatively short, none of the protagonists are allowed to fully develop.

Overall, Angel Virus is an exciting first novel. While the scope of its story and lack of versatility in the heroes’ narratives threatens to hamper the novel, the writing is strong enough to keep the reader interested. The novel’s conclusion left me wanting more, and that’s exactly what this trilogy plans to offer. But even if you stop at its last page, Angel Virus compels you to consider the link between psychology and spirituality, the nature of good and evil, and why you should cherish your loved ones long after you finish reading it.

Pages: 96 | ASIN: B01JZXY0JY

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The Witch Trials: The Becoming

The Witch Trials: The Becoming by [Generis, Intrigue]

The Witch Trials: The Becoming, by Intrigue Sui Generis, is a short work of historical dramatic fiction. The book is centered around the life and times of Sylvie, a middle-class woman living in southern France during the late 17th century. The story is predominantly about her life, her personal difficulties, and the broader milieu of the time period. Much of the story also concerns her husband Leon and his relationship to the broader Catholic Church, though the nature of this relationship is not well described, or at the least it is unclear how he is so involved with the church despite his main profession. The book also includes content about the broader scope of the time period.

The historical content of this book reads as semi-fictions with the author’s experiences, beliefs, worldview, and sense of morality bleeding into the pages of this book. The 1600’s in France were themselves bloody times, but the author largely washes away that bloody history, due in part to a lack of detail in the story. The story also includes much more active female roles, especially for those of a middle-class status during that time period. While it is heart-warming to think of a female character, seeking to rise above her station in a steeply patriarchal society infused with, what we would consider, harsh and vile religious fundamentalism, much of it is romanticized so that you can follow Sylvie’s story through this dark time without feeling too down about it.

Sylvie’s entire history prior to her marriage to Leon is contained within a single page, which seemed too short for me as I found her to be an intriguing character and I wanted to learn more about her. I enjoyed that this book was a short and concise novella, but at the expense of detail. Sylvie comes from a Protestant upbringing, but I felt it was unclear what kind of Protestant. The brevity of the story helps focus this book into a character driven novella, but leaves you wanting more. Overall, the historical additions of the book are strong and seemingly well-researched (as evidenced by the bibliography at the end of the text), but I would have loved to have this further fleshed out to lengthen the book, and these details would have clarified the setting and character motivations for me.

The Witch Trials: The Becoming is intended for a young adult audience with a decent attempt at historical accuracy. There is sexual content, but it is only slightly more bawdy than a television show from the 1950’s. There are also depictions of human suffering, the outcome of torture, and threats of imminent pain and death, but these are also very sterile. Overall, this book is short and easily provides a few short hours of entertainment.

Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07D68YSQZ

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Feral and Gritty

Konn Lavery Author Interview

Konn Lavery Author Interview

YEGman is a thrilling crime novel taking place in the underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Why did you want to set your story in this location?

I had several reasons why I wanted to have the story take place in Edmonton. I prefer to write Canada-based stories and I’ve spent a lot more time in western Canada than I have out east, so can craft stories in these locations easier. A second reason is the name YEGman itself. YEG is the airport code and a common hashtag for the city. It is easier to say than – for example – YYCman for Calgary.

I also have grown up in Edmonton and have seen the city change over the decades. It is a pretty (no offence Edmonton!) bland city when it comes to major issues. So it is a good thing. That raises the question, how can you make a tame city feral and gritty? This was an interesting challenge to me.

This story takes a uniquely gritty look at the Edmonton crime scene. What were some ideas you wanted to capture when developing this underworld?

For YEGman’s version of Edmonton, I wanted to paint a crime-infested city that has some similarities seen in superhero comics. Daredevil/Hell’s Kitchen and Batman/Gotham are examples. A city that is in dire need of help. It becomes a motivator for someone to become a vigilante when they feel the city isn’t making any progress.

The details of the drugs and music scene I wanted to make real by showing there are good people that get caught up in these dark worlds of gangs and violence. Either they feel trapped or do not know any better to get out and just try to keep their friends safe.

Where did the idea for YEGman come from and what were some book titles you considered?

YEGman actually was birthed from the album that accompanies the launch – Sounds of Society. Both YEGman and the album tell a story of someone who can’t handle the constraints of society and go off the deep end. They also share similar content in the lyrics. Originally I was working on this album in 2012.

The plot and character of YEGman came to me in the summer of 2015 when I was at a book signing in a comic store. It was a quiet period and was daydreaming about super heroes because of the increase in popularity due to the Marvel movies, DC movies, comic expos and I was in a comic store at the time. Personally I am not a huge comic book far so I asked myself – what type of superhero story would someone who doesn’t like superheroes read?

From there I drafted out the concept of the superhero YEGman. Quite quickly I decided against super powers and made him very earth-bound. This helped map out the ending as well. If he was just an average person, and didn’t have any tech toys, money or ninja training, he’s going to have a pretty difficult time being a crime fighter. After writing out the outline for the ending I reverse engineered the story – a process I do not normally do with writing.

In November of 2015 I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo but shelved the concept because my horror novel, Seed Me, wasn’t fully edited yet. That took a higher priority and I didn’t revisit YEGman until 2017 after doing some heavy research into police procedures and psychology. These two points of study helped craft the inner thoughts of Michael.

So overall, comic books were the inspiration and I looked at comics such as the Punisher, Sin City, The Watchmen, and Hellboy to name some.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I really need to wrap up the dark fantasy series Mental Damnation. Book three is coming out in the fall of 2018 and the fourth is in the works. I also am working on a slasher novella but it is in the early plot outline stage.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebook | Website

YEGman by [Lavery, Konn]

In the darkest streets of Edmonton, crime is around every corner. The police have exhausted their resources. Citizens are in a constant state of fear. The city is in dire need of justice. Someone needs to give the felons what they deserve – skip the courts and deliver their verdict with a fist full of fury!

At least that is what Michael Bradford tells himself. He struggles with violent tendencies while personally investigating the Crystal Moths, Edmonton’s most notorious gang. His vigilante methods get caught on film and are uploaded to the web with the hashtag YEGman. These videos catch the attention of a rebellious journalism student whose aspires to cover the developing story on the city’s underground hero.

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