The Fall: Tales from the ApocalypseEditor:
Matt Sinclair Publisher:
Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, LLCGenre(s):
pagesTHE RUNDOWNTales about the end of civilization as we know it have captivated audiences for generations. It is no wonder that The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse would be just as intriguing. This group of stories all tied to the common theme of man's destruction gives the reader much to think about. Below are the tales and a brief summary of plot. Trust by R.C. Lewis - A family struggles to stay alive after the collapse of government. Hairline Cracks by Ryan Graudin - Zombies tear apart a relationship. "Lumberjack zombie becomes his own Fruit Gusher. Though his flavor is probably more Triple Berry Shock than anything else..."The Last Day of the Fall by Matt Sinclair - A hodge-podge group struggles to make it through the winter. Disconnect by Mindy McGinnis - A humorous meeting between God and Angels two seconds after the
apocalypse. "GOD: How am I supposed to deliver The Judgment without The iPhone?"WWBBCDITZA by A.M. Supinger -
What Would Big Black Cat Do In The Zombie Apocalypse? Solar Flare by Alexandra Tys O'Connor -
A teen, trained by his survivalist mom, faces off against a corrupt coach after the apocalypse.Emanate by Amy Trueblood
- A brother must protect his sister from both the aliens and the people who want to use her life energy. "I would do anything to keep my sister from their grasp, even if it meant being buried alive for ten hours every night."Little League by Cat Woods -
A baseball game between the Devils and the Saints has some very high stakes. Rebirth by A.M. Supinger -
A selkie, half seal half human, finds a way to truly become human, but at great cost. Crumbs by Jean Oram -
A photojournalist uses her camera to keep an eye on a survivor who she fancies. The Last Perfomance of the Neighborhood Summer Theatre Festival by R. S. Mellette -
A man arrives to see a show that has been canceled. Bone Dust by P.S. Carrillo -
A young woman falls in love with a doctor who has found a way to bring back the souls of the dead. Flight Plans by J. Lea Lopez -
A pilot takes one last flight before the end. The Last Sacrifice by Judy Croome -
A tribal leader finds that the ultimate sacrifice is not his own life, but the life of one he loves. THE REVIEW
With such a slew of stories there is bound to be tales that appeal to all readers. Some stories were stronger than others. Some left me hanging, wanting more of a satisfying ending. However, the overall effect of reading this pairing of stories was entertaining and thought-provoking. Some stories made me laugh. Some made me ponder. It was nice to have a mix of topics and emotional content centered around a theme that I find intriguing.
Overall, I think anyone drawn to dystopian literature will enjoy this book. There's something in it for everyone and many of the stories are top-notch and worth the 2.99 price tag.
Four out of Five Stars**I recieved a free review copy in exchange for an honest review. LINKS
Find the book on Amazon
Find Elephant's Bookshelf Press, LLC.
You Can't Shatter MeAuthor:
Young Adult, Magical RealismLength:
With bullying on the forefront of everyone’s minds these days, it is no wonder that You Can’t Shatter Me
, a young adult magical realism story, caught my eye. The story revolves around two young protagonists: Carly, the teenage girl-next-door with a huge imagination and Dylan, the nerdy-yet-lovable boy who catches her eye. The two embark on a sweet first romance that is often interrupted by the local bully, Justin. Like all bullies, he finds great joy in picking on those different than himself. When Dylan stands up for one of these poor souls, Carly knows he is the boy she’d like to get to know. The story is told through a series of events, punctuated by imaginative scenes where giant hooks dangle from the sky or words appear and zoom around the characters. The tone is whimsical and light, with some deep messages about standing up for yourself and not conforming to those that might want to bring you down.The Review
The book was well-written and Newland’s voice is both interesting and unique. Both characters are likable, as is the supporting cast of friends and siblings. The bully and his cohorts were a little stereotypical, but the depth of Carly and Dylan helped me to overlook that detail. Newland shows she is a master at the English language and you get some fun tidbits of Australia lore and lingo here as well.
There are two issues I have with this book. One is I felt the magical realism scenes were a little off-putting. For example, Dylan and Carly are on their first date. In the middle of that scene, Dylan has an imaginary conversation with a director about sticking to the script and using more compliant actresses. It stopped the forward momentum of the story and seemed a little bizarre. I think I got what Newland was trying to do, but an inner-monologue could have sufficed. This went on throughout the story and sometimes I couldn’t tell if the events were actually taking place or all in their minds.
