Tag Archives: dystopian

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.

Creatures Most Vile by Chelsea Lauren 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 who has been hunted by creatures her whole life has her world turned upside down when she discovers she has rare supernatural abilities, and is forced to fight the beasts that have haunted her in an arena. She must find a means of escape before the arena’s ruthless Commander before its too late in author Chelsea Lauren’s “Creatures Most Vile”. 

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The Synopsis

Stalked by monsters in the woods and her past, Anora finds safety in the quiet comforts of her small town life.

It’s another ordinary day when she’s sent to a Guardian assessment designed to unleash rare supernatural abilities, until she blasts a tunnel of water across the room. Her coach calls her gift a blessing, but Anora knows it’s a death sentence. Now she must train as a Guardian and battle the very monsters that have tormented her entire life.

After being thrown into the arena with a clawed and cackling creature, Anora refuses to accept this new life. She appeals to the Commander and begs her trainers to let her go home. The more they refuse, the more Anora realizes this isn’t a training camp—it’s a prison and they will never let her leave. Now she must escape the camp before the Commander catches on, for if he does, he may turn out to be worse than the monsters lurking in the woods. 

The Review

The world-building in this novel was fantastic! The author did an incredible job of not only captivating readers with a strong protagonist who evolved greatly over the course of the narrative but crafted a merciless and haunting dystopian world full of monsters, both the ravenous and humankind. The mythos that the author crafted around these fictional nations and the creatures that inhabit them, as well as the Guardians and their purpose, was incredible to watch unfold and did a great job of putting a new spin on the dystopian SCI-FI genre. 

The character arcs were what really brought me into this narrative fully. Anora was a fantastic hero to watch grow, as her arc from a scared and family-driven young girl into a strong and rebellious young woman was such a great and well-rounded story arc. The antagonists of this book were so vile and twisted, and the author did a great job of shocking readers with twists and turns that would change character perspectives constantly.

The Verdict

A heart-pounding, jaw-dropping, and entertaining read, author Chelsea Lauren’s “Creatures Most Vile” is a must-read dystopian sci-fi of 2021! The perfect read for sci-fi fans during the spooky season, the chilling monster attacks to set up the novel’s setting, and the twisted mind-games that the protagonist must endure making this a tense-filled world that cries out for a sequel. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I never knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. At school, everyone seemed so convicted in their career aspirations while I was constantly changing my mind. My two favorite subjects were science and English, so I decided to follow a biology track in college.  

During those four years my love for biology solidified. A career in research started to take shape. I was accepted to a graduate program winter of my senior year and was ready for a new adventure. Little did I know, that adventure was waiting for me in a Creative Writing 101 course that upcoming spring.  

After a semester of exploring my creative side through poetry and short stories, I was hooked. After graduation, I continued writing for fun and in graduate school it was an outlet for stress. My best friend and I would have de-stress writing sessions. We wrote a little, talked a lot, and she is the one who encouraged me to seek publication and share my stories with the world.   

Throughout the years, my fiancé has been a constant source of encouragement.  Balancing a career in microbiology, a blossoming career as an author, and everything else would not be possible without his hugs and our baby puppy Otis’s cuddles and kisses.  

Here’s a link to a Q&A I did with author Joshua Gillingham. 

https://www.chelsea-lauren.com/

The Infant Conspiracy: Book Two of the Oberllyn Family Trilogy by J. Traveler Pelton Review

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

After a lifetime of government service and espionage work, Noel and Violet Oberllyn must not only welcome their adult children and their families back into their home, but must come out of retirement to stop a shadow group who has infiltrated all major governments, has released an airborne toxin to stop fertility in its tracks amongst the general population, and has led the U.S. Government to the brink of destruction through civil unrest in author J. Traveler Pelton’s “The Infant Conspiracy”, the second book in the Oberllyn Family Trilogy. 

