Tag Archives: dystopian thriller

Trashlands by Alison Stine Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A mother struggling to save enough money to rescue her child finds an opportunity to change her and her child’s life through her art in the sci-fi dystopian thriller, “Trashlands” by author Alison Stine. 

The Synopsis

A resonant, visionary novel about the power of art and the sacrifices we are willing to make for the ones we love

A few generations from now, the coastlines of the continent have been redrawn by floods and tides. Global powers have agreed to not produce any new plastics, and what is left has become valuable: garbage is currency.

In the region-wide junkyard that Appalachia has become, Coral is a “plucker,” pulling plastic from the rivers and woods. She’s stuck in Trashlands, a dump named for the strip club at its edge, where the local women dance for an endless loop of strangers and the club’s violent owner rules as unofficial mayor.

Amid the polluted landscape, Coral works desperately to save up enough to rescue her child from the recycling factories, where he is forced to work. In her stolen free hours, she does something that seems impossible in this place: Coral makes art.

When a reporter from a struggling city on the coast arrives in Trashlands, Coral is presented with an opportunity to change her life. But is it possible to choose a future for herself?

Told in shifting perspectives, Trashlands is a beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative tale of a parent’s journey, a story of community and humanity in a changing world.

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The Review

Captivating and thought-provoking, author Alison Stine shines brightly in this emotional and relevant eco-thriller/sci-fi dystopian read. The novel’s brilliance comes through early on in the use of shifting perspectives, allowing readers not only to see how this dystopian world evolved and grew but allowing them to see how the bonds between these characters formed and how they came to be who they are. The chilling atmosphere comes not from some horrendous mutant beast or alien invasion, but the horrors humanity inflicts on our own planet, forcing the Earth to reshape its landscapes and forcing good people to do whatever it takes to survive.

The character arcs in this narrative are the true heart of this book. The various perspectives we have to allow the reader to see the balance Coral must find in not only surviving for herself but in finding the means to save her son, taken years ago from her to work in a factory. Her ability to find beauty and the means to create art for others while still putting herself through perilous work to earn the means of leaving everything behind and saving her son showcases mankind’s ability to persevere in the face of adversity and find hope in the darkness that surrounds us, a message that rings true for so many people. 

The Verdict

An engaging, emotionally-driven, and thematically important read, author Alison Stine’s “Trashlands” is a must-read novel of 2021! The perfect story of survival, hope, and finding beauty in the most troublesome of times, this story will take readers on a roller-coaster of emotions and showcase a depth of world-building that readers will come to love from this eco-thriller. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Alison Stine is an award-winning poet and author. Recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and an Ohio Arts Council grant, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and received the Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism. She works as a freelance reporter with The New York Times, writes for The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, 100 Days in Appalachia, ELLE, The Kenyon Review, and others, and has been astoryteller on The Moth. After living in Appalachian Ohio for many years, she now lives and writes in Colorado with her partner, her son, and a small orange cat.

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Q&A with Author Alison Stine

1.      Give us an out of context quote from your book to warm our hearts.

“People had thought there would be no more time, but there was. Just different time. Time moving slower. Time after disaster, when they still had to live.” 

2.      What’s the last book you read that inspired you? 

Lily Cole’s Who Cares Wins: Reasons for Optimism in a Changed World. I’m quoted in the book, which is how we met. She had me on her podcast. It’s a book of ideas and hope for sustainability and environmental action. And it inspires me that she is able to leverage her platform as an actor and model to try to do good in the world. This world really wants you to be just one thing, and she resists that, and converts the attention into calls for action.

3.      Name one song or artist that gets you fired up.

Lana Del Rey’s “Swan Song.” It has a slow build, dark and intense, like I hope my work is. I don’t listen to music with lyrics when I draft, but I listen to the same song over and over again when I revise. That song becomes the heartbeat of the book. And “Swan Song” was one of the heartbeats of Trashlands.

4.      How do you find readers in today’s market?

There’s only so much a writer can control. I do everything in my control–post on social media, do events, publish essays–but at the end of the day, my job as a writer too is to tell the best story I can, to the best of my ability, in the time I’m given. What happens after that is a function of money and attention and decisions that don’t include me. As a disabled writer, it’s especially hard– nobody does year-end best lists about us. I try to remember that the writers I most admire–Octavia Butler, Angela Carter–wrote a ton. They just kept writing. I have to just keep writing, keeping going, too. 

5.      Do you come up with the hook first, or do you create characters first and then dig through until you find a hook?