The second issue is the seemingly-adult nature with which the bullying situations were handled. In my day job as a school counselor, we often try to tell students to make good choices when it comes to dealing with peers. Half the time they do so, but the other half of the time their emotions and hormones get the better of them and they make the wrong choice. Such is life. We live and learn. Yet, somehow Carly and Dylan always seemed to make the right choice. And at the end, a bit of heavy-handed life lesson shows up to tie it all into a neat bow. I am not sure that teens would connect with this much perfect, Pollyanna sweetness. With most teen literature even the protagonists make bad choices. It is how they then deal with them and grow that makes the book interesting.
The book is definitely worth a look, especially for a teen who has struggled through bullying. This book may be therapeutic for someone who has suffered on the wrong end of a misguided peer. The even better news is that the Kindle book is free on Amazon from May 29th - the 31st
. Grab it while you still can.
Three and a half out of Five StarsTahlia's links
, and GoodReads
TITLE: Hemingway Man
AUTHOR: Jim Maher
GENRE: YA Coming-of-Age
LENGTH: 224 pages
THE RUNDOWNWill Charles’s father is dead, a fact that disturbs and unnerves him. During his father’s funeral, a friend of his father’s stops Will. With a hand tenderly on his shoulder, he tells him, “You’re the man of the house now.” It’s a common saying, one many have uttered, but Will takes it to heart. At sixteen, he does not feel like a man and yet he knows he must become one. The question is how. His good friend, Viktor, makes a passing comment, saying, “Ernest Hemingway was pretty manly.” That’s all it takes to set Will on a journey investigating the tenants of manhood. His English teacher tells Will about Hemingway, saying, “To read him is to know him.” Looking for a shorter solution than diving into a bunch of dusty books, Will stumbles upon a Bathroom Digest shoved in with the other reading material in his “thinking spot”. It states, “Ernest Hemingway’s four tasks for entering manhood: Plant a tree. Write a book. Fight a bull. Have a son.” Now Will knows how to be a man. The question is how can he possibly complete these tasks? With his best friend at his side, Will embarks on a journey of the soul to find his ultimate destination: manhood.
The premise of this book really grabbed me from the start. How interesting to pin all your hopes and dreams on a literary figure who put an end to his life with a shotgun. And yet, the question of Hemingway’s manliness is so intriguing it has captivated generations. As a former English teacher, I loved the idea of a sixteen-year-old boy searching for identity in a man so fraught with mystery. It’s a great plot for a coming-of-age story such as this. The voice Maher employs for Will is altogether humorous and heartfelt, silly and sincere. The comparisons and connections he makes are brilliant. “My room was sick white. The kind of white that made white people want to be called pink people.” And Will strikes me as a modern-day Holden Caulfield, with the same ponderings and torments.
The issue arose for me with pacing. There is so much musing and speculating on life the plot got lost along the way. You could read for a chapter without much forward progression. I think Maher might be smart to employ an editor to help him trim down the speculation and ratchet up the action. Otherwise teen readers will unfortunately pass.
Overall, the book is a good read, especially for those who have an interest in Ernest Hemingway and the Modernist writers. It could use a fresher cover and some trimming. Jim Maher is an author to watch in my opinion. I’d be interested to see his next book.
You can find Jim at his website.
You can find Hemingway Man on Amazon.
Title: FireSeed One
Author: Catherine Stine
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Publisher: Konjur Road Press
Length: 298 pages
Reviewer: Katie French
In prime post-apocalyptic fashion, Catherine Stine’s FireSeed One
takes readers on an adventure through a world devastated by global warming. The world as we know it has fallen to ruin. Spiking temperatures have caused much of the United States and other nations near the equator to become uninhabitable. Humans have taken up living in the polar regions on boats or man-made islands. In such a harsh world, our protagonist, eighteen-year-old Varik, has had it relatively easy. His father is one of the agar farmers, cultivating sea life for the Earth's dwindling food supply. But then, Varik’s father dies unexpectedly, leaving Varik in charge. To top off his plight, a thief tries to make away with his father’s precious stock of plant seeds, seeds that Varik needs to keep the agar farm growing. When Varik confronts the thief and stop her, he learns the burglar is Marissa, a rich, powerful young lady who has fallen in with a group of terrorists. Together Varik and Marissa, with help from his lovable sidekick best friend, set off to help those suffering in the Hotzone regions. They must find the elusive Fireseed plant, the possible salvation of those starving in the hottest parts of the world.
