The Unlikely Occultist receives a Five Star Readers’ Favorite Badge!

The Unlikely Occultist

Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers’ Favorite

Shortly after her loving Aunt Hilary’s funeral, Heather faced a challenge at her job. At the State Library in Victoria, Australia, she was assigned the task of assessing a one-hundred box collection donated by the late Professor Foyle. She was a professor of religious studies, with a strong interest in Alternative Spiritualities, often called New Age. Heather soon became engrossed in the professor’s writings, and how her own belief system was affected by the study of this collection is a fascinating aspect of this book. Author Isobel Blackthorn has crafted a thought-provoking, insightful book in The Unlikely Occultist: A Biographical Novel of Alice A. Bailey. The journey of Alice is told in a chronological format, including both her personal life and her work in the spiritual realm.

This biographical novel is written in an easy-to-read, flowing manner. It describes the facts of Alice Bailey’s life – the early years of strong Christian beliefs; her commitment to service; the expansion of her spiritual beliefs; the telepathic connection with several Masters; her marriages and mothering three daughters. It also includes how some spiritualists accepted and others vilified her prolific writings and presentations. How Isobel Blackthorn interweaves the life of Alice of the last century and the life of Heather at the present time is truly masterful. This book provides a context for anyone interested in Alice’s teachings and books, the Arcane School, or organizations she or her followers founded. A novel based on historical facts, The Unlikely Occultist is truly an exceptional read. – 5 STARS

Discover more herehttps://isobelblackthorn.com/the-unlikely-occultist-a-biographical-novel-of-alice-a-bailey/

Book Review: The Plot Against Heaven by Mark Kirkbride

About The plot against heaven

Death doesn’t stand a chance against love.

Hell-bent on confronting God after the death of wife Kate, Paul gate-crashes Heaven. With immigration problems and a wall, Heaven turns out to be nowhere near as welcoming as expected. Both Heaven and Hell are modern and militarized, and the cold war that exists between them is about to heat up, with him in the middle of it. Caught on the wrong side of Heaven, Paul faces an impossible choice if he’s to have any hope of seeing his wife again.

Death doesn’t stand a chance against love.

My Thoughts

This is an intriguing little book – just a few hours read – that takes you across unexpected vistas of the afterlife – God in his police state, the Devil in his Casino, both too self-absorbed to give much time to our heartbroken hero, who is only there because he wants to find his wife, and who never meant to get caught up like this… The working out of it nicely captures the paradox of the idea of a war between heaven and hell: what could it look like, such a war? Kirkbride forces it to absurdity, giving both sides a panoply of military equipment and personnel, not to mention the PR men, spinning their propaganda – this is no different from all the other wars, in our own worlds, all of them billed from both sides as battles between good and evil, with the accident of where one happens to live determining one’s allegiance. Kirkbride doesn’t appear to take sides – the Devil, as always, gets the better lines and the more attractive characters, but there is a redemptive moment at the end, reminiscent of the strange scene at the end of Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey, where God gets a better look-in. It’s not a tract: the theological issues take second fiddle, in the end, to a touching love story – and a twist to die for.

Many thanks to Blackthorn Book Tours for the chance to read this book!

Book Review: The Patchwork Prince Book 1 Stumbling Stoned by A. van Wyck

I’m delighted to review Stumbling Stoned (The Patchwork Prince Book 1) for Blackthorn Book Tours!

About The Patchwork Prince – Stumbling Stoned

State-sponsored drugs in the megaton range. More rice pudding than I could shake a spork at. And a little padded terrarium of my very own.

If you’d told me yesterday that, come morning, I’d be hunted by the police, the mob, the supernatural (and a cat), I’d have laughed in your face. Granted, I’d have laughed in your face regardless (Clozapine gives me the giggles). Then I’d have gone looking for your flying DeLorean in the nuthouse parking lot.

An epic misadventure involving drugs, sorcery, cannibalism, love and other necessary evils.

My Thoughts

Stumbling Stoned is a celebration of a particular brand of surreal : quirky, violent, gross, chaotic – an excited celebration of drug culture , that embraces the transgressive, the outrageous, the dangerous, the unconstrained, the unpredictable. Like Mad Magazine on steroids, it races through its 300 odd pages with the wild and gleeful abandonment of familiar novelistic restraints (such as a semi-coherent plot, or a single arc of reality, or regard for a particular genre). Mafia bosses and a psychiatrist vie for attention with witches and a zombie skeleton. There are lapses of time and place and person. The hero can accidentally eat and then vomit up an assailant’s finger. He occasionally has superpowers.