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The Synopsis

Noel and Violet Oberllyn spent their adult careers working special assignments for the U.S. government, a family tradition. After forty years of espionage, all they wanted was a peaceful retirement in the country. Just as it seemed that dream might happen, an unplanned series of events forced their over achieving adult children to return home to live with the folks – all four of them driven from their homes by different aspects of a government that had gone insane. Kai, a geneticist, with Zyanya his wife, Gabriel, a bomb expert turned nurse, with their grandson little Gabe, Jasmine, a forensic psychiatrist married to Scott, a CPA, join their little sibs still living at home, Micah, an autistic savant and Serena, an artist, in uncovering a secretive group of people led by the Ice Lady whose main goal appears to be to take the earth’s population down from 7 billion to 500 million within the next 10 years. Having infiltrated the governments of most developed countries and released an airborne anti-fertility virus, the Brotherhood succeeded in forcing a zero fertility rate. In the meantime, the economy of the U.S. tanked, the government sells all citizens who have debt into slavery within a system so harsh that civil disorder breaks out. Serenity Retreat Center is forced to become a slave labor camp and the family is compelled into special service to save the Center, their tribe, the United States and humanity from destruction. If you thought retirement was simply about money, this book will change your mind… 

The Review

Shocking and tense, this novel seems to border a sci-fi dystopian future with a twist of family and drama. The setting was very reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, but with a twist. Rather than a group straight-up eliminating the government, this book focuses on a nefarious group infiltrating the already existing government and showing a world in which healthy women who have healthy pregnancies are so rare that they are taken to birthing centers and their rights are forfeited. The collapse of the society that we are all used to was harrowing to see unfold, as was the almost sci-fi element to this genetic engineering fiction read. 

What really set this narrative apart was the amount of family and mythos within that family that the author built. The emotional impact of what this family goes through and the lengths they go to for one another and their fellow man are a beacon of hope in this dystopian world. The world-building is just incredible to see here, as the author paints a vivid picture in the reader’s minds of how corruption and desperation can bring out the best or the worst in humanity. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, adrenaline-fueled, and highly creative read, author J. Traveler Pelton’s “The Infant Conspiracy” is a must-read dystopian and genetic engineering fiction read. Full of chilling scenarios that anyone would fear becoming a reality, shady government officials, and a cliffhanger ending that will leave readers wanting more, this is a great read for those who enjoy unique and original dystopian reads. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J. Traveler Pelton was born in West Virginia in the last century. She is active in her home church; enjoys having theological disputes with her friends, loves to cook a big meal and then takes a walk, discussing the ideas of what her friends/family are studying. She was the Nation’s Mother for her tribe for several years: she is still wife to Dan after 45 years, mother of six adults, a grandmother of eight, a Clinically Licensed Independent Social worker, a retired adjunct professor of social work at her local university and an avid reader. She is a cancer survivor. She studies science, technology, Biblical studies and human behavior. She is quick to draw parallels between different fields of thought and weave the ideas into a cohesive ideology that is at once practical, usable and thoughtful. Her books are the result of blending her life experiences with bureaucracy, studying science and nature, counseling and faith. She greatly enjoys the intersection of fantasy and possibility and hopes you enjoy it as well. We will see you on the other side of the imagination tree.

Her co-author of the fantasy series is her grandson T-bear. T Bear Pelton is a self-proclaimed gamer, a student of Kenpo, a Christian active in his home church, a Native American, a storyteller and a novice blacksmith. He lives with his grandparents, his Amazon parrot, and four Siamese on a small alpaca farm while working full time and dreaming of times when magic still existed and wishes sometimes actually came true. Enjoy this fantasy with him and for just a little while, suspend daily life for a dream of dragons and wizards, beautiful ladies and knights, magic and faith. Travel then with us to another time, another place and another dimension. Come to the future, after the War, when tech and magic combine with faith and fear.

Their farm, Springhaven Croft, is home to alpacas, dogs, Siamese cats, canaries, an eclectic group of chickens and an irascible Amazon Parrot named Gizmo. Traveler’s webpage is travelerpelton.com; she also has a FB page called Traveler Pelton. Come visit real soon!

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

Pretty/Ugly by Jennifer Anne Gordon Review

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

Two people struggling with loss and loneliness must face a dystopian nightmare in author Jennifer Anne Gordon’s “Pretty/Ugly”. 

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The Synopsis

Pretty/UglyInteritus: noun. ruin; violent/untimely death, extinction; destruction, dissolution.

Omelia fills the empty place in her heart with Instagram clicks, likes, and subscribes, hiding the scars of grief under a mask of makeup, cloaked in an online personality. She yearns to be someone new: a girl in a magazine, a character in a book, a beauty queen. Anything not to feel, to be numb, but the sharp pain accompanying the red spot on her face cannot be ignored. Nor can the black, spindly tarantula-like vines that creep up the side of her face and the fever she spikes, forcing her to confront the fact that the person she has become may not be who she is at all.