Every book is different and every book teaches you how to write it. For me, trying to be analytical about things like plot or meaning doesn’t work. If I have a story I can’t let go of, something I dreamed, or something that keeps coming back to me, I listen to it. Often a character speaks first.

6.      Coffee or tea?

Definitely coffee. I’m a lightweight, so I try to limit myself to one cup a day.

7.       How do you create your characters?

One thing that I think is missing from some contemporary literary fiction is work. As someone from a working-class background, what characters do for money, how they feed themselves and live, is important to me, and can define character. Often what you want to do is different than what you have to do. I try to make it very clear how my characters support themselves, which can be a big part of characterization and plot–like in Trashlands, where several major characters work at a strip club at the end of the world– but also, what are their larger wishes? What are their unfulfilled dreams? What do they regret? 

8.      Who would be your dream cast if TRASHLANDS became a movie?

Lana Del Rey as Foxglove, Erin Kellyman as Coral, Eric Roberts as Trillium, MJ Rodriguez as Summer, and the late John Dunsworth as Mr. Fall. 

9.      If you could grab lunch with a literary character who would it be?

Jet from Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic series. I just read The Book of Magic, which reminded me how much I love Hoffman’s characters and that world. We all need an aunt in our lives who’s a witch, someone who’s both no nonsense and a lot of nonsense–and who serves cake for breakfast. (It just occurred to me that I may be turning into that kind of witch myself.) We need someone to remind us of our own personal magic. 

10.  What are you currently reading?

Township, a collection of stories by fellow Ohioan Jamie Lyn Smith, which is slated to be published this December. 

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Here is an Exclusive Excerpt From “Trashlands”

1

Early coralroot

Corallorhiza trifida

Coral was pregnant then. She hid it well in a dress she had found in the road, sun-bleached and mud-dotted, only a little ripped. The dress billowed to her knees, over the tops of her boots. She was named for the wildflower which hadn’t been seen since before her birth, and for ocean life, poisoned and gone. It was too dangerous to go to the beach anymore. You never knew when storms might come.

Though they were going—to get a whale.

A boy had come from up north with a rumor: a whale had beached. Far off its course, but everything was off by then: the waterways, the paths to the ocean, its salt. You went where you had to go, where weather and work and family—but mostly weather—took you.

The villagers around Lake Erie were carving the creature up, taking all the good meat and fat. The strainer in its mouth could be used for bows, the bones in its chest for tent poles or greenhouse beams.

It was a lot of fuel for maybe nothing, a rumor spun by an out-of-breath boy. But there would be pickings along the road. And there was still gas, expensive but available. So the group went, led by Mr. Fall. They brought kayaks, lashed to the top of the bus, but in the end, the water was shallow enough they could wade.

They knew where to go because they could smell it. You got used to a lot of smells in the world: rotten food, chemicals, even shit. But death… Death was hard to get used to.

“Masks up,” Mr. Fall said.

Some of the men in the group—all men except Coral—had respirators, painter’s masks, or medical masks. Coral had a handkerchief of faded blue paisley, knotted around her neck. She pulled it up over her nose. She had dotted it with lavender oil from a vial, carefully tipping out the little she had left. She breathed shallowly through fabric and flowers. Mr. Fall just had a T-shirt, wound around his face. He could have gotten a better mask, Coral knew, but he was leading the crew. He saved the good things for the others.

She was the only girl on the trip, and probably the youngest person. Maybe fifteen, she thought. Months ago, she had lain in the icehouse with her teacher, a man who would not stay. He was old enough to have an old-fashioned name, Robert, to be called after people who had lived and died as they should. Old enough to know better, Mr. Fall had said, but what was better, anymore?

Everything was temporary. Robert touched her in the straw, the ice blocks sweltering around them. He let himself want her, or pretend to, for a few hours. She tried not to miss him. His hands that shook at her buttons would shake in a fire or in a swell of floodwater. Or maybe violence had killed him.

She remembered it felt cool in the icehouse, a relief from the outside where heat beat down. The last of the chillers sputtered out chemicals. The heat stayed trapped in people’s shelters, like ghosts circling the ceiling. Heat haunted. It would never leave.

News would stop for long stretches. The information that reached Scrappalachia would be written hastily on damp paper, across every scrawled inch. It was always old news.

The whale would be picked over by the time they reached it.

Mr. Fall led a practiced team. They would not bother Coral, were trained not to mess with anything except the mission. They parked the bus in an old lot, then descended through weeds to the beach. The stairs had washed away. And the beach, when they reached it, was not covered with dirt or rock as Coral had expected, but with a fine yellow grit so bright it hurt to look at, a blankness stretching on.