The first thing I noticed about FireSeed One
was the amount of time and thought Stine put into the creation of Varik’s world. Stine did not miss a beat, including those small, but ever so important, details about life on an agar farm. Extensive research must have gone into building such an elaborate world. It is this detail that separates the so-so stories from the epic feats of world building wonder. I was impressed with how Stine seemed to know the ins and outs of her planet. It really added depth to a fast-paced, interesting story.
The characters were likable, with the exception of Marissa who, I suspect, was meant to be menacing. The plot was well-paced. There were times, however, when I felt as though I was not properly “seeing” Stine’s world. Descriptive detail is a must when presenting a world so different from our own and I felt there were times when it was lacking. I also felt as though the story could use a well-formed antagonist to keep our heart pumping through those middle chapters.
Speculative fiction lovers will enjoy Stine’s take on how our society will evolve. Minor problems aside, the price point is right at $2.99 and the nine illustrations add to the value of a well-done book.
LINKSFireSeed One on AmazonCatherine Stine's website
Title: Night of the Purple Moon
Author: Scott Cramer
Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult Science Fiction
Length: 188 pages
Reviewer: Katie French
Just like everyone on her small island town, seventh grader Abby Leigh is looking forward to the purple moon, an event caused by the earth being swallowed by a comet's tale. They watch the purple hues filter into the night sky, yawn and go to bed. It is when she awakens that she realizes what has become of the world as she knew it.
Pounding on her door wakens Abby. It's her friend Kevin who announces his parents are dead. Desperate to find the truth, she and her siblings try to find her father. Sadly, he too is dead. Slowly they begin to realize that anyone who has matured to puberty succumbed to the toxic space dust. The adults are gone. Now their only hope of survival is to stick together and build a new life all their own.
They build a life, one rather civil, organized and tidy, but there is a renagade tribe of boys that threaten their upotia. Soon, they learn the CDC is conducting trials to create an antiboitic that can save them from falling to the same fate as their parents once they reach puberty. Abby and her crew must leave their little world behind and find a cure before it is too late.
THE RECOMMENDATIONNight of the Purple Moon
has all the elements of a successful book. The pace is fast and enthralling, the characters are likable, hard-working and kind and the premise is killer. What child hasn't fantasied about a world with no parents? I found myself wondering what would happen to my own children if suddenly this sort of thing were to occur. How would children survive without the adults that shepherd them? Cramer sets up his much tamer Lord of the Flies well, guiding us through each step of their new found independence so we can picture Abby's world and wonder what might become of our own should a tragedy of this magnitude befall us.
My qualms are few and minor compared to the above. The children acted very mature for their age. Almost instantaneously they formed a democratic society with scheduled chores, meetings and duties. I know my own children only need about five minutes alone before they are close to braining each other over a cup of applesauce. I had to suspend some disbelief that these children are the most kind, thoughtful, selfless children on the planet. Perhaps they are. Perhaps island air makes them saints.
Another qualm was the middle dragged a bit. The conflict present was in the form of three boys who stole eggs and said the s-word. I admit I am a fan of dark literature, so when the boys laughed off stealing eggs and everyone went on their merry way I craved more.
The last issue is the one that I think may be what's keeping Cramer's story down. I am not sure what audience he is writing to. The protagonists are mainly in middle school, though most middle schoolers might find the themes of mass death and body removal too dark for their developing minds. Teens are unlikely to pick up a book about children younger than them, and adults often read YA, but not generally MG. Unfortunately, that may keep audiences from picking up this title and missing out on an interesting story.
Overall, it is a quality book worth 4 out of 5 stars.
You can find the book here
and Scott Cramer here.If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
Title: Drawing Breath
Author: Laurie Boris
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic
Length: 137 pages
Not often do you find a coming-of-age story that takes you by surprise. Drawing Breath
by Laurie Boris does just that. With her delicate, thoughtful prose, Boris weaves a world of discovery, love and illness that is both heartbreaking and full of depth.
The story follows Caitlin, a down-on-her-luck teenager and her art teacher, Daniel. Daniel lives upstairs from Caitlin and her mother and is the talented, thoughtful artist that Caitlin longs to be. Not only does Caitlin enjoy Daniel’s artistic talent, she imagines them in a romantic relationship. However, Daniel is eighteen years her senior and thinks of Caitlin as a pupil and friend. Together, the two of them explore art, but in the end learn more about life and love along the way.