If you search this book for moral nourishment, you will find thin pickings. At one point our hero sides with an abducted damsel rather than the sex traffickers who are abducting her (well done!) though there are no great heroics and most of the victims he leaves behind. He’s on a quest for a sense of identity, which I guess is creditable in a psychological novel. There may be other creditable moments but they don’t, in retrospect occur to me. It’s not that sort of book.

On the other hand, it is sharp and slick in its writing and the author is clearly witty. Much of the book is ‘actually’ amusing (in that rather contentless way that stoned people often ‘imagine’ they are being amusing). And it is, it would appear, a thoroughly ‘novel’ novel, and ‘once off’ is something of a recommendation (though the promise of a sequel – this is only book one – rather undermines this premise). But let me give it the benefit of the doubt. It is no more absurd than Buster Keaton or the Marx Brothers, no more drug crazed than much of Coleridge, no more elusive in its narrative arc than Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps one day, like them, it will gain a cult following or be treated with reverence as a classic. Such elevation is slightly more plausible than its plot, so I award these stars to mark my place in its history in case that happens. Future enthusiasts: I was here before you were.

About the Author

André van Wyck is a South African-born writer and law school graduate. Despite the hardships of earning coffee money, and in between yelling at Duolingo, he perseveres at his passion: writing.

“When I started The Waking Worlds series, it was as an exercise in exorcism – a way to rid myself of this ‘writing nonsense’ and get back to my nine-to-five… It did not work out so well.”

His debut novel, A Clatter of Chains, published on Amazon’s Kindle Store in 2016. The supposed palate cleanser (before starting the second installment) turned into a book in its own right and delayed publication of A Fray of Furies considerably. Stumbling Stoned was published in 2018 and advanced to the semi-finals of the vaunted Booklife Prize.

André lives in Luxembourg, with his Industrial Psychologist wife and imaginary pet rock.

Blackthorn Book Tours book review Central City by Indy Perro

About Central City

Kane Kulpa learned which laws could be bent and which broken after a short stint in prison courtesy of Detective Vincent Bayonne. Bound by time, integrity, and the reality of life in Central City, Bayonne and Kane made peace with the past. Now, gang tension spirals from corrupt to deadly, and a series of murders stresses Kane and Bayonne’s uneasy alliance. Kane balances on a razor’s edge to protect his bar, power, life, and family, and Bayonne hustles to keep another lonely man from being strangled.

Central City is a city struggling for identity. The cops protect the rackets, and the criminals shelter the injured. Innocence is only an appearance, and rage finds a voice.

My Thoughts

 

What makes one man into a successful detective? Or an unsuccessful one?  What makes another man into a crime baron?  Or a monster?  What pushes one woman into prostitution, another into an unhappy marriage?  What drives them? How different are they, really, under the skin?  These are questions that are explored in this novel – part crime noir, part meditation on in human motivation.  Indy Perro doesn’t go for the easy answers, which gives this book a terrific depth of perspective.

At the background of the story there are the lives of the little people – prostitutes, small businesses, their clients, caught up in a turf war between rival crime syndicates.  Perro makes real people out of all of these players, and as the central narrative touches each of them, it is always clear that they have their reasons for the choices that they make, the roles that they take.

In format at least it is police procedural in the crime noir tradition – a dedicated police officer with controversial methods and an unpromising side-kick tries to unmask a serial killer who is haunting the brothels of Central City.  The plot is well worked out, with enough twists and misdirections to keep one interested, but the central “whodunit?” is signposted – albeit indirectly – a little too clearly.  So I guessed the two chief reveals of the story quite a while before they appeared.  There are also moments when the “philosophical points” are made a little too explicitly and feel a bit “preachy”. This is a novel by an academic, and one feels that the author may have a bit too much to prove: he wants to write a crime novel that makes the reader think, and he succeeds in this – but he also wants to write a crime novel that will let the reader know that the writer is a thinker. The book would have been better if he’d worked less hard at that.  Anyone who is interested in such things will work out that the writer thinks deeply and is a wise sort of fellow.