“Take off your boots,” Mr. Fall said.

Coral looked at him, but the others were listening, knot-ting plastic laces around their necks, stuffing socks into pockets.

“Go on, Coral. It’s all right.” Mr. Fall’s voice was gentle, muffled by the shirt.

Coral had her job to do. Only Mr. Fall and the midwife knew for sure she was pregnant, though others were talking. She knew how to move so that no one could see.

But maybe, she thought as she leaned on a fence post and popped off her boot, she wanted people to see. To tell her what to do, how to handle it. Help her. He had to have died, Robert—and that was the reason he didn’t come back for her. Or maybe he didn’t know about the baby?

People had thought there would be no more time, but there was. Just different time. Time moving slower. Time after disaster, when they still had to live.

She set her foot down on the yellow surface. It was warm. She shot a look at Mr. Fall.

The surface felt smooth, shifting beneath her toes. Coral slid her foot across, light and slightly painful. It was the first time she had felt sand.

The sand on the beach made only a thin layer. People had started to take it. Already, people knew sand, like everything, could be valuable, could be sold.

Coral took off her other boot. She didn’t have laces, to tie around her neck. She carried the boots under her arm. Sand clung to her, pebbles jabbing at her feet. Much of the trash on the beach had been picked through. What was left was diapers and food wrappers and cigarettes smoked down to filters.

“Watch yourselves,” Mr. Fall said.

Down the beach they followed the smell. It led them on, the sweet rot scent. They came around a rock outcropping, and there was the whale, massive as a ship run aground: red, purple, and white. The colors seemed not real. Birds were on it, the black birds of death. The enemies of scavengers, their competition. Two of the men ran forward, waving their arms and whooping to scare off the birds.

“All right everybody,” Mr. Fall said to the others. “You know what to look for.”

Except they didn’t. Not really. Animals weren’t their specialty.

Plastic was.

People had taken axes to the carcass, to carve off meat. More desperate people had taken spoons, whatever they could use to get at something to take home for candle wax or heating fuel, or to barter or beg for something else, something better.

“You ever seen a whale?” one of the men, New Orleans, asked Coral.

She shook her head. “No.”

“This isn’t a whale,” Mr. Fall said. “Not anymore. Keep your masks on.”

They approached it. The carcass sunk into the sand. Coral tried not to breathe deeply. Flesh draped from the bones of the whale. The bones were arched, soaring like buttresses, things that made up cathedrals—things she had read about in the book.

Bracing his arm over his mouth, Mr. Fall began to pry at the ribs. They were big and strong. They made a cracking sound, like a splitting tree.

New Orleans gagged and fell back.

Other men were dropping. Coral heard someone vomiting into the sand. The smell was so strong it filled her head and chest like a sound, a high ringing. She moved closer to give her feet something to do. She stood in front of the whale and looked into its gaping mouth.

There was something in the whale.

Something deep in its throat.

In one pocket she carried a knife always, and in the other she had a light: a precious flashlight that cast a weak beam. She switched it on and swept it over the whale’s tongue, picked black by the birds.

She saw a mass, opaque and shimmering, wide enough it blocked the whale’s throat. The whale had probably died of it, this blockage. The mass looked lumpy, twined with seaweed and muck, but in the mess, she could make out a water bottle.

It was plastic. Plastic in the animal’s mouth. It sparked in the beam of her flashlight.

Coral stepped into the whale.

Excerpted from Trashlands by Alison Stine, Copyright © 2021 by Alison Stine. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Four people are brought together by circumstance at the end of the world and must work together in the face of another disaster when society is slowly rebuilding itself in author Mike Chen’s “A Beginning at the End”. 

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The Synopsis

How do you start over after the end of the world?

Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.

In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.

Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose.

Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.

The Review

This was a truly unique and gripping sci-fi dystopian thriller! The timing of this novel’s release was hard not to see of course, but what the author did so splendidly was not focus the entire novel on the actual “apocalypse”, but instead on the society that came after an epidemic that took out a large portion of the world’s population. The unique perspective, narratively speaking, highlights humanity’s persistence and strength in the face of adversity and overwhelming odds, even with the mental and physical tolls each of these characters are struggling with. 

What the author really did a great job of was balancing the ever-shifting mythos of this dystopian world with the emotional depths of each character’s growth throughout the narrative. As a fan of Stephen King’s “The Stand”, I’ve always felt that this balance was necessary for a story about the end of the world to really feel emotionally connected to the reader, and the author perfectly hits the nail on the head with this read.