Daniel has cystic fibrosis, a lung disease that keeps him from truly trusting any adult relationship. Though this book is not just about a patient with cystic fibrosis, it does an excellent job of showing this disease and its impact on those that suffer from it. It is heartbreaking when Daniel finally confesses to the woman he’s involved with about his disease. When she leaves him, it just confirms what he’s suspected: he’s unlovable. It’s even more heartbreaking when you think of the thousands of people who actually suffer from cystic fibrosis. Boris does a fantastic job of highlighting Daniel’s plight without making a spectacle of him, something not easily done.
The thing that really elevates this book is Boris’ fantastic prose. The novel reads like a seasoned veteran’s work. Her descriptions and comparisons are worth the price of the ebook alone. The characters feel like living and breathing people; there’s not stereotype in sight. And the emotion is so raw and palpable I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to these character I grew to care deeply about. I was genuinely impressed, especially considering this was Boris’ second novel. The one drawback is the cover, which needs an overhaul in my opinion. But for those readers who know not to judge a book by its cover, they will find a hidden gem in Drawing Breath
. I see only great things for Boris’ future.
I highly recommend this read. I do think that it appeals more to adults than teenagers, however. Though sixteen-year-old Caitlin is one of the main characters, the whole book reads like an adult novel. Don’t let that dissuade you, however. For adults, this is a fantastic book from beginning to end.
4.5 out of 5 starsYou can find Drawing Breath here.
You can find Laurie Boris here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
Author: Emma Mills
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
Length: 330 pages
Though there seems to be a glut of paranormal romance novels flooding the virtual shelves these days, Witchblood
, by Emma Mills, has struck a chord with readers as an adept blend of something borrowed and something new. Although not a totally original premise, this novel about super hot vampires walking among humans adds interesting twists to the standard, making Witchblood
a hot commodity with current audiences.
This book (the first in the successful paranormal romance series aptly titled Witchblood)
opens with a prologue that absolutely works. Jess, our main character, has been changed into a supernatural being and stands watching her human boyfriend mourn her loss. The raw emotion is palpable. We sympathize with her plight. Mills moves quickly from there to a London bar scene where Jess and her best friends are doing their best to enjoy the nightlife. Jess meets the handsome and mysterious Daniel who offers to buy her a drink. Though Daniel is a ten, she refuses, staying faithful to her boyfriend, another likable trait that draws us further in. The plot thickens when Jess leaves the club and a group of malicious teenagers attack her and fatally stab her. Before she breathes her last, Daniel swoops to the rescue. Here’s the catch: she must drink his blood to live, but his blood will change her. Thus begins her new life. She’s now a vampire, but soon realizes she’s not your run of the mill vampire. Witchblood surges in her veins. Only now she must learn to control her powers, deal with her new brethren, and reconcile her past.
Many claim paranormal romance is dead. As a reader of many paranormal romance stories, sometimes I feel authors are beating a dead Twilight
horse with their many variations of this template. This book did not have enough new ideas in it for me to make it a Top Pick. The hot, brooding vampire love is tired. The twist regarding Jess’s witch ancestry is unique, but I don’t think Mills did enough to separate herself from the pack. However, the book is selling very well on Amazon, as is the sequel, so who am I to argue with success? Audiences are reading and liking this book. That definitely counts for something. Mills has done a great job with the cover, the blurb and the marketing as well, which likely helps garner such a wide audience.
Paranormal Romance fans, buy the book. Thought it may be a tad derivative, it is definitely worth 99 cents of entertainment. 4 out of 5 stars.
You can find Emma Mills here.
You can find Witchblood here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
As dystopian literature is my drug of choice lately, Fallen
by Traci Slatton sparked an interest in me. As with all good dystopians, this book is sets in a post-apocalyptic world, France to be specific. Devastating mists are attacking the earth, devouring anything composed of metal, including human beings. The deaths the mists deliver are atrocious. Worse still, the crippled society that remains leaves survivors scrambling to stay alive. The protagonist, Emma, is a tough, spunky and likable mother who takes in a horde of eight displaced children. Emma leads the group through the hellish landscape, searching for food and shelter while avoiding the deadly mists. Then she meets Arthur, the bold leader of a group of men. They strike a bargain: Emma gives herself to Arthur and he, in turn, takes care of her and her children.
Things take an interesting turn when the characters reveal they have psychic powers and abilities. Newt can see the future. Emma can heal. Arthur can control the mists. Emma and Arthur also learn that their no-strings-attached relationship is morphing into something neither one of them can control.
The book is expertly written. It’s clear from page one that Slatton knows what she is doing. Having degrees from Columbia and Yale pay off for this writer. The opening grabs you right from the start and then you wait, breathless, to know what will happen to these characters that you grow more fond of on each page. It almost made my top picks category except for one thing. As soon as we learned Arthur could control the mists, the antagonistic force was neutered and it took a long time for another source of peril to appear on the scene. This left the middle a bit saggy and tensionless.