Dubbed ‘the New JFK,’ Sam is the heir apparent to a powerful but emotionally distant political family, living the life he neither dreamed nor wanted. He sleepwalks through his days filled with self-loathing, rage, boredom, and an ache under his heart that reminds him that he is not complete. He is roused from slumber when a political scandal erupts that coincides with the end of the world. Too many Adderall and Old-Fashioneds leave Sam wondering, is he crazy or haunted? When lives are emotionally ended in childhood, it takes an apocalypse to see the ephemeral beauty of living again.

The Review

Another fantastically haunting and memorable read from author Jennifer Anne Gordon. The story fits perfectly into the pandemic era we’ve all gone through this past year and a half. The chilling setting of a dystopian world that has ended after a pandemic really brought the horror aspect of this novel, gripping the reader in a story that captured the suddenness and quick pace that an illness can take the world. 

The characters really brought the heart to this narrative. The protagonists, in particular, two very broken and lonely people who find themselves living lives not their own, really speaks to the idea of isolation and public perception versus reality. The losses they share and the terrifying way they meet one another turns their tale of survival into one of personal connection and hope. 

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The Verdict

A gripping, engaging, and emotional tale of horror, survival, and rediscovering life again, author Jennifer Anne Gordon’s “Pretty/Ugly” is a must-read horror novel of 2021. It perfectly captured the raw emotions and fear that so many have felt over the course of this pandemic and the isolation and loss that can come from it. The stories haunting end and visceral writing does a great job of leaving glimmers of hope and life mixed into this terrifying world, leaving readers wanting more. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jennifer Anne Gordon is a Gothic horror novelist. Her work includes Beautiful, Frightening and Silent (2020) which won the Kindle Award for Best Horror/Suspense for 2020, and From Daylight to Madness (The Hotel book 1), and When the Sleeping Dead Still Talk (The Hotel book 2).

She had a collection of her mixed media artwork published during spring of 2020, entitled Victoriana: mixed media art of Jennifer Gordon

Jennifer is one of the hosts as well as the creator of Vox Vomitus, a video podcast on the Global Authors on the Air Network, as well as the Co-Host of the You Tube Channel “Talk Horror to Me”. She had been a contributor to Ladies of Horror Fiction, as well as Horror Tree.

Jennifer is a pale curly haired ginger, obsessed with horror, ghosts, abandoned buildings, and her dog “Lord Tubby”.

She graduated from the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where she studied Acting. She also studied at the University of New Hampshire with a concentration in Art History and English.

She has made her living as an actress, a magician’s assistant, a “gallerina”, a comic book dealer, a painter, and burlesque performer and for the past 10 years as an award-winning professional ballroom dancer, performer, instructor, and choreographer.

When not scribbling away (ok, typing frantically) she enjoys traveling with her fiancé and dance partner, teaching her dog ridiculous tricks (like ‘give me a kiss’ and ‘what hand is the treat in?’ ok these are not great tricks.) as well as taking photos of abandoned buildings and haunted locations.

She is a Leo, so at the end of the day she just thinks about her hair.

https://www.jenniferannegordon.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/books/pretty-ugly-by-jennifer-anne-gordon

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/

Accidental Anomalies: Book One of the Mutant Fellowship Series by J. Traveler Pelton

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

Two brothers and world-renowned doctors in a world devastated after a meteorite strike leaves some of the population suffering from mutations work at the Center for Genetic Research, but soon questions arise after the two brothers have a string of wives mysteriously disappear months into their marriages in author J. Traveler Pelton’s “Accidental Anomalies”, book one in the Mutant Fellowship Series. 

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The Synopsis

Ever since the meteorite holocaust, mutations have been showing up in the population. Drs. David and Michael Simmons are highly regarded and successful researchers, wealthy philanthropists, and directors of the Center for Genetic Research. They have terrible luck with women, however. When Aspen and Diem, sisters, marry the brothers, like all the other wives, they disappear. What is hidden in the lowest basement of the Center?

The Review

A great blend of YA Dystopian thriller with mystery and suspense, this was a truly unique read. The author blends sci-fi and fantasy elements into a harsh world where the progress made in our modern world was undone after the tragic disaster of the mutant meteorite that devastated the world. Much like in The Handmaid’s Tale, the world is suffering from mutations in births and women with healthy wombs are asked to help repopulate the Earth, no matter their sexual orientation or preferences regarding children. 