The Verdict

A masterful, heartfelt, and entertaining read, author Mike Chen’s “A Beginning At the End” is a must-read novel for fans of the sci-fi and dystopian thriller genres. The engaging way the author connected his characters and both the internal and external struggles each character faced made this novel become an instant hit. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Mike Chen is the author of Here And Now And Then (a finalist for Goodreads Choice – Best Sci-Fi, CALIBA Golden Poppy, and the Compton Crook Award) and A Beginning At The End (“a brilliant, fragile path through the darkness” — Library Journal). His short fiction is featured in Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View — The Empire Strikes Back, and he has covered geek culture for sites such as Tor.com, The Mary Sue, and StarTrek.com. In a previous life, he covered the NHL for Fox Sports, SB Nation, and other outlets. A member of SFWA, Mike lives in the Bay Area with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

Renew (The Reborn Marks Book 2) By Jenna Greene Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman born to be a slave who escaped her destiny and found freedom must contend with new challenges in author Jenna Greene’s “Renew”, the second book in The Reborn Marks series. 

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The Synopsis

Haunted by memories of those left behind, Lexil and Finn are forced to venture back into the Wastelands. The Unclaimed Cities are not the idyllic setting Lexil, Finn, and Ceera thought it would be. This new land has challenges of its own – which they soon discover. When Lexil and Finn return to the Wastelands, they are accompanied by Kaylen, someone they can’t decide is a friend or foe. As they retrace their path, they meet up with old allies and enemies, and encounter other treachery embedded in the Wastelands. The trio are forced to face their own assumptions, prejudices, and fears.

In the end, to change her fate and alter the destiny of all other Reborns.

Lexil must decide what she is willing to risk, of herself and others.The Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this new release, Renew, the sequel to Reborn.Buy Renew to find out if being branded a reborn is a myth, a curse…or a destiny.

The Review

A heart-pounding and exhilarating new chapter in a fantastic dystopian YA series. The author does a great job of focusing on themes of freedom and survivor’s guilt early on in the narrative, exploring the new world of the Unclaimed Cities as Lexil, Finn, and Kaylen are caught in the middle of a combative and explosive situation with the Reborn Council of Elders, highlighting the new laws that they must face. The balance of this new world with the world that they escaped, and for which they must now venture back into, makes this novel feel like a natural and exciting sequel to the first novel.

Yet it’s the evolution of Lexil as she showcases a well-rounded and thrilling journey of a young woman surviving after escaping enslavement to becoming a leader and heroine who must risk everything she has fought for in order to save others. This novel cements her heroic journey and highlights the shifting landscape of this dystopian world that blends realism with sci-fi and fantasy elements.

The Verdict

An action-packed, shocking, and heart-pounding dystopian YA thriller, author Jenna Greene’s “Renew” is a must-read novel. The perfect beach read for any dystopian or YA fan, the author draws the reader into the protagonist’s struggle and highlights her bond with bot Finn and Kaylen, as well as others, which gives her the strength to endure this hero’s journey. By the book’s end, readers will be on the edge of their seats as the shocking cliffhanger leaves them eager for the next chapter of this narrative. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jenna Greene is an elementary school teacher. When she isn’t teaching or writing, she is co-hosting “Quill and Ink: A Podcast for Book Lovers” with Miranda Oh. Jenna lives with her husband, daughter, and their cat, Thomas.

https://www.jennagreene.ca/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jenna-greene

The Aviator: A Story of the Sino-American War (The Aviator: Stories of Future Wars Book 1) by Craig DiLouie Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A Navy fighter pilot faces accusations of crimes against humanity after a short and bloody war between the United States and China and must decide the true meaning of heroism in author Craig DiLouie’s “The Aviator: A Story of the Sino-American War”, the first in THE AVIATOR: STORIES OF FUTURE WARS series. 

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The Synopsis

In the near future, the United States has fought a short, bloody war with China in the Pacific. The fighting is over, but the U.S. Navy maintains a blockade. Some call it the First Sino-American War. Others worry it is the start of World War Three.

In a prison cell in Beijing, Navy fighter pilot Jack Knapp tells his story about the victory in the Battle of Taiwan and how he ended up in a Chinese show trial, accused of crimes against humanity.

With his life in the balance, Jack will have to choose between survival and participating in his captors’ lies, and ultimately learn the true meaning of heroism in a war between superpowers where even stories are weapons.

The Review

A truly engaging and harrowing journey, the author has created a truly realistic and chilling look at what the future of our world could be, highlighting the very real divide and possible conflict that could arise between the United States and China. The atmosphere and setting really add to the stakes set up within the narrative, feeling both like a historical fiction read and a futuristic dystopian novel.