Overall, it is an excellent read and one that dystopian fans will enjoy. It doesn’t necessarily fit neatly in a YA category as the protagonist is an adult and there is sexual content. However, the sex scenes are tastefully done (think of movies panning into the fire as the characters begin to strip). The content and subject material is appropriate for older teens and adults. It’s a quality read for any dystopian fan, teen and adult alike.
You can find Traci Slatton here.
You can find Fallen here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
Every so often a book comes along that really speaks to you, gets you at a gut level that most books cannot. The wonderful thing about Ketchup is a Vegetable by Robin O'Bryant is that not only did this book really “get me”, but it made me snicker non-stop for over two hundred pages. This memoir focuses on Robin and her misadventures as a mother and wife. Let the hilarity ensue.
In one scene Robin recounts the road trip from Hell. With three daughters ages five and under, one an infant, Robin's family sets off on a five hour drive. Below is a short excerpt of the story that left me rolling. “At this point, my dearly beloved was standing on the side of the road, shirtless, Emma was wearing nothing but a pull-up and a frown, and I had wiped the Big Berthas out once again to feed Sadie. I could feel a great red neck joke brewing, but he (her husband) doesn't normally enjoy my humor in times of crisis, so I kept my mouth shut.”
Any mom who's taken a road trip knows that the worst events possible can and do happen. Robin's trip made me have flashbacks of a family Florida road trip where my husband projectile vomited into a beef jerky container. Nothing's more hilarious than car trips and regurgitation.
Robin's humor is so effortless and real I found myself envious at many points. Humor is an advanced skill and many authors try and fail. This book is hilarious without being over the top. At one point she discusses killing flies that had swarmed on her windowsill. “I grabbed a bottle of air freshener and took my stand at the window in very much the same way Scarlett O'Hara faced those Yanks, I'm sure. I sprayed furiously while I held my breath and watched as a measly four flies met their Maker. This was pathetic. Scarlett would be so ashamed.”
The best part of O'Bryant's book is that she makes it okay to make mistakes as a mother. We all put so much pressure on ourselves. We all want to be Joan Clever mixed with Angelina Jolie, but we can't. O'Bryant helps mothers everywhere commiserate, laugh at themselves and learn to love the mother you are, not the mother you should be.
Bottom line, mothers, buy this book, make sure all sharp objects are safely stowed, lock yourself in the bathroom and enjoy.
You can find Robin O'Bryant on her blog.
You can find the book here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
Rarely am I asked to review historical fiction, so When the Storm Passes
is a change from my normal dystopian and fantasy books. The story revolves around Joplin, Missouri in 2011 and the devastating tornado that shredded the town. Avalie Milner, a thirteen-year-old girl, has her life torn to shreds in a blink of an eye when a twister rips apart her home. Avalie wakes up beneath the rubble with her dog in her arms. After she climbs out from under the debris, she learns her mother is missing. She was upstairs when the twister hit. The rest of the story unfolds as Avalie traverses the seemingly post-apocalyptic landscape that used to be her town looking for her mother.
The devastation left behind this monster of a storm would be a challenge for an adult, so you can imagine the trials for a thirteen-year-old girl. However, Avalie manages to use her charm, finesse and people skills to convince adult after adult that her mother is just around the corner. She makes her way back to her house, only to find most of it destroyed. Using her resourceful mind, she finds shelter in her neighbor's house, food from a kind stranger and a shower from Jesus-loving relief workers, all the while searching for her mother.
The best part of this book is the authentic voice of our main character. Avalie is likable, funny, clever and yet still, amazingly innocent. She is a totally believable character which is difficult with such a young narrator. The landscape is devastatingly haunting. Any survivors of a real-life disaster will find themselves transported back in time to the fear, the uncertainty and the loss of such a tragedy. Based on a true story, When the Storm Passes
is educational as well as entertaining, a good combination.
The one drawback I see is that with the tornado tearing through so early in the book, the page by page conflict did not draw me through the book as much as I would have liked. I care about Avalie. I want to know what happens to her mother, but more clear and present danger on each page would've drawn me through the story quicker. However, with the talented prose Jett employs, I still was able to make my way through a slower paced novel. Young readers may not be so forgiving.
With some proceeds of the novel going to charity, this book is worth the money and will help a good cause.
You can find the novel here.
You can find Julie Jett here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook and on her website.