Yet the author takes this narrative in a whole new element, adding a domestic suspense and thriller element to the novel with the inclusion of the brothers David and Michael, doctors and researchers who have used sinister means of acquiring test subjects. The story focuses on great themes of good vs evil, facing prejudices in society and justice in a world where money can buy freedom despite the crimes one commits. The pacing of the novel adds the level of suspense this narrative deserves, and the character development really adds depth to the mythology of this dystopian world.

The Verdict

A memorable, engaging and mind-bending read, author J. Traveler Pelton’s “Accidental Anomalies” is a must-read sci-fi and dystopian thriller. A gripping tale of heartbreaking relationships gone wrong and cruelty in the name of progress, the author explores a haunting world that keeps the reader invested and entertained throughout. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J. Traveler Pelton was born in West Virginia in the last century. She is active in her home church and was the Nation’s Mother for her tribe for several years. She is still wife to Dan after 47 years (He is so long-suffering!), mother of six adults, a grandmother of nine, a Clinically Licensed Independent Social worker in private practice, a retired adjunct professor of social work at her local university, and an avid reader. She lives on a mini-farm with her husband, seven alpaca, a flock of spoiled chickens, five Siamese cats, four Pomeranians, a talkative Amazon parrot named Gizmo, and her aviary of canaries. Traveler enjoys the intersection of fantasy, possibility, creativity, and speculation. Join her on the other side of the imagination tree. She’ll be sitting there waiting for your visit.

Skin Curse (The Gate Cycle #2) by Kristin Jacques 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 searching for her brother in a city of monsters must navigate her growing power and the inner workings of the city of Avergard’s politics in order to save her family and friends in author Kristin Jacques’s “Skin Curse”, the second book in The Gate Cycle series. 

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The Synopsis 

The Children of the Gate wait for the call to Rise.

Azzy Brimvine knows her brother is in the vast city of Avergard. She must find him, but time is not on their side.

In the House of Seven Smiles, Azzy struggles to understand the constraints and limits of her power. She finds the whispering voices that guided her for so long, suddenly silent. The enigmatic Lord Wallach is both a frustrating ally and a dangerous mystery, and a strange entity lurks among the household servants. The haven Azzy sought may not be as safe as she thought…but is anywhere truly safe in the Above? 

The city of Avergard is full of monsters and secrets, and a dark history festers at its root. A yawning pit nestles in the house of a scheming lord, who will use Armin’s dangerous gifts to raise history, and raze the city to the ground. As Azzy finds herself and her brother pulled into these machinations, she must navigate the politics and society of Avergard’s brutal ruling class to save her family and friends before the Gate consumes them all.

©2020 Machovi Productions Inc (P)2021 Machovi Productions Inc

The Review

This was a gripping and engaging story, blending everything from fantasy and horror to sci-fi and dystopian themes. While I am new to this series, I found the author did a great job of implementing enough of the first book’s story into this novel to make it feel both fresh and well-understood. 

The pacing and haunting atmosphere played a big role in establishing this fantasy world. The blend of chilling imagery that really brought Avergard to life in the reader’s mind and the narrator (Amie Lyn Hornick) really did a great job of voicing this story, establishing the mix of wonder and terror the protagonist endures throughout the novel while capturing the raw emotions and action that Azzy must overcome to save those closest to her. 

The Verdict

A brilliant, entertaining, and mesmerizing fusion of gothic horror and sci-fi dystopian elements, author Kristen Jacques’s “Skin Curse” is the perfect fantasy read for both new and established fans alike of this series. As a fan of history, I loved the backstory the author established of using one of history’s greatest villains, the Third Reich, and showed their involvement in opening the fabled Gate that let the magic and monsters into this dystopian world, as I know it is well established that one of Hitler’s mad machinations was to harness the power of the occult into his hatred and war machines. Add to this a great story with both haunting and engaging characters and a heart-pounding narrative that readers won’t be able to get enough of, this is a brilliant audiobook that can’t be missed. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Author: Kristin Jacques

Narrator: Amie Lyn Hornick

Length: 9 hours 13 minutes

Series: The Gate Cycle, Book 2

Publisher: The Parliament House

Released: Apr. 21, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

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