The character of Jack Knapp is a phenomenal protagonist and a great way of highlighting the struggle between these two nations. The author does a great job of balancing the intricate look into the protagonist’s rise to becoming a Navy pilot and his relationships with his fellow soldiers and superiors as they spent months at sea, and the hardships and struggles he had to endure as a prisoner after a bloody war, and facing the might of an entire government as he fought to find the most heroic path available to them. It’s a psychological and emotional struggle that readers will instantly feel for.

The Verdict

Engaging, shocking, and easy-to-read, author Craig DiLouie’s “The Aviator” is the perfect first book in a new, near-future dystopian series of military novels. The author perfectly captures the lingo and the behavior of soldiers living together on a Navy carrier and flying together into battle, while crafting a protagonist that brings the heart into this global conflict of the future that readers can get behind. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

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About the Author

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, Craig’s novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film. He is a member of the HWA, International Thriller Writers, and IFWA.

http://craigdilouie.com/

Reborn by Jenna Greene Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman destined for a life as a slave risks everything to save a young girl facing a horrific fate in author Jenna Greene’s “Reborn”. 

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The Synopsis

Those who bear marks on their skin are doomed to a life of slavery. Lexil has seven.

Sold into servitude, Lexil must deal with brutal punishments, back-breaking labor, and the loss of every freedom. When a young child she has befriended faces a horrible fate, Lexil must intervene to protect her, no matter what the risk.

With the help of a boy named Finn, the trio flee into the Wastelands. There, they must evade those who hunt them while trying to survive a barren landscape. Lexil must face challenges she’s never imagined existed, all while learning what it means to truly be reborn.

The Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this stunning new release. Buy REBORN now to find out if being branded a reborn is a myth, a curse… or a destiny.

The Review

A fantastic blend of fantasy and dystopian thriller, author Jennifer Greene has crafted an engaging world where the fight for freedom takes on a whole new meaning. Exploring a world where those born with marks on their bodies are known as Reborns, those who have lived past lives, and are considered property to serve the Once-Borns, this novel does an expert job of crafting wholly original mythology and a memorable cast of characters.

The author’s ability to blend a unique and creative new narrative with an important theme such as freedom and fighting against oppression makes this such an important read. The action and character growth are beautifully balanced with the world-building the author delves into, exploring how the fight for freedom comes from multiple sides, and there is often much more to the story than meets the eye. 

The Verdict

A shocking, entertaining yet thoughtful dystopian fantasy, author Jenna Greene’s “Reborn” is a must-read novel. Highly engaging and memorable, the author does a fantastic job of creating a great cast of characters, especially the protagonist and hero Lexil, as well as a wellspring of unique world mythology that readers will want to revisit over and over again. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing read today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jenna Greene is a writer, podcaster, teacher, clumsy dancer, dragonboat coach, and semi-professional napper. She’s also the co-host of “Quill and Ink: A Podcast for Book Lovers” with Miranda Oh.

www.facebook.com/jennabutrenchukgreene

www.jennagreene.ca

Orange City (Orange City, #1) by Lee Matthew Goldberg Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A city where outcasts get a second chance at life leads to an ad executive having his eyes opened to the prison they’re in and the monster who runs their lives in author Lee Matthew Goldberg’s “Orange City”, the first in the Orange City series.

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The Synopsis

Imagine a secret, hidden city that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the city forever. You can never leave.

Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

After ten years as an advertising executive, Graham Weatherend receives an order to test a new client, Pow! Sodas. After one sip of the orange flavor, he becomes addicted, the sodas causing wild mood swings that finally wake him up to the prison he calls reality.

A dynamic mash-up of 1984 meets LOST, ORANGE CITY is a lurid, dystopian first book in a series that will continue with the explosive sequel LEMONWORLD

The Review

A haunting and breathtaking sci-fi and dystopian novel, author Lee Matthew Goldberg brings a truly gritty world to life. The author does an amazing job of delving into the thin line between “good” and “evil” that many of these characters share, as morality within a society plays a major role in the narrative. 

The imagery used in this book does a great job of fusing the colorful and in-your-face advertising that has taken over our world over the last few decades with the action-driven and darker side of technology in our society. The pacing of the narrative really is what draws the reader in, presenting figures like E and the menacing ruler known simply as “Man” so that readers are instantly hooked and driven to delve into this fantastic world the author has built.