This is a debut novel but it feels like the start of a series – a series that will mellow as the author gains in confidence and will give readers a feast. Whatever else, this is a thoroughly enjoyable example of its genre, and I look forward to more from this talented author.

 About Indy Perro

Indy Perro is a novelist, an independent thinker, and a recovering academic. Indy has a degree in history, graduate degrees in religious studies, comparative literature, and education, and has spent more than a decade teaching philosophy, religious studies, writing, and literature. While continuing numerous side projects and building a career as an author, Indy launched his website, Indyperro.com, to reach a larger audience, an audience interested in the practice of writing. “We’re all in this together. Let’s connect, have a conversation, and engage each other to generate meaning.”

 

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Central-City-Indy-Perro/dp/1952258006

Book Review: Murder in Montague Falls

About Murder in Montague Falls

 

WHITE HOT THRILLS! PITCH BLACK DEEDS!

3 TALES OF TEENS TACKLING THEIR DARKEST RITES OF PASSAGE

Acclaimed storytellers Russ Colchamiro, Sawney Hatton, and Patrick Thomas each present an original novella brimming with enough danger, intrigue, and murder to get readers’ blood pounding and hearts racing.

In Colchamiro’s RED INK, a paperboy with an overactive imagination witnesses a brutal killing on his route—or has he taken his fantasy spy games a step too far?

In Hatton’s THE DEVIL’S DELINQUENTS, a trio of teenage misfits in pursuit of success, power, and revenge practice amateurish occult rituals… with deadly consequences.

In Thomas’s A MANY SPLENDID THING, a sultry high school teacher enrolls one of her students to get rid of her husband. But will the young man really graduate to murder?

My Thoughts

These three slick, dark, well-written novellas, by three different authors, are a nice antidote to any sentimental recollection one might have about the joys of being a teenager.

The first is a story about a troubled boy engrossed in an improbable fantasy world that becomes tangled in the mirror of an equally improbable real world. The second tells a chilling tale of three youngsters throwing themselves into Satanism.  The third draws its violent action from a desperately misplaced and dangerous affair between a teacher and a pupil.

All are based in the same town, which neatly ties the three novellas into a single volume, although the action of the three stories is unrelated, occurs in different time periods, and the town itself doesn’t feature in any significant way as a unifying “character” across the three stories. I’d have liked it if it had done – I felt that closer collaboration in this project by the three authors could have allowed more capital to be drawn from the one-town-three-stories device.

This is a side-grumble however, because actually the stories hang well together and do have a coherence that makes the reading experience an intense and unified one.  What ties them together is the deeper preoccupation about adolescence that broods through all of them.  Adolescence isn’t generally a fun time, fraught as it generally is with unmanageable yearnings, anxiety and disfiguring pimples.  These stories capture well that adolescent universe in which the possibilities of the adult world suddenly gape open, alluring, contemptible and terrifying in equal measure; in which friends are all important and one’s whole identity pivots on precarious social networks whose group imperatives can overwhelm. To shine these tensions through the prism of ‘noir’ or ‘horror” is appropriate – both are genres that tap into the residual adolescent in all of us – and the outcome is a memorable splash of darkness.”

 

ABOUT THE THREE AUTHORS

Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking time travel/space adventure, Crossline, the SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, editor of the SF mystery anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, and co-author of the noir anthology Murder in Montague Falls, all with Crazy 8 Press.

He is now finalizing Crackle and Fire, the first in a new scifi mystery series featuring his intergalactic private eye, Angela Hardwicke, set for publication September 2020.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, Badass Moms, and Brave New Girls.

Russ is repped by The Zack Compnay.

For more on and Russ’s books, you can visit http://www.russcolchamiro.com, follow him on Twitter @AuthorDudeRuss, and ‘like’ his Facebook author page http://www.facebook.com/RussColchamiroAuthor.

 

Sawney Hatton

 

Sawney Hatton is an author, editor, and screenwriter. Other incarnations of Sawney have produced marketing videos, attended all-night film festivals, and played the banjo and sousaphone (not at the same time). He loves a good day trip into the unknown.