The Verdict

A shocking, intense yet engaging sci-fi and dystopian novel, author Lee Matthew Goldberg’s “Orange City” is a great start to this brand new series. Exploring themes of consumerism, addiction, and technology, this story does a wonderful job of creating a mythos that readers can really delve into nature, and makes this a must-read book. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. 

He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. 

Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com

Journey of Hope and Tears by Dieter Ryckewaert Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A nurse and a soldier must work together to escape a nefarious army in a dystopian landscape in author Dieter Ryckewaert’s “Journey of Hope and Tears”. 

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The Synopsis

If you were a refugee, would you be able to move on when your loved ones have all perished?

Jill lives with her parents and brother in Greenwood. She longs for freedom, far away from the Seers Dynasty and their tyrannical regime. She works in her father’s practice as a nurse, and this brings her some joy in her life – a simple but meaningful life.

When Jill’s homeland is attacked by Cerynean soldiers, her dream of finding happiness shatters into a thousand pieces. Jill and her brother are summoned to defend their homeland, but the war is short-lived. Latania falls, and all hell breaks loose.

As soon as the Cerynean soldiers march into the streets of Greenwood, Jill’s father brings her to safety. Aboard an old boat, the Sabrielle, she can flee, but her parents and brother are left behind. Tormented by pain and agony, Jill sees no way out…

Sam, a foreign soldier of the Freedom Pact, lost and miles away from his unit, becomes her salvation. Onboard the Sabrielle, they both realise that they can only survive if they work together. Hunted by the Cerynean army, they begin their journey with only one goal: to escape Latania.

JOURNEY OF HOPE AND TEARS: an unusual story about the true meaning of love, set in a dystopian world, reflecting our own challenges as humankind. 

The Review

A beautiful and emotional dystopian read, author Dieter Ryckewaert does an incredible job of blending brand new mythology with a memorable cast of characters that really showcase the horrors of war and the pain that comes with loss. Protagonists Jill and Sam are the heart of this story, each showcasing a different aspect of the world the author has created and highlighting the various aspects and impacts that war has on different people involved, from the soldiers on the front lines to the innocents who must witness their lives being torn apart. 

The emotional pull of Jill and her story is what really drives this narrative forward in a great way. The relationship between her and her family, as well as the growing relationship with Sam in the midst of all this death and tragedy all around them, help elevate the stakes in regards to the novel’s action and more integral scenes. The author’s ability to craft this whole new world and narrative allows readers to gain a sense of imagery that really showcases the magnitude of the novel’s intense plotline as well, making this book excel above so many other dystopian reads. 

The Verdict

An evenly paced, emotionally driven action & adventure/romantic dystopian read. The character growth of this novel is hauntingly beautiful, and the dystopian setting and deep cut in new mythology help this story stand out above the rest in the genre. Author Dieter Ryckewaert’s “Journey of Hope and Tears” is a must-read novel, so be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

When an author writes about his characters, or about the magical worlds in which they live, his or her pen never gets empty. Ask an author about the background of his or her latest protagonist, and the next hour you’re guaranteed not to get a letter in between.

What could be difficult about writing your own biography, you might think?

The answer to that question is already written in the question itself: the ‘own’ biography. Most authors write about everything and everyone, but mostly not… about themselves.

But anyway, let me introduce myself.

My name is Dieter Ryckewaert (1984) and I was born in Poperinge, a small town in West Flanders, a stone’s throw from the Belgian coast. When I was about three years old, we moved with our family to Zonnebeke, where me and my sister had a carefree childhood. The house in which we lived bordered a field and a forest, the dream playground for every child of my generation.

Together with the children of the neighbors, we played outside, and risked our lives several times in the branches of the trees. The garden of the neighbors was separated from our garden by a nine-foot high hedge. In the middle of that hedge was a hole big enough to give passage to an adult person. On day one of our time in Zonnebeke, my parents wanted to close the hedge, so we had a little more privacy in our garden. Of course, that didn’t match our idea about the hole (us as in: me, my sister, and the three children of the neighbors). The hole functioned as a passage from and especially to the new playmates. So close it? No way!

Eight years later, when we moved back to Poperinge, the hole was still there.

Back in Poperinge I was first confronted with my ‘writing itch’ when we got the chance at school to work on a collection of poems about love. As a fourteen year old adolescent I found the idea as corny as it could be. Really, shouldn’t we be tough like men? Well, I gave it a chance… and it turned out that ‘writing’ was much more fun than I first thought. When the words flowed out of my pen (we didn’t have a computer yet), ‘poetry and rhyming’ became quite fun.

From poetry, it logically turned into short stories. And I remember my first short story very well. I was so proud of my little Sci-Fi work! In hindsight, the quality was way below par, but one has to begin somewhere, right?