To learn more about Sawney, visit his website at SawneyHatton.com

 

Patrick Thomas

Patrick Thomas writes the beloved fantasy humor series Murphy’s Lore, and  wrote the graphic novel Case of the Moon Maniac and the steampunk themed As The Gears Turn. His short stories have been featured in over fifty anthologies and more than three dozen print magazines.
A number of his books were part of the props department of the CSI television show and one was even thrown at a suspect. Fairy With A Gun was optioned by Laurence Fishburne’s Cinema Gypsy Productions. Act of Contrition, a story featuring his Soul For Hire hitman is in development for a short film by Top Men Productions.

Drop by http://www.patthomas.net to learn more.

 

A warm thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book!

Book Review: Slow Down by Lee Matthew Goldberg

How far would you go to make your dreams come true? For budding writer and filmmaker Noah Spaeth, being a Production Assistant in director Dominick Bambach’s new avant-garde film isn’t enough. Neither is watching Dominick have an affair with the lead actress, the gorgeous but troubled Nevie Wyeth. For Noah’s dream is to get both the film and Nevie in the end, whatever the cost. And this obsession may soon become a reality once Dominick’s spurned wife Isadora reveals her femme fatale nature with a seductive plot to get rid of her husband for good. Slow Down, a cross between the noir styling of James M. Cain and the dark satire of Bret Easton Ellis, is a thrilling page-turner that holds a mirror up to a media-saturated society that is constantly searching for the fastest way to get ahead, regardless of consequences.

My Thoughts

Slow Down is a fast-paced thriller written as though memoir from the perspective of protagonist and wannabe writer and film director Noah Spaeth. He’s about twenty-six looking back on events of four years prior and how he came to create his debut film Slow Down. Set in Manhattan, Slow Down depicts a privileged, entitled, pretentious and extremely decadent social milieu, mostly centred in the film industry. Debauchery and drug-taking abound in this behind-the-scenes exposé that focusses on the lengths a director will take to capture a great scene, produce a great movie.

Noah opens his tale by explaining how he came to meet the obnoxious Adonis Dominick Bambach, the original creator and director of the movie Slow Down, a movie then in genesis. Dominick is also a manufacturer of the designer drug Fast. This drug, akin to methylamphetamine, soon takes up stage centre when Noah becomes Dominick’s assistant. As he is drawn into his mentor’s world, he finds himself appalled, frustrated and challenged. He comes to loathe Dominick as much as fear him. And then he decides he is capable of creating a much better movie. Arrogant, cruel, out-of-control and almost deranged, Dominick tests Noah’s loyalty and as he does, Noah becomes more and more disillusioned. From there, the narrative descends into increasingly extreme and bizarre acts. The pace quickens in the second half of the novel, the final twist unexpected and arresting, one of those moments that make you want to start back at the beginning to figure out who was justified in doing what.

The architecture of this story is impressive. There is nothing to fault in the plotting and pacing. Written in punchy, upbeat and acerbic prose, Goldberg nails the voice of a washed-up, drugged-up young film director, a style that is self-mocking, self-contemptuous and self-justifying by turns. Stories like Slow Down are not easy to construct; Goldberg is to be commended and displays himself as a formidable literary talent.

Slow Down is ultimately a disturbing morality tale and a meditation on truth, deception and corruption.

About Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second book in the Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming in 2020, along with his first Sci-Fi novel ORANGE CITY. His new endeavor will be as the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe Press and Fringe Digital, 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. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at leematthewgoldberg.com.

Website – Leematthewgoldberg.com

FB – https://www.facebook.com/leemgol

IG – https://www.instagram.com/leematthewgoldberg/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/LeeMatthewG

Book Review: The Girl Who Found the Sun by Matthew S. Cox

About The Girl Who Found the Sun

It started with the insects.

The mass die-offs had been a warning unheeded. Before society realized the danger, the Earth had inexorably begun a transformation into a place where life could not survive. A small group found shelter in the Arc, an underground refuge safe from the toxins ravaging the surface.

After centuries of darkness, humanity’s second chance is running out—and Raven Wilder knows it.

Her job fixing the machinery in the Arc makes her aware of how close everything is to breaking down. When the systems fail, the last survivors of the human race will suffocate in the tunnels meant to protect them from the deadly air outside—starting with the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, in an example of history repeating itself, those in charge dismiss her concerns.

When her six-year-old begins showing signs of oxygen deprivation, Raven refuses to go quietly into oblivion.

She will break every rule to keep her daughter alive.

My Thoughts

This post-apocalyptic sci-fi offering opens in the bowels of the Arc, a failing underground community where electrical engineer Raven Wilder attempts to repair yet more decrepit wiring. It’s an essential role and it’s never ending. The Arc needs electricity to power the air scrubbers. There’s a hydroponic farm processing CO2 to help maintain oxygen levels. Everyone is told no one can go up and outside; conditions are much too toxic with flesh-eating vapours. It’s a bleak setting, yet Raven’s father told her stories of his trips outside, stories of what he saw and found. Raven is curious to know if what he said is true. Meanwhile, numbers are down in the human population who are struggling to survive and procreate. With only 183 remaining, there are concerns over inbreeding. Everyone wears rags as no one knows how to make clothes; the skill has been lost. If something doesn’t change, they are doomed. When her young daughter Tinsley suffers symptoms of hypercapnia, Raven decides to act.

As I’ve come to expect with Matthew S. Cox, the writing is clean, the narrative fast-paced, the world-building plausible and lean. He manages to make even the most mundane and tedious of tasks – fixing wiring – gripping, and he avoids the ‘telling’ trap, showing his readers the dystopian reality he has constructed and offering minimal explanations. Cox has crafted a powerful and independent protagonist in Raven appealing to all readers. I sense a touch of Alien without the hideous monster, and can’t help picturing Sigourney Weaver in the lead role.

The Girl Who Found the Sun will appeal to young adult readers and adults alike, another corker from a master storyteller.

About Matthew S. Cox

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.

Links

Amazon link – https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Found-Sun-ebook/dp/B082H3B9T1/

Twitter: @Mscox_Fiction / https://twitter.com/mscox_fiction

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MatthewSCoxAuthor

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/mscox

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/matthewcox10420/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7712730.Matthew_S_Cox

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mscox.author/

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. Her dark fiction includes The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks

Book Review: Auxiliary: London 2039 by Jon Richter

About Auxiliary: London 2039

London is quiet in 2039—thanks to the machines. People stay indoors, communicating through high-tech glasses and gorging on simulated reality while 3D printers and scuttling robots cater to their every whim. Mammoth corporations wage war for dominance in a world where human augmentation blurs the line between flesh and steel.

And at the center of it all lurks The Imagination Machine: the hyper-advanced, omnipresent AI that drives our cars, flies our planes, cooks our food, and plans our lives. Servile, patient, tireless … TIM has everything humanity requires. Everything except a soul.

Through this silicon jungle prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective—one of the few professions better suited to meat than machine. His latest case: a grisly murder seemingly perpetrated by the victim’s boyfriend. Dremmler’s boss wants a quick end to the case, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the heinous crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.

A chip controlled by TIM.

Dremmler smells blood: the seeds of a conspiracy that could burn London to ash unless he exposes the truth. His investigation pits him against desperate criminals, scheming businesswomen, deadly automatons—and the nightmares of his own past. And when Dremmler finds himself questioning even TIM’s inscrutable motives, he’s forced to stare into the blank soul of the machine.

Auxiliary is gripping, unpredictable, and bleakly atmospheric—ideal for fans of cyberpunk classics like the Blade Runner movies, Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and the Netflix original series Black Mirror.

My Thoughts

Auxiliary opens with hard-boiled detective Carl Dremmler who arrives at the seen of a death in a London flat. The body is that of Shawn Ambrose, an unemployed roboticist and AltWorld addict who became so sucked into the virtual reality AltWorld affords he forgot to eat. Ambrose had succumbed to ‘disengagement’, a condition in which the addict neglects their own body, dying of thirst, malnutrition or disease. This initial scene introduces the reader to TIM, a single interface referred to as the Time Imagination Machine, technology that covers every aspect of online experience, from shopping and gaming to opening an apartment door. TIM is an operating system that combines Google with Windows and Netflix and everything else out there, the AltWorld it offers making real life obsolete, for the likes of Ambrose. Dremmler himself is intensely critical of TIM and wary of the power it holds, and he hankers for the past, or rather, a part of his past he wishes he could undo.

When Dremmler is called to the case of a gruesome murder, he is faced with an impossible conundrum. Did the accused boyfriend Conor McCann smash his girlfriend’s face into a brick wall of their apartment, or was it his robotic arm that had somehow developed a dark will of its own? At first no one believes McCann’s claim, except Dremmler’s colleague Petrovic. The only way to discover if McCann is telling the truth is to extract the microchip implanted in his brain.