Many short stories followed, and as the writing itch continued to rise, I ventured into my first ‘real’ novel.

Once I graduated, I wanted my writing to blossom further. Bringing new worlds and characters to life and sharing them with readers gives me enormous satisfaction. Not only that, but also the fact that stories with a positive note inspire people and give them a chance to escape from the – hectic or not – life. 

Rats in a Maze by Peter Bailey Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A simple case turns Detective Ray Fisher’s life upside down, revealing shadowy organizations and making him question is sanity in author Peter Bailey’s “Rats in a Maze”. 

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The Synopsis

What does it mean when you start remembering things that never happened and your dreams are haunted by the most beautiful woman in the world?

NYPD Detective Ray Fisher thought it meant he was going mad, but there was enough of the Detective left to see that the weirdness had started after he’d investigated a car that had been driven into the river. It was a trivial case but it opened his eyes to a shadowy elite who used people like pawns.

Ray thought he had all the answers until the NYPD suspended him and he realised that the only thing worse than the elite was the vast government Conspiracy concealing it

Chased by black clad kill teams through the city, Ray has to escape with the most unlikely person in the world on a road trip like no other where he discovers that the only way to be truly free is to leave his humanity behind.

Rats in a maze, a roller coaster thrill ride leading to a shattering conclusion where the fate of the world is literally in the hands of children.

The Review

A fantastic blend of police procedural and thriller with a twist of dystopian suspense, Rats in a Maze is a fantastic read. The author expertly weaves a complex and layered story with a fully fleshed out cast of characters that capture the reader’s attention and engage with them emotionally. 

Protagonist and Detective Ray Fisher is a truly interesting character. Driving this journey full of twists and turns, the character’s arc is exceptional to read, from his tragic backstory and loss to the growing mystery this case brings him and the evolution he undergoes as the story goes on. Add to this the author’s fantastic world-building and the lore they crafted for this tale, and readers will be hard pressed not to be entertained as they fall deeper and deeper into this novel’s web. 

The Verdict

An evenly-paced, action-packed and exciting read, author Peter Bailey’s “Rats in a Maze” is a must-read thriller of 2020. A larger than life story that hits all the great notes of a good suspense and mystery read and adds a bit of dystopian vibes, readers won’t want to miss the shocking conclusion to this amazing read. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Peter lives in England with his long-suffering wife. His first story was a fictionalized account of a disastrous trip to Las Vegas with a dental abscess. Since then, he has written a vampire story (without any actual vampires) and about a perfectly ordinary day at the office that will last for eternity. Rats In A Maze is his third book, kindly published by Moonshine Cove, in September 2020

https://peter-bailey-books.com/

Blackacre Rising (Ivy Spires #2) by John C. Adams Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Loyalties will be tested and lines will be crossed as the fight for humanity wages on in author John C. Adams’ latest entry in the Ivy Spires dystopian series, “Blackacre Rising”. 

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The Synopsis

From Horror Tree reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a disturbing tale of scientific experimentation and sadistic cruelty. The sequel to ‘Souls For The Master’, ‘Blackacre Rising’ features a stunning cover by Fiona Jayde Media.

Leaving the chaos erupting in the Metropolis behind, Gerald speeds north to his cousin Brett Flint’s farmhouse, Blackacre. He is certain that their vehicle is being followed, but returning to the capital with Don and Ivy is simply too risky now that Janus Fidens has taken over the Resistance and declared the pair to be outlaws who have betrayed the Revolution. Arriving at Blackacre, Gerald begs Brett and his wife Radclyffe to shelter Ivy and Don under their roof without asking too many questions about why his young companions have had to flee to the sparsely populated uplands and need their presence there kept secret.

Distraught at saying goodbye to Gerald, Ivy admits how much she has come to care for him since they have been battling the authorities together. They snatch a few moments alone together to say a private farewell before Gerald drives back to the capital, hoping to persuade Janus to drop his pursuit of Ivy and Don. En route, Gerald is followed by the same car that tailed them northwards. Lured into stopping to assist at the site of a road traffic accident, the trainee surgeon is captured and transported to a shadowy underground scientific research facility, where he is disturbed to discover that Sinister Tungsten, sister to his arch nemesis Hendra, awaits him.

In the Blackacre library, Don is welcomed by the Seven. This mysterious group includes the Master he fought to defeat down in the Metropolis, five other strange figures with bizarre powers and, of course, the malignant farmhouse itself. Brett, Radclyffe and their twin baby sons reside in the oddest place Don has ever encountered. He reluctantly agrees to become involved in the Seven’s project to assassinate Dr Luther Honigbaum, who funds the facility where Gerald is being held prisoner and runs the asylum in Austria which supplies its young female test subjects.

Learning how to transport herself from one location to another shocks Ivy. Unlike Don, who has wielded great power his whole life, her skills as an assassin are more practical in nature, and she worries that having shifted safely to Austria she’ll be unable to return safely. Finally, she is ready to undertake her mission to kill the evil man behind the gruesome experiments that serve no purpose other than to gratify the rampant cruelty of Honigbaum and his acolytes.

Meanwhile, the Seven show Don another facility, this time in Antarctica, where equally cruel experiments take place upon men. When the Seven tell him he is too young to witness exactly what it taking place, he uses his unique powers to advance his age by three years so that he is now eighteen. He gladly sacrifices a part of his natural life to rescue the men kept prisoner there and tormented by sadistic experiments with no scientific value whatsoever.

Arriving in Austria, Ivy is horrified to discover that her cover is already blown and Honigbaum lies in waiting for her. He has a sinister agenda of his own and will stop at nothing to eliminate anyone who resists both his sadistically cruel medical research and his repulsive sexual advances. When Brett Flint’s cousin Henry turns up at Ubersneller, Honigbaum locks him up in one of his asylums high up in the mountains to ensure his silence. He has particularly dark designs on Ivy, and is determined that her close friendship with Don will enable him to reach out to his estranged son. Drugged and forced to comply, Ivy is young enough to provide the ageing Honigbaum with everything he wishes. Gerald’s imprisonment ends when Sinistra’s elder sister Hendra returns and the authorities brutally re-establish law and order, but he is no safer with her than with her sibling.

The Review

A truly gripping, intense, and engaging dystopian sci-fi read. The author does a brilliant job of creating a large mythos in this dystopian world rich with a multitude of main and side characters that readers will be able to both loathe and root for. 

Although I had not read the first book in the series, the author writes in a way that allows readers both new and established to be able to delve into this new narrative, as the central characters find themselves split up and fighting brutal battles all on their own. Each finds their path fraught with horrifying trials and monstrous adversaries, all while their own abilities grow and develop over time. 

The story really benefits from a strong character arc for the central protagonists and antagonists. This lengthy read delves into the hardships and struggles each character undertakes in this world divided by class and exposed to horrors unlike anything seen before. In the midst of powers and action, the author really brings about complex characters that readers can identify and support throughout this narrative.

The Verdict

A must-read dystopian sci-fi thriller, author John C. Adams’ “Blackacre Rising” is a fantastic sequel in the Ivy Spires series. Emotionally driven character arcs and action-packed scenes all come together under strong mythology and ends on a cliffhanger that will leave readers wanting more. Be sure to preorder your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I’m a non-binary author and critic of fantasy and horror.

I review for Schlock! Webzine, the British Fantasy Society and Horror Tree, as well as placing reviews and articles across a wide range of blogs and magazines.

I have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University. I’ve been a Contributing Editor for Albedo One Magazine and the Aeon Award since 2016. Before that, I was a Submissions Reader with them.

My debut horror novel, ‘Souls for the Master’, is 99c on Smashwords retailers and 99p on Kindle. Likewise, my debut fantasy novel, ‘Aspatria’, is 99c on Smashwords retailers and 99p on Kindle. The sequel to ‘Aspatria’, ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’, is out now on Kindle and Smashwords retailers.

Although I write mostly long fiction, since 2015 I have had stories published in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, Fantasia Divinity and Jersey Pines Ink. My short stories have also been published in the Horror Zine, Swords & Sorcery, Sirens Call, Blood Moon Rising, Lovecraftiana and various other magazines.

Every emerging writer needs plenty of encouragement right at the start, and entering lots of competitions early on made a real difference to my confidence to press on with writing longer fiction and think about submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies in due course. In 2012, I was longlisted for the International Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest for ‘The Visitors’ and again in 2013 for ‘We Can Finish Your Baby’s Brain For You’. My writing was also recognised by the Enrico Charles Literary Award (runner up in 2012) and by the University of Winchester Writers’ Conference in both 2012 and 2013, including a Commendation in the First Three Pages of a Novel category, and other nominations in poetry and short fiction.

I read PPE at Somerville College, and I am a non-practising solicitor. I live in rural Northumberland, UK, and I combine my career as an author and critic with raising my kids and caring for a severely disabled relative. I’m always busy!

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

Twitter: johncadamssf