The plot thickens as Dremmler is forced to deal not only with the murder of Letitia Karlikowska, but also with the whereabouts of pretty young AWOL robot Cynthia Lu and a 3D-printed killer louse, in what at first seems like a wild goose chase. Meanwhile, Dremmler is plagued by flashbacks of his deceased daughter Natalie, and he ignores calls from his ex-wife Tessa. Slowly this subplot intertwines with the central investigation in what can only be described a literary tour de force. The ending is breathtakingly action-packed with twist after twist, leaving the reader reeling by the end.

The futuristic reality Richter has created in Auxiliary is rich and believable and immersive. The author deftly lures the reader into his story-world with considerable finesse and a healthy dollop of wit. Robots are everywhere, as housemaids, bar staff, doctors – medbots – and receptionists, dominating, through service, every aspect of everyday life. Cars have been replaced with pods. Robotics is stage centre and largely amoral, although throughout the novel there is a large question mark over TIM. This nagging sense of the possibility of robotic autonomy underpins the narrative and is the lynch pin of Auxiliary‘s noir feel. A secondary and equally prominent critique, conveyed through Dremmler’s observations – and one the author no doubt harbours of our contemporary globalised society – is the great divide of wealth and poverty manifest in Auxiliary: London 2039. The inclusion of The Farm, where maverick and bankrupt roboticist Owen Fox leads a community of rebellious outsiders who have shunned technology, rounds out Richter’s dystopia.

The writing is sharp and taut. Solid pacing with unexpected plot twists and carefully inserted backstory that doesn’t drag on the narrative, all satisfy the thriller genre. The early part of the narrative benefits from Richter’s black humour. As the tension builds, this humour gives way to gripping action scenes and atmospheric descriptions of settings. The protagonist is well-rounded and satisfyingly flawed. Vivid characterisations of cameo roles add colour and vibrancy. Dremmler’s reflections and evaluations of the world he is forced to live in are also very well-executed.

Auxiliary will appeal to fans of straight ahead noir thrillers as much as those with an appetite for the futuristic. There is no doubt in my mind Jon Richter has penned a novel Iain Banks would be proud of. Auxiliary belongs in that stable of classy futuristic noir that only a British author can pen.

If you’re an Iain Banks fan, you’ll love Jon Richter. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B084P8JZ3K/

 

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. Her dark fiction includes The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks

 

Book Review: Prophet’s Journey by Matthew S Cox

 

About Prophet’s Journey (Prophet of the Badlands) 

Althea struggles to adapt to an unexpected twist in her life—not being kidnapped in six whole months.The strange police from the faraway city claim the abilities she thought of as magic are really ‘psionics,’ and say she is far stronger than anyone they have ever seen. Despite their curiosity, they let her remain in the Badlands to protect her from an evil they call corporations. Of course, Althea knows all too well how powerful her healing gift is. For most of her life, she’d been a prize taken in raids. Tribes have killed to own her, and she let them.But the Prophet is done being passive.Having a family changes everything. No longer afraid to use her powers to protect herself, Althea refuses to be taken again… even when corporate mercenaries find her.

My Thoughts

A Prophet’s Journey is a fabulous book to sink into during our troubled Covid 19 times. The story is told through the eyes of Althea, an innocent eleven-year old struggling to come to terms with life in her adoptive family as everything around her is strange. She’s bilingual, Spanish and English, and the two become muddled in her mind, so much so that an assessment to determine if she is fit for school apportions her the mental age of a six-year old, something Althea is puzzled by. The people in her new home don’t seem to get her. And Althea knows she is mature beyond her years. In the opening chapters, the author masterfully handles the strangeness of Althea’s reality, easing the reader into the dystopian world he has created. This dystopian setting is situated in middle America. Things we take for granted – roads and traffic lights – are to Althea most odd. And that’s just the beginning.

Althea is The Prophet, a great healer, “the child with the blue eyes that lit up like stars.” She is a mystic with paranormal and transformational powers. She has telempathy, the ability to read or change the emotions of others, and this makes her highly sensitive to all impressions. I am reminded of indigo children, those with indigo auras especially sensitive to the high toxicity of the modern era, often with creative, artistic and mystic abilities. They are said to have rather piercing blue eyes, like Althea’s.

Prophet’s Journey is a story of Althea’s quest to return to her adoptive family after she is kidnapped. Thwarting her journey through the Badlands are the Raiders and the robotic tribe Sigma Six. Both groups have only one aim, to kill humans. Beautifully told through the eyes of a child with excellent characterisation especially of the protagonist, Cox delivers a page-turning, post-apocalyptic dystopian adventure with tremendous imagination, wit and insight into the dark and the light of humanity. A refreshing and absorbing read.

 

About Matthew S Cox

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, developer of two custom tabletop RPG systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of humanity, reality, life, and what might happen after it.

He is also fond of cats, presently living with two: Loki and Dorian.

Links:

Amazon Prophet’s Journey https://www.amazon.com/Prophets-Journey-Prophet-Badlands-Matthew/dp/1950738019/

Twitter: @Mscox_Fiction / https://twitter.com/mscox_fiction

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Book review: Crazy-Ass Stories for Crazy-Ass People by Andy Rausch

 

About Crazy-Ass Stories for Crazy-Ass People

This quirky collection of short stories (and one novella) by Andy Rausch contains something for readers of every stripe. Rausch touches on a variety of genres, including horror, comedy, crime, and even Western, but every story features his unique, offbeat wit, superb writing, and razor-sharp dialogue, all delivered from a decidedly off-kilter perspective. His work has been praised by the likes of Cape Fear screenwriter Wesley Strick and Fort Apache the Bronx author Heywood Gould. Author Peter Leonard once compared his writing style to that of his father, Elmore Leonard. Storylines include a naive little boy mistaking a burglar for Santa Claus, bumbling white supremacists attempting to resurrect the dead body of Adolf Hitler, a man who develops an unexplainable craving for the taste of human flesh, a would-be author summoning the spirit of dead novelist Charles Bukowski to assist him writing, a showdown between legendary lawman Wyatt Earp and a deadly serial killer on the dusty streets of Tombstone, and many more. So ask yourself: are you a little bit crazy, and if so, are you up to the task of reading these twenty-two wild and crazy tales of darkness, wackiness, and outright debauchery?

My Thoughts

Just as the book blurb states, Andy Rausch has produced a hilarious, off-the-wall collection of twenty-one short stories and a novella, all with satisfyingly ironic and at times macabre twists. I much appreciate the author’s cutting and economic literary style and terrific dialogue. Vivid characters abound, including the ludicrous and inane Chunk, to the revolting, personal-hygiene-challenged degenerate Turk through to quirky Granny Wilkins and her special family dinner and the file predator Roach and his encounter with an attractive young woman at a gas station. Each story is distinct. Rausch manages to evoke vivid settings with the fewest words.

The novella ‘Wyatt Earp and the Devil Incarnate’ sees Deputy Marshall Wyatt Earp – in real life the legendary American West lawman and gambler of Tombstone, Arizona, best known for his involvement in the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral – dealing with a string of gruesome murders. Rausch inhabits the western genre with aplomb. I could picture the saloon, the men, the gun holsters, conjure the sound of boots on unpolished wooden floors. The tale is raw and I liked the twist at the end.

There is depth to all these tales, insights into the human condition, and oodles of amorality, derangement and hapless folk dealing with confronting situations. Rauch’s journalistic mind comes to the fore, telling it as it is, shooting from the hip, never blenching, almost as though the author is shrugging and raising his hands at his readers saying, well, people can be like that.

Where is humanity’s moral compass? Does humanity even have one? How far would you take a ‘what if’?

In all Crazy-Ass Stories for Crazy-Ass People is an elixir of a special kind, appealing to those after fast-paced shorts to escape into and get a kick out of, and those who enjoy the odd moment of pause and reflection. Highly recommended.

 

About Andy Rausch

Andy Rausch is an American film journalist, author, screenwriter, film producer, and actor.

He is the author of several novels and novellas including Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin. He also wrote the screenplay for Dahmer versus Gacy and is the author of some twenty non-fiction books on popular culture.

Books: Riding Shotgun, Bloody Sheets, A Time for Violence, Layla’s Score.

You can usually find Andy on Twitter @writerrausch1, and he maintains a blog at https://authorandyrausch.wordpress.com/

 

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. Her dark fiction includes The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks