ARC Review: Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn

Author: Daniel Hagedorn 
Release Date: 10th February 2021
Genre: Science-Fiction Fantasy
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 330 pages
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Blurb:
How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.

14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?

Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn is a riveting new sci-fi fantasy read that will pull you in right from the start and keep you hooked till the very last page. I really liked this book because in spite of being a technological read it had a lot of philosophical threads weaved in throughout the story which made it a very interesting and a thought-provoking read.

I liked the characterisation, vague-ish as the main ones were I really enjoyed reading about them. The writing was good and complemented the plot well. The concept, for me, was a complete win-win, and the plot structuring was good. Overall it is a nice read and I’d highly recommend it to all sci-fi readers who like reading about philosophical themes and fantastical elements.

You can also read this review on Goodreads.

Book Review: Warborn (Legends Of Heraldale #3) by Brian McNatt

Author: Brian McNatt 
Release Date: 22 October 2020
Genre: New Adult Fantasy
Series: Legends Of Heraldale (Book #3)
Format: E-book 
Pages: 435 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Beneath the sins of the past, some souls are broken, some rise stronger, but all are changed. Princess Galaxy is lost. The cruel machinations of Lord Mordred have robbed the hippogryph of faith in the past and all those she most trusted. With appeals to the grand leader of gryphonkind, Lady Quetzal, falling on deaf ears, Galaxy must journey to the eastern city-state of Gateway, the last of the great nations standing against the might of the Unicorn Empire.

There she contends with a bloodthirsty general grown wary of hope, a lone king grown weary of war, and a blind prophet knowing ever more than she’s telling. Meanwhile, Brynjar and Owain find themselves the prized captives of Empress Nova herself. Lost deep in the heart of Avalon and threatened on all sides by the mad Lord Mordred, the conniving Lord Thoth, and the eldritch Lord Beauty, they will need the most unlikely of allies if they want any hope of escape . . . or survival.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Warborn by Brian McNatt is the third book in the fantasy series Legends Of Heraldale.

You can read my review for the other books in this series here:

Legends of Heraldale by Brian McNatt
Past Sins (Legends of Heraldale #2) by Brian Natt

Having read this series from the start, I was really curious to read the 3rd book as I really liked the story so far. Needless to say, I had a lot of expectations from this book and thankfully, the book delivered everything it promised and I expected it. I really enjoyed reading about some familiar characters from the earlier two books as well as some new ones. The world-building was very intricate and the book helped me refresh my memory of some of the bits that I had forgotten.

The story was every bit as full of adrenaline as the last two books, and some more. There were some really good new concepts and creatures that kept me glued to the book. I really liked this book because it took steered the story into yet another, albeit perilous, new direction and I love where it is headed.

This book has a lot to offer to fantasy readers and therefore I highly recommend (not only this book but the entire series so far.)

You can also read my review on Amazon

Book Review: How the Ə Got Producted by N.K. von Stade

Author: N.K. von Stade
Release Date: 
Genre: Humour, Sci-fi
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 256 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
A childhood trauma leaves N. yearning for connection and vulnerable to the seductive but damaged Jeremy Sakhdvar, a young product liability attorney with a technology vendetta. Their one-sided relationship ends abruptly when Jeremy marries another woman and runs for elective office. Adrift but resilient, N. mines a series of seemingly random hookups for the raw materials she uses to reinvent herself. N. becomes a prominent lobbyist for the biomedicaltechnology industry and, years later, a top official with the Bureau of

Biomedicaltechnology. Throwing herself into her new position, N. meddles in a plot by a group of antitechnology dissidents to suppress the Ə, a technology that purports to improve human connectedness. The dissidents blow the whistle, provoking an investigation by a U.S. senator and crusading presidential candidate named Jeremy Sakhdvar. Their confrontation pits the regulatory deep state against big tech in a battle to a draw, settles an old romantic score, and clears the way for the Ə to change the world forever.

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

How the Ə Got Producted by N.K. Von Stade is a fun satire read about an independent and passionate female protagonist and is unique in its own right.

This book is very unconventional and for that, I did enjoy reading it. It is the story of a protagonist who is trying to navigate through the difficulties of her one-sided love life while at the same time trying to fight for what she truly believes in, in her professional life. The introduction of Ə makes the story very interesting and the book then takes a turn that is both fun to read and interesting to learn about.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to sci-fi reads who don’t mind a romance sub-plot underlined with satire with a streak of feminism.

Character Interview: David from The Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring David, the lead characters from The Lodestar by Daniel Hagedorn, for our Character Interview feature.

About The Author

Daniel Hagedorn

Daniel Hagedorn lives in Seattle, Washington, where he was born and raised, with his wife and elderly dog. An alum of Pacific Lutheran University with a couple of humanities degrees, he now splits his time between writing and helping various businesses and entities do what they do. He has written a number of novels, poems, and countless other musings. The Lodestar is his first published novel.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author’s Website | Facebook


The Interview

Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our
readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

My name is David Jones. I would tell you more about myself, but I am not entirely sure. I have bits and pieces of memories, experiences that I feel like I lived, but I have my doubts because I live in an age where reality and fantasy mix. Some of the time, I feel like I have two minds, that I am of two wits, and I can’t always reconcile which is which, and which is me. Who am I? I don’t always know.

What is your age and what do you do for a living?

I am probably in my thirties. Again, I don’t know for sure. I don’t feel any older or wiser, however old I am. As I live in a world that celebrates youth, everyone looks young. No one looks like their age. Even my sense of time, which is how we mark age, seems altered. It might be a strange thing not to know how old I am, but it’s not anything I think about it. There’s no fixation on age when everyone appears perpetually young. Retirement is not even a concept. We all have jobs, essential and important jobs. I am a systems analyst class 1A (A for Architect). I monitor and keep track of things, same as a lot of people, but what I keep track of is more important, yet my job isn’t any more important than another. This is a paradox I readily accept. Without everyone doing their job, our world would cease to function. Everyone has purpose and they know it.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend my free time much like everyone else. There is the SIM, the simulated, virtual world, a construct we use for both work and pleasure as the SIM can be shared with real people or representations of people, simulacra. I have memories of doing other things, reading and walking and traveling to new places, but I also have firmly in my mind, the SIM. I don’t know for sure if I went to those places or if it was merely an experience in the SIM. I have books, the great works of fiction and other ideas. I don’t remember reading them, but I know I have read them. Why? Because I have notebooks full of things I’ve written, my thoughts and recollections as well as ideas that could only have come from those books.

Please share some of your beliefs, principles, motivations and morals (can be social, religious or political or, etc.) Anything that will help us get to know you better.

It’s not that I don’t believe in God. I happen to be in a world where the concept of God no longer exists. You see, with the network, God remains unnecessary. We are beyond good and evil. I am not sure how I feel about that. I have a sense there is a God within us all, but I don’t know how to explain it because no one understands God. I believe strongly in quality over quantity, that certain things cannot be measured by a number, a metric, reduceable to a single value. In fact, I never believed the network could be programmed to understand the human condition. To me it has never been so much what something looks like, but what it actually is, what lies beneath, not the surface appeal but the underlining form. In the world I live in, seeing is believing and the world we see, like the people and places, is undeniably beautiful and perfect. Is there any need to go deeper?

Tell us something about your family and childhood.

I do not remember much about my family, even my childhood. Again, I have mere fragments that come to me, but I wonder whether they are real or just things I have experienced in the SIM. I have memories of childhood, we all do. The summer, being out of school, the seaside boardwalk with its carnival sounds and amusement park attractions. But how real are they? I wonder. When I visit my therapist in the SIM, she tries to get me to talk about my family, about my father, in particular, but I can never quite get there. It seems to me she knows more about that part of my life than I do. She says that I know, that I could know many things, yet I tell myself I don’t know, so it’s just a cycle I can’t break out of. I am not sure I believe her. I know my therapist is a product of the combined knowledge of psychotherapy, that she has a window into who I am, but if all that were really true, then why doesn’t she just tell me what I should say? Oh wait, that was before we were all connected. I don’t know if I’ve been in therapy since.

Tell us something about your dreams and aspirations? Were you able to achieve them or are you planning to?

Once I had dreams, real dreams, perhaps even hopes. It’s not fair to say I don’t have them anymore, rather I just know they are different. I once believed I could do great things, be accomplished because I had a purpose. I struggle to know that purpose now that I am not connected to the network. I know I have Marta, she’s my lodestar, and that somehow she is meant to guide me. Even Dante needed a guide. But I don’t know what we’ll find if we make it out of the network. What’s on the other side? And supposing we do get there, and it’s inhabitable, is there anything left of humanity? I am careful not to have too much hope, to believe too much in anything except Marta. I had my doubts at first, but I know she is real. So, for the moment, all I can believe in is Marta and I.

What is your biggest fear in life? 

I fear that I cannot change who I am, that I cannot alter what has been set in motion, and like Sisyphus, all my efforts will be doomed. I disconnected myself from the networked world for a reason. But why? And was that something I did or someone else? Either way, maybe I am meant to do something that I am unable to do? That thought paralyzes me. That I am simply not good enough. 

How would you describe your life in one sentence? 

Am I just a cog in the machine, or have I found there is no machine?

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

The worst thing that happened to me must have been something in the childhood I can’t remember. Those were formative years. Whatever happened then, fixed itself in my head, imprinted its code upon my brain such that I have a distrust for systems, of unity, of groups of people making decisions for the common good. Ultimately, the brain constructs our reality, and without the network assistance, I have to rely on my instincts which tell me to question everything.

Did it change you for the better or the worse?

There is good and bad that comes from every experience. The very thing that at times is a great strength, is a great weakness too. Like kindness. It’s good to be kind. However, being too kind can result in being taken advantage of. In that sense, my skepticism is useful, but it is also the very thing that has driven me apart from people. At a certain point, I have to take a leap of faith and accept things, but more often than not, I am reluctant to make the jump. And yet, rather than even trying, I tend to want to plunge to the depths, so rather than ascend, I descend. I push people away, push them too far so that it takes an extraordinary effort and determination for them to remain. And yet, I found Marta. Or she found me. That must be something special.

What are your plans for the future? 

Love is the mystery of all mysteries. I find myself imagining a future with Marta, but where that is and what that entails, I don’t know. If we make it out of the network, I know we will look different. Maybe even we will seem different. Will we still love each other? Is our connection really that deep, beyond the mere appearance of our bodies? What will we be like left to our own devises? I don’t have the answers. All I have is Marta, my lodestar. 


The Lodestar

How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.

14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?

Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.

You can find The Lodestar here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Author Interview: Daniel Hagedorn

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Daniel Hagedorn, author of The Lodestar, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Daniel Hagedorn

Daniel Hagedorn lives in Seattle, Washington, where he was born and raised, with his wife and elderly dog. An alum of Pacific Lutheran University with a couple of humanities degrees, he now splits his time between writing and helping various businesses and entities do what they do. He has written a number of novels, poems, and countless other musings. The Lodestar is his first published novel.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author’s Website | Facebook



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.

I work in finance. That might surprise some people as if they are incompatible forms that couldn’t co-exist. To me though, words and numbers have more affinity than it seems. Patterns. I see patterns in numbers just as I do in words. When I am not writing, I am often looking at spreadsheets. I started college as a math major. I finished as an English & Philosophy Major with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in classics. But I still love numbers. Numbers and words are my life.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

The Lodestar can be looked at as an examination of the modern world, not just in terms of this futuristic place, but where we live now, of wanting to escape out of the curated world, whether it be social media or your custom news feed, into something of your own making. Where I live in Seattle, they knock down an old house and put in its place this box that looks exactly like a thousand other boxes in the city as if there is some master design guiding everything towards homogeneity. It’s not just a book about what is real, what is reality, but also being a human, being creative and interesting and unique, about finding a place in the world, an identity amidst the flood of images that dominate our existence.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

If there is a message in The Lodestar, it would be how we are complicit in handing over our lives to technology because we think it is making our lives better somehow when it may not be. It is not that technology is good or bad, per se, but how we use it or let it use us. I fear the transition to this visual society, where it no longer matters the power of our imagination because we’ve let the world be imagined for us. Why are books better than movies? Well, because in a book I can imagine the world the author has created, wherein a movie, it’s told for me. I almost always feel like I can imagine something more, something better than what’s being presented to me. And the world of video games is another interesting phenomena, this whole interactive experience that rewires our brains. How will this all change us? How will it make the move towards virtual worlds more seamless? 

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

The main character in The Lodestar is David, but my favorite character is in fact Marta. She’s mysterious. She knew before David that she didn’t want to be part of the network world. David is under this illusion that he created this so-called out that dispelled him from the network. He’ll learn later, not in this book, how that’s not true. And Marta is the key. He couldn’t have made it very far without Marta. And of course, David loves Marta, and love is the mystery of all mysteries, something not even the network could understand, so it did away with the concept.

What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?

The Lodestar has been in my mind for about a decade and a half. I never thought I could do justice to the idea, so I resisted the notion to write. Sometimes things are more powerful in the mind, that to commit to paper, to lose that illusion of what it could be, was something I couldn’t give up. A few things, though, struck me. For one, the idea that machines did not become more like humans, but humans became more like machines. Instead of being unique, it seemed to me there was a sameness in things, in people, in the particular look of what makes someone attractive. I was reading a lot of dystopian fiction at the time too. It just seemed more efficient for some grand network controlling everyone as opposed to feeling down and taking a pill. As humans, we do not always know what we want or need, but a network, a system that was unbiased and really knew us, it would know. Of course, I am being sarcastic to a degree. There is a bias in everything.  

How long did it take you to write this particular book?

I spent about a year writing The Lodestar. Even then, when I had finished what I thought was my final draft, I wasn’t sure. I let it sit for about 6 months before I went back to the book, this time, with the help of an editor. During that cooling off period, I was still constantly thinking about the book and where it was going because I didn’t like the initial ending, although I thought the book itself was better than it was. In my head, I had created something amazing. However, when I went back and did the proper edit with an editor, that was an eye-opening experience, how incomplete sections were. In the end, The Lodestar took two years, but I am pretty sure I’ll think about the characters and the story for the rest of my life. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

I have long felt that writing was a kind of breathing, and as long as I breathe, I hope. Whether or not I am successful as a writer does not matter that much. It’s just something I do, something I’ve always done. Obviously, I would love to make a living as a writer. In my mind, I am more successful than I am. That’s always been the thing. I would love to walk around, think about stuff, write, cut vegetables up at dinner time while listening to music and just allow myself to create. I kind of do that anyway, pretending so to speak, so I suppose it would be pretty cool if it was less dream than reality and I had more time to actually write.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

I am always working on something. Just as I might be reading a couple of different books at once, I am writing several different things too. In a normal day, I might compose a poem, write a song or add some part to another novel, one not connected to The Lodestar trilogy. I have written a bunch of novels, close to a dozen probably, some in better states of completion than others. 

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

I am not sure what genre The Lodestar is. Sci fi, I guess. There’s a lot of philosophy mixed in too. Maybe it could be considered speculative fiction, but some of my other stuff seems more speculative, though in a different way. In my mind, I always have this idea of the so-called great American novel. I know that is an overused term, but it has meaning to me. In my twenties, that was a driving force. Now, I am not sure. 

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?

I’ve long thought of myself as a writer. In some ways, it is necessary to exist under that illusion, that I am writer because that allows me to write. If I didn’t think of myself as a writer, then it might not matter what I do, what I write. But by thinking of myself as a writer I have a sense of purpose, that I am capturing something essential. I’ve used that breathing metaphor. Writing is a kind of music too, that I hear. It’s in my mind. I am the kind of person that has an active imagination. In my early twenties, I worked in a bookstore. I loved being around books. I wrote a lot of stuff back then but felt undermined by my lack of success. That was hard. A writer friend of mine at the time told me it was all about perseverance, that as long as you kept writing, you would be successful. At some point, I kind of changed the equation and thought about success not in the publishing sense, but in terms of creating a body of work representative of the way I think and feel about the world. And when I write, that’s the song I am trying to replicate.

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I prefer to write in the morning. I wake up early. Sometimes I think I write in my sleep because I wake up with solutions to things in my writing. Coffee and a walk help drive my thoughts, get them flowing. I don’t always have the time or opportunity in the morning, but I try to make time during the day to write something, anything. Sometimes, I can’t write what I want to write, but I can always make my daily emails more interesting or even a report I am preparing a better read. The fact is, we are always writing, even if it might something mundane. I’ll use any opportunity I can to try to be creative. 

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

When I was young, I wrote everything out with a blue pen in a small notebook. The second draft would be transferring the notebook to computer. I actually wrote a lot of The Lodestar out by hand as I was in the backseat of a car along the coast of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia because I didn’t bring my laptop along for the trip. Today, while I prefer my laptop, I accumulate scraps of paper, pages in notebooks, little tidbits here and there, depending when an idea comes to me. I love and hate it, when I am walking by the Canal, and something so good comes to me that I have to stop and write it down. Once I start writing something down on a walk, I’ve broken the cycle, so that whole walk will keep getting interrupted. 

What are your 5 favourite books?

Top 5 books. That’s a tough one. I go through phases and so I probably will discount some of my early favorites. I’ll always have Great Gatsby on my list. I love the opening and the close. Probably A Moveable Feast because I love the idea of being an ex-pat in Paris, hanging out in cafés, bars, surrounded by artists. Kerouac was a big inspiration on me, the feeling in his writing and though I was struck by a number of his works, I’ll probably go with The Subterraneans because of one line in that book that seemed so profound to me, about a light always on that one day won’t be on. Brave New World and We. Philip K Dick is one of my favorite authors, so I have to pick something by him. Ubik. I am not going to go with one of his more well-known pieces. And lastly, Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. I love the voice in that piece, though I am not as fond as some of her other work. I read a lot of foreign authors. I particularly like Murakami and Roberto Bolano. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Patrick Modiano too.

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I don’t want to say I don’t get writer’s block. Maybe that would curse me. I tend to not have much trouble writing, though. It’s just what I do, akin to breathing. I can sit down at any time and write something, a few lines, just something. I don’t worry whether it’s good or bad. I just write. I’ve always thought, write a page or so a day, then after six months you practically have a novel. And I have kind of done that my whole writing life, three decades so to speak. And that has been amazing. Because I don’t remember half of the stuff I have written. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If you want to be a writer, then write. There’s no special advice other than that. Read and write. I am constantly reading, and not just fiction, but philosophy, poetry, economics, science, whatever. I keep a notebook where I accumulate ideas, where I write little imaginary scenes based on some interesting thing I might have read. There’s no special club. If you want to be a writer, then you must write. You mustn’t get swayed by the daunting task it really is. 

Thank you, Daniel, for your frank and insightful answers!


About The Book

The Lodestar

How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.

14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?

Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.

You can find The Lodestar here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Audiobook Review: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Author: Eliza Harrison
Narrated by: Eliza Harrison
Release Date: 2nd October 2020
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Series:
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 9 hours 13 minutes
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Two women, two millennia apart, with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the English Lake District and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Neither is sure of their role or purpose, which leaves in them feelings of emptiness and uncertainty. 

Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and intimacy, she witnesses the last three years of his life and sees him embody the mystery and power of love. This leads her on a journey to the Sacred Isles where she finds her own pathway to awakening. 

Martha from Borrowdale’s story begins in 2000 AD as she faces challenges that expose her deepest fears and insecurities. With her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom. 

These two redemptive stories weave alongside each other until finally they converge. It is a tale of revelation and mystery that uplifts and transforms.

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison is a unique kind of mystery novel that is set against the historical backdrop and inlaced with spiritualism that takes the reader on a surreal journey.

I was intrigued about this book from he start because spiritualism is a little hard to blend into a historical mystery and so I was curious to see how the plot unravelled. It was good for the most part and the writing was good. The narration wasn’t the best but it made for easy listening and I appreciated it a lot. The overall concept was a little out of my personal comfort zone, but it still made for a good and engaging read.

I think that if you are into spirituality and like reading experimental literature revolving around it then you’d appreciate this book a lot more than me and it would make for a really good read.

You can also read this review on:

Goodreads & Amazon

Book Review: The Dunnes of Brittas: An Irish Family’s Saga of Endurance by Kevin Lee Akers

Author: Kevin Lee Akers
Release Date: 17th March 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 
Publisher: Bassett Street Press
Blurb:
The illustrious and ancient Dunne family has ruled over land in the heart of Ireland since time immemorial.

In the manor house known as Brittas, resides the family of clan chieftain, General Edward Dunne. His estate agent and cousin Peter raises his brood in the servant’s wing. These two related yet very separate branches struggle to secure their futures during the country’s darkest, most formidable years.

As Ireland is crumbling, the West is rising in Golden sunshine.

In 1848, San Francisco lures James Dunne and eventually his brother and sisters to literally create a new city out of sand dunes and gold dust.

The Dunnes of Brittas follows three generations of family who share in each other’s triumphs and tragedies finally discovering that their strength doesn’t derive from their separate branches but their common roots.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Dunnes of Brittas: An Irish Family’s Saga of Endurance by Kevin Lee Akers is an emotional journey about three generations of a family who are trying to navigate difficult situations through life and finding solace in each other’s company.

I liked reading this book because it had so many layers of complexity embedded throughout the story and mainly because the author has done a fine job with the overall characterisation. The story is good and the writing complimented it well.

Overall it made for a very engaging read and I would definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys reading historical fiction and family sagas with complex plot and characters.

You can also read this review on:

Goodreads

Audiobook Narrator Interview: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author as well as narrator of The Mystery Of Martha, for our Narrator Interview feature.

About The Narrator

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. Please feel free to share about your professional background. 

I have taught meditation all my adult life, so use my voice to take people in and out of meditation and explain how the practice works. When teaching it’s important to speak with clarity and calmness, but with gentleness too. Over the years I have been told that my voice is soothing and relaxing, so a friend suggested I make The Mystery of Martha into an Audiobook and narrate it myself. I was daunted by the idea at first, but then rose to the challenge and enjoyed it!

Do you do other voice over work as well?

I make meditation videos so use my voice to guide people through the teaching process. I also do voiceovers for short films I make for Sacred Meditation.

How was your experience recording this audiobook?

Powerful and moving, but I think this was owing to the subject matter as each character goes through intense emotional experiences. Each chapter has a drama of its own and I found it easy to identify with each character. So while narrating, their stories resonated and affected me deeply.

Who is your favourite character in this audiobook and why?

My answer in the author’s interview was that my favourite character was Martha of Bethania. But when narrating it, this became Yeshua. Every time I read a scene when he appeared, especially if it included Aramaic, it seemed as though that he was present in the room. And occasionally at the end of a chapter, my breath was held and I seemed to have shifted into an expanded state of consciousness. This is why I felt narrating the novel a huge privilege and I shall always be grateful for this opportunity.

How long did it take you to record this particular audiobook?

I recorded it during the lockdown in 2019 in my meditation room at home. It took about 3 months including the edits and re-records. I live in a remote place in the countryside so all was quiet, except for the occasional tractor or sheep passing by.

What vocal techniques did you have to develop and hone while narrating this audiobook?

I went to drama school in my late teens where I received voice training and learned a range of exercises. This experience has always remained with me and I made use of doing some warm-up exercises before recording.

What is the one thing you love most about being an audiobook narrator? 

I enjoyed feeling that I was reaching out to people all over the world through my voice, which felt intimate and profound. 

Are you working on any other audiobooks presently?

Not at the moment, but I am using my voice to make videos and I will definitely create an audio from any new novel or writing I do in the future.

As an audiobook narrator what are the techniques you use or practice to care for your voice and condition it?

My meditation practice keeps me healthy, fit and well. I never get colds, flu or suffer from sore throats, so this is definitely the practice I would recommend to others. It also enables me to remain calm and collected while narrating.

Who is your favourite audiobook narrator and why?

I’m fortunate to know Anton Lesser, a British actor who is widely known for his audiobook recordings. He was my inspiration and gave me some invaluable tips, which you can see in my response to the question below. 

What advice would you like to give to anyone who wants to become an audiobook narrator?

Anton told me it was important not to put too much expression or emotion into the reading, as this can colour the listeners’ experience and prevent them from engaging with their personal feelings and responses. So while I was reading, I tried not to act out the different parts, but read from my heart with calmness and clarity.

Thank you, Eliza, for your insightful answers!


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: A Nest For Lalita by Ken Langer

Author: Ken Langer
Release Date: 25th October 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, World Fiction
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 318
Publisher: Dryad Press
Blurb:
MEENA KAUL is riding high in her position as director of Behera House, a safe haven in India for women who have survived domestic violence. But when the stock market crashes, Behera House loses its funding to expand. The right-wing Hindu Democratic Party (HDP), seeing an opportunity to win women’s votes before a national election, steps in with a multimillion-dollar grant. While Meena is reluctant to accept the offer, it is the only way for the project to proceed. Her worst fears come to pass when the HDP wins the election and begins to chip away at a hundred years of progress on women’s rights.


Meanwhile, Simon Bliss, America’s foremost “green” architect, who had been commissioned to design the new facility, falls for the alluring Meena and is drawn into the perilous world of Indian politics. In his attempt to loosen the HDP’s grip on Meena and win her affection, Simon takes on reactionary politicians, shady priests, and crooked businessmen. In the process, he comes face to face with disturbing truths about his past, while Meena finds herself trapped in ways she never could have expected. A Nest for Lalita is a tale of passion and murder against the backdrop of an ancient country trying to find its identity in a fast-changing world.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Nest For Lalita by Ken Langer is a good story full of complex themes and backdrops and woven into an intricate as well as engaging plot.

When I started reading this book, I was a little sceptical because I am usually uncomfortable with books written by foreign authors writing about India after having spent a couple of weeks or months here, believing they understand everything about India. The problem is not their understanding or their warped perception but the wrongful presentation of a culture and country that they do not fully comprehend which in turn goes a long way in giving birth to many misconceptions about the country and the people living here. But thankfully, this book wasn’t like that, or at least not in that particular sense. It was more about the story of an individual rather than a social commentary of the clogged roads.

I liked the story as it was very engaging and made for a nice read. Many things mentioned in the story may not necessarily be correct, but fiction is forgiving that way and so are fiction readers. Anyway, if you like reading about other culture and a different way of life, then this book would make for a good read.

You can also read this review on:

Goodreads & Amazon

Book Review: Mainely Fear (A Goff Langdon Mainely Mystery #2) by Matt Cost

Author: Matt Cost
Release Date: 4th December 2020
Genre: Cosy Mystery
Series: Goff Langdon Mainely Mystery: Book #2
Format: E-book 
Pages: 302 pages
Publisher: Encircle Publications
Blurb:
“I want you to find out who is responsible for ruining his life and I want them to pay for it.”
This is the desire of Latricia Jones as she hires Goff Langdon to investigate her son’s arrest for burglary, vandalism, and possibly hate crimes.
Langdon is a laid back, slacker detective, happy with his work, friends, and way of life in the town of Brunswick, Maine. To complement his income in Brunswick’s scarce private detective market, Langdon also owns and operates a mystery bookstore named after his trusted companion, Coffee Dog.

He was on the fast track to success. And then something happened.
Jamal Jones is an eighteen-year-old rising star attending a post-grad prep school in central Maine to bring his grades up so he can play college basketball at the D1 level. Then he is arrested for crimes that his mother knows he committed, but not why. She’s sure someone has put him up to it, the behavior so unlike him as to be unthinkable, especially since Jamal was on the verge of beginning a better life. Latricia wants Langdon to track down those responsible for her son’s sudden turn from grace, and she wants them to pay.

Book Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mainly Fear by Matt Cost is the second instalment in the Goff Langdon Mainely Mystery series and the sequel to Mainely Power. Just like the first book, I really enjoyed reading this book too, maybe a tab more, if I am being completely honest. Mostly because of how the character of the protagonist, Langdon, is explored further and with care in this entertaining sequel.

The story was good, the mystery was brilliant and the writing was great complimenting the story beautifully. It was a very smooth and thus, fast read and I enjoyed every bit of it. It has been a while since I enjoyed a detective mystery series this much and I am looking forward to reading more by author Matt Cost in this series.

I’d highly recommend this book to all mystery lovers. Go ahead, if you’re looking for a new mystery author to explore, then this book series would be a great fit for you!

You can also read this review on 

Book Review: Donnybrook Good-Bye by Martin A. Cullen

Author: Martin A. Cullen
Release Date: 14th November 2020
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Longest Game
Format: E-book 
Pages: 200
Publisher: 
Blurb:
A demonic crusade.
A homesick god.
A merciless order.
A lonely gruffin.
And a crafty puca.
Trapped in the middle, Inara Caan is an embittered vestal to The Order of the Avenging Hand. She flies to Boston for her next mission. Like every other assignment, she expects more deaths to defile her soul…Not some happy family beaming up from the glossy photo of her targets.

To save the innocents, Inara defies The Order. On the run, she fights to keep everyone alive. As enemies close in from all sides, she finds unlikely allies who—dare she hope?—might even save her life as well.

She may evade her enemies but she can never escape the demon promised her soul.

Book Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Donnybrook Good-Bye by Martin A. Cullen is the first book in The Longest Game urban fantasy series. It is an action-packed adventure ride full of demons, monsters and greater forces. Overall, this book is a decent introduction to a new series and I am very much looking forward to reading more books in this series.

I loved the concept of the book. The story itself was well-developed with good characterisation. Being a series, I am expecting the characterisation to blossom more in the next book, though as an introduction I found it good enough. The writing was good enough but I did have a problem with too much “telling” in the entire book. Other than that, it was a good book and I enjoyed reading it a lot.

I’d recommend this series to fantasy lovers, especially fans of urban fantasy.

You can also read this review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Guest Post: An appreciation of The Mystery of Martha by Eduardo Fernandez Lalanne

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha to share a guest post.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



An appreciation of The Mystery of Martha by Eduardo Fernandez Lalanne

For me this novel has been a guide and inspiration during intense and challenging personal times, offering profound insights into the meaning of love, truth and life. The stories take place in the Holy Land and the British Isles, two places that have a turbulent history but also a profound spiritual heritage.

The book is written in an exquisite way, in almost Biblical style, full of poetic touches, with compelling stories and profound teachings. While reading, one can travel through time, walk the different paths of each character, and be transported back 2000 years through evocative tastes, smells and visual images. Effortlessly one is able to engage with the trials and tribulations of the different characters, but also be inspired by their personal insights and realisations. It is a courageous move to bring a seemingly unimportant character of the Bible to the fore, but she becomes an inspiration for all those who feel marginalised today. And ultimately both Marthas find the truth of themselves by opening to the experience of compassion and unconditional love. 

The novel enabled me to feel close to Biblical characters for the first time, to sense the depth and truth of each personality: Yeshua, L´azar, Magdala, Maryam, Yehudah and of course Martha of Bethania herself. Despite my Catholic education, I’ve always found it difficult to understand the relevance of many of the Christian stories, but this novel offers a much deeper insight into their meaning. I now realise that the essence of Christian mysticism is rooted in unconditional love.

The stories of the two Marthas are reflections of the path we all walk in order to realise the unity of life – whether experienced within a family context, service to others, intimate relationship or direct spiritual experience. So I shall always be grateful for the precious gift of The Mystery of Martha.


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Audiobook Excerpt: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Eliza Harrison for sharing the audio excerpt from her latest release The Mystery Of Martha.

About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


Audiobook Excerpt

In case if the player doesn’t work, listen to the Audiobook Excerpt here: https://heenarathorep.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/01-the-mystery-of-martha-sample-track.mp3


About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: The Heritage by Jack Michonik

Author: Jack Michonik 
Release Date: 25th June 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 388 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
The year is 1926. Thousands of Jewish families are forced to flee poverty and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Fate takes two families to the magical continent of South America, which opens its generous arms to them. Many surprises await the immigrants in the New World. In this exciting story of their lives from their early teens in the “shtetl” to leisurely musings of middle age, we see the hardships immigrants face in the long journey to America, the complex process of adaptation to an unfamiliar environment and the phenomenal development of their businesses.

Parallel to the story of the main characters, another story emerges: that of the birth of a typical Jewish community within a Christian city. Translated from the original Spanish book, La Descendencia, The Heritage is peppered with reflections on religion and historical events of the time regarding the Jews and the state of Israel. Throughout the narrative, the author captivates us with a fascinating story of overcoming, human conflicts and addresses issues of assimilation and identity. Though not an autobiographical novel, it could be the story of the parents or grandparents of any Jew from Central or South America. The author preferred to use a fictional provincial capital of Latin American so that the reader can recognize the history of his or her own Jewish community, as all Jewish communities in Latin America came into being in an almost identical manner.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Heritage by Jack Michonik is a heartfelt tale of the author’s Jewish community immigrating to South America in the 1920s. This book was historically enlightening and made for a great read as a real-life story. It highlighted the plight of the immigrant Jews who had to live in a country whose religion was not simply pre-dominantly Catholic but was entirely that. And to preserve their Heritage, the family had to walk on the precarious line of balancing between preserving their Jewish heritage and settling in their day to day lives in an entirely and unforgivingly Catholic town (and also setting up their business/trade on top of that.)

This book is a really gem and reading it made me understand the plight the immigrants have had to face in those times, whether Jew or not. I really appreciated the historical accuracy of the facts as well as the effort that was put into the writing of this beautiful story.

I would definitely recommend it to everyone who loves historical fiction and to the entire Jew community.


You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon.

Author Interview: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

The portrayal of the present-day Martha is partly autobiographical, the story of my own search for truth and love. My spiritual journey entailed me spending time with different teachers, which gave me the idea of portraying what it might have been like being around Yeshua. From one moment to the next, none of his close followers would have known what experiences he would take them through, teachings he would impart, nor the challenges they would have to face. I also wanted to bring to life people in the Bible, who now seem remote and stereotyped. Owing to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts and other recent research, I was able to tell some of the well known Biblical stories from a new perspective, which makes them more relevant to us today. 

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

That everyone has within them the capability of moving beyond their fears and insecurities and finding the truth of themselves and the truth of love.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

Martha of Bethania as I identify with her most closely. She feels inadequate and lacking, but has the courage to face her fears and determines to move beyond them. In this respect, she serves as inspiration for us all today. I also loved immersing myself in the imagery of Palestine 2000 years ago and painting a picture of Martha’s way of life as it would have been.  

What inspired you to write this book?

I first read about Martha of Bethany in a book called The Christ Blueprint, which spoke of two sides to her character – the shadow side, which described how she felt undeserving of love and so felt she had to earn it, and the higher aspect of herself as embodied by Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, who gives selflessly without needing anything in return. 


How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Three to four years, with a lot of re-writing and interludes when I researched and travelled to places where the two Marthas lived and spent their time. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

Writing helps me find myself but before writing another novel, I shall wait until a new idea presents itself or I go through an experience that I want to relate.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

At the moment I am writing scripts for videos that we are making for Sacred Meditation to help people move beyond feelings of fear, which is so important in these challenging times.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

This is my first novel, but I imagine that it would be within the genre of inspirational/spiritual fiction that I am drawn to write again.

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way? (feel free to give us your story, we love hearing to author stories!)

I have written since my early twenties – poetry, a novel that I scrapped, an autobiography that was published: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey, and a series of published photographic essays for which I also wrote the text. I was blessed with having income from meditation teaching while I wrote, so I just needed to commit to the project, but that can be a challenge in itself. 

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I went through a period of getting up at 5am and writing for 3 hours before breakfast, as well as during the day. It was quiet, beautiful and peaceful in the early morning, but I realised I needed my sleep more, so changed to writing in the morning and afternoon instead.

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

I write on my laptop.

What are your 5 favourite books? (You can share 5 favourite authors too.)

The two novels that most inspired me to write The Mystery of Martha were Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. However, my book entailed quite a bit of research and one of the most illuminating books was Jesus – The Explosive Story of the 30 Lost Years by Tricia McCannon

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I never push myself if an idea or words are not flowing. I just walk away from my laptop and take a break. That could be for an hour, a day or even a month or more. I feel the creative process needs gestation time and it’s important not to push oneself when encountering a block.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Begin and never lose heart. It doesn’t matter if it is just a page or two, or if it’s thrown away a day later. It’s my experience that through writing we unleash our creative energy and subsequently find ourselves, which is one of the greatest gifts we ever could have.

Thank you, Eliza, for your enlightening and honest answers!


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: Strands of Existence 1: Island Girl by Aino Lahteva

Author: Aino Lahteva
Release Date: 26th August 2020
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Strands Of Existence (Book #1)
Format: E-book 
Pages: 272 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:

*New linguistically revised version*

As an opportunist, Istrae yearns to get off her home island and visit Kerth, the City of Light and Abundance. Her preferred method of travel, however, didn’t include drowning. And she didn’t expect the city to be so dirty. Her memories are as broken as her body. She begins to piece them together with the help of a spirit bound to a statue and an ambitious army captain called Rime she enjoys teasing.

As Rime guides Istrae in her new life, it becomes evident the rigid rules of society and the city’s Temple do not welcome those who seek to shake the established rules, which is something Istrae is incapable of resisting.

Book Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Island Girl by Aino Lahteva is the first book in the new epic fantasy series Strands Of Existence. It is a very fresh take on fantasy grounded in religious beliefs and I was really surprised by the realistic feel of this amazing fantasy world.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the characterisation, the world-building was superb and the concept and plot were great too. The only problem that I can point out, and that too if I am being extremely picky, is that the dialogues felt a little different at some places. But that wasn’t a big issue because I am aware that this is a book by an author whose first language is not English, so for that alone, I’d like to compliment the author. Other than that the writing was pretty impressive and I was really enthralled by this amazing book.

I would definitely recommend this book to all fantasy lovers and to those who are looking to explore a fantasy series by a promising new author.

You can also read this review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Author Interview: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

The portrayal of the present-day Martha is partly autobiographical, the story of my own search for truth and love. My spiritual journey entailed me spending time with different teachers, which gave me the idea of portraying what it might have been like being around Yeshua. From one moment to the next, none of his close followers would have known what experiences he would take them through, teachings he would impart, nor the challenges they would have to face. I also wanted to bring to life people in the Bible, who now seem remote and stereotyped. Owing to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts and other recent research, I was able to tell some of the well known Biblical stories from a new perspective, which makes them more relevant to us today. 

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

That everyone has within them the capability of moving beyond their fears and insecurities and finding the truth of themselves and the truth of love.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

Martha of Bethania as I identify with her most closely. She feels inadequate and lacking, but has the courage to face her fears and determines to move beyond them. In this respect, she serves as inspiration for us all today. I also loved immersing myself in the imagery of Palestine 2000 years ago and painting a picture of Martha’s way of life as it would have been.  

What inspired you to write this book?

I first read about Martha of Bethany in a book called The Christ Blueprint, which spoke of two sides to her character – the shadow side, which described how she felt undeserving of love and so felt she had to earn it, and the higher aspect of herself as embodied by Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, who gives selflessly without needing anything in return. 


How long did it take you to write this particular book?

Three to four years, with a lot of re-writing and interludes when I researched and travelled to places where the two Marthas lived and spent their time. 

What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

Writing helps me find myself but before writing another novel, I shall wait until a new idea presents itself or I go through an experience that I want to relate.

Are you working on any other stories presently?

At the moment I am writing scripts for videos that we are making for Sacred Meditation to help people move beyond feelings of fear, which is so important in these challenging times.

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?

This is my first novel, but I imagine that it would be within the genre of inspirational/spiritual fiction that I am drawn to write again.

When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way? (feel free to give us your story, we love hearing to author stories!)

I have written since my early twenties – poetry, a novel that I scrapped, an autobiography that was published: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey, and a series of published photographic essays for which I also wrote the text. I was blessed with having income from meditation teaching while I wrote, so I just needed to commit to the project, but that can be a challenge in itself. 

What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?

I went through a period of getting up at 5am and writing for 3 hours before breakfast, as well as during the day. It was quiet, beautiful and peaceful in the early morning, but I realised I needed my sleep more, so changed to writing in the morning and afternoon instead.

How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?

I write on my laptop.

What are your 5 favourite books? (You can share 5 favourite authors too.)

The two novels that most inspired me to write The Mystery of Martha were Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. However, my book entailed quite a bit of research and one of the most illuminating books was Jesus – The Explosive Story of the 30 Lost Years by Tricia McCannon

How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

I never push myself if an idea or words are not flowing. I just walk away from my laptop and take a break. That could be for an hour, a day or even a month or more. I feel the creative process needs gestation time and it’s important not to push oneself when encountering a block.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Begin and never lose heart. It doesn’t matter if it is just a page or two, or if it’s thrown away a day later. It’s my experience that through writing we unleash our creative energy and subsequently find ourselves, which is one of the greatest gifts we ever could have.

Thank you, Eliza, for your enlightening and honest answers!


About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: The Marring by Ben Hoene

Author: Ben Hoene 
Release Date: 31st October 2020
Genre: Crime, Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 96 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:

Natasha Cole was an angelic thirteen-year-old girl. She grew up in a fatherless home in the ghetto of Clever Rock; the murder capital of the country. Despite her bleak upbringing, she was a light in darkness with her uplifting and whimsical personality. All of that changed when she fell victim to rape. She was forced under the threat of death by her rapist to never tell a soul what he did.

Thirty years have passed since that incident. Natasha is now a mentally ill drug addict in her forties. After thirty years of silence, she reveals the identity of her rapist. Almost immediately after this confession, a mysterious stalker murderously pursues her. Who’s after her? Natasha must maintain what little sanity she has left to solve this mystery and stop the attacker; while trying to stop her own demons in the process.

Book Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Marring by Ben Hoene is a psychological crime thriller that addresses the issue of rape and its consequences.

I love psychological thrillers as much as I love writing them. So when I was approached for this book, I was really curious to read this book. I liked the overall story of the book, but I felt that this book was on the heavier side and leaned more towards the dark side of the internal conflict of the character than I would have preferred. Make no mistake, I am a dark fiction writer myself and prefer dark works over the lighter ones, but in this book, the suspense and mystery were completely overshadowed by the internal conflict and the crime and therefore I wasn’t sure about how the book is listed as a psychological thriller. It is more about the consequences of rape and the character dealing with it than about the stalker, who feels like a sub-plot and not the main conflict.

As I said, I liked the overall story. I wasn’t overly in love with the main character but I was intrigued enough to want to know how the story ends. Also, the writing was okay for most parts, but at some places, the prose felt choppy and full of adverbs. But it was a quick read, so it has that going for it.

Again as I said, I felt the element of suspense and mystery felt overshadowed by the character’s past which, in my humble opinion, drowned out the plot. With better editing, these issues could have been easily worked on, but the copy I received had these issues.

I would recommend it to all thriller readers who don’t have a problem of trigger with rape and abuse related themes.

You can also read this review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Graphic Novel Review: #TheTwin by Karel Jan Kosman

Author: Karel Jan Kosman
Release Date: 27th April 2018
Genre: Science-Fiction, Graphic Novel, Young Adult
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 106 pages
Publisher: Quires Investments RLLLP
Blurb:

TheTwin is an entertaining and engaging social science fiction. A vividly illustrated story of twin planets, twin heroines, and twin virtues. Food for thoughts served in laconic nuggets of the hashtag age. 

Colorado teenage friends discover a twin planet of Earth in a parallel universe. An adventurous reporter records their quest, and gradually drawn into the story finds the love of his life. 

#TheTwin addresses young readers who will enjoy meeting the planetary twins and their eight female co-stars.

Review

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

#TheTwin by Karel Jan Kosman is a very unique science-fiction novel that is sure to make you question a lot of things both ordinary as well as extraordinary.

I feel a little unsure about this book even though the book has a very compelling concept and a lot of potential, it somehow falls to bring everything together. The writing felt flat and the characters felt too underdeveloped for the kind of story that was conceived. I strongly think that with such a strong plot, one needs to have really good characterisation and a very good narrative to support as well as compliment it. And that is what was lacking in this book.

The graphics were good and I was able to detect a hidden theme running in them which was quite a surprise. I enjoyed them as they were crisp and clear.

I still liked the overall plot and the way the story was told in three different parts and feel that hardcore sci-fi fans might enjoy this story.


You can also read this review on Goodreads and Amazon

Author Spotlight: Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge, the part of TRB dedicated to Book Promotions. Today, we are featuring Eliza Harrison, author of The Mystery Of Martha, for the Author Spotlight feature.

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

You can find author Eliza here:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


About The Mystery of Martha Audiobook

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author/book featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: The Girl Who Found Christmas: An Advent Calendar Storybook by Barbara Escher

Author: Barbara Escher
Release Date: 1st October 2019
Genre: Children’s Fiction | Christian Fiction
Series:
Format: E-book 
Pages: 136 pages
Publisher: Red Mitten Books 
Blurb:

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

As they make the journey toward Christmas, grandparents may find unique opportunities to talk to kids about the Christmas traditions in their own family and share funny stories about mom and dad! Reading together makes laughing together a special shared time as Christmas approaches. For more information about Barbara and The Girl Who Found Christmas, visit http://www.RedMittenBooks.com

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Girl Who Found Christmas by Barbara Escher is a beautiful, fun, entertaining as well as enlightening read about Christmas. The story is very unique and follows a pattern that can be a very fun activity for children. Each and every chapter is a different day in the month of December (starting from 1st December through 25th December) and is a short story in itself.

I enjoyed reading this book a lot, and even though there is still time for Christmas, I felt like we were nearing it as the book progressed. I loved the main as well as secondary characters who all have something or the other to teach the reader.

I would highly suggest this book to all parents who read books to their children as well as whose children love reading books by themselves because it would not only entertain them but will also teach them the real meaning of festivals (in the overall sense.)

You can also read this review on 

Goodreads and Amazon

Audiobook Spotlight: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, we are featuring author Eliza Harrison’s audiobook The Mystery of Martha.

The Mystery Of Martha


Name: The Mystery of Martha

Author: Eliza Harrison

Narrator: Eliza Harrison

Publisher: Authors’ Republic

Genre: Inspirational Fiction, Spiritual Fiction, Christian Fiction

Length of audiobook: 9 hours 13 minutes

Release date: 02.10.2020


Synopsis

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

You can find author Eliza here:

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Cover Reveal: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Eliza Harrison, for the cover reveal of her upcoming audiobook The Mystery Of Martha.

Presenting the beautiful cover of The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads


About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at  thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: The Blazing Chief (The Deschembine #3) by Matt Spencer

Author: Matt Spencer
Release Date: 12th October 2020
Genre: Urban Fantasy | Post Apocaliptic Fiction
Series: The Deschembine Trilogy (Book #3)
Format: E-book 
Pages: 578 pages
Publisher: Back Roads Carnival Books 
Blurb:

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

In the Louisiana swamps, Rob and Remelea press towards the ruins of New Orleans, for a final confrontation with Talino.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

You can find The Blazing Chief here: Amazon | Goodreads

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Blazing Chief by Matt Spencer is the third and the last instalment in the Deschembine trilogy. The first book is The Night And The Land and the second one is The Trail Of The Beast.

This book brings this amazing apocalyptic trilogy to an end and what an end it is! I love how the author treated all the characters with an equal amount of respect giving them all (even the ones I did not expect) a well-rounded ending. I was so glad that the book lived up to all the anticipation that was built-up in the first two books and that it ended on a higher note than either fo the first two books!

I loved the ending because it wasn’t exactly how I had predicted it to be. So it did surprise me though not entirely, but that’s understandable because I was able to see the character arcs (which were very nicely done) in the first two books being a writer myself. The thing I loved best about this book (and event he earlier books) is that the author delivered on each and every promise that he had made at the start of the series and that makes it a very well-rounded story on the whole.

I loved the action-packed climax and the tension that was present throughout the book leading to a wonderful climax. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend this wonderful trilogy to all dystopian and apocalyptic (and post-apocalyptic fiction. I am sure you all will love this book!

You can also read this review on 

Book Review: Tech-ology: A Digitally New Way To Way To Raise Happy Kids by Angie Rumaldo

Author: Angie Rumaldo
Release Date: 2020
Genre:  Self-Help, Parenting
Series
Format: E-book 
Pages: 276 pages
Publisher: True Pursuit
Blurb:
Tech-ology is a refreshing new look into the digital world and video gaming and its effects on children and teens today. It attempts to help parents, teens, educators and other professional understand the movement towards this new technology in a more culturally appropriate manner. This self-help book directly addresses many of the concerns that have been voiced by parents due to the rapid increase of technology.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Tech-ology: A Digitally New Way To Way To Raise Happy Kids by Angie Rumaldo is a very impressive parenting book that even a non-parent like me found useful. In this book, Dr Angie goes into the intricacies of dealing with kids that were born and raised in the “digital age.” I have a teen brother and therefore as someone who is constantly dragged into the war between my mum and brother, I know very well how much friction technology can cause amongst families, especially in which the parents were born in the 19th century.

The book is written well and doesn’t actually feel like a parenting book. The author uses a very friendly tone which feels very light to read. But even though the tone of the book is light, the subject matter is handled with great care by the author and her expertise in the field of handling the behaviour of young children shines through the pages.

I would definitely recommend you read this book even if you are not a parent yet. There are some great tips and advice that will definitely aid you, if not in the present then in the future which I honestly believe will only get worse with the advancements in the field of digital technology.

Remember, you were born in the twentieth century and that alone indicates that you are an immigrant to the new digital culture (new way of being) while our children are natives (born to the digital culture). We have to work toward learning the new ideals, expectations, and potential dangers. With this newfound knowledge and values we can effectively parent with less tension and more harmony within the home.

Angie Rumaldo, Tech-ology: A Digitally New Way To Way To Raise Happy Kids

Author Interview: Matt Spencer

Welcome to TRB Lounge!

Today, we are featuring Matt Spencer, author of The Blazing Chief, the third book in the The Deschembine Trilogy, for our Author Interview feature.

About The Author

Matt Spencer

Matt Spencer is the author of five novels, two collections, and numerous novellas and short stories. He’s been a journalist, New Orleans restaurant cook, factory worker, radio DJ, and a no-good ramblin’ bum. He’s also a song lyricist, playwright, actor, and martial artist. He currently lives in Vermont. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Website | Twitter | Facebook



The Interview

Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin. 

Well, my life has abruptly hit the reset button of late, to put it kindly, not under circumstances I’m happy about, but either way, here I am living on my own again for the first time in years, feeling kind of like a stranger to myself in some ways, like I’m catching up with this version of me. It’s been weird, especially in these Covid days, where getting out around people like I used to isn’t such a thing for the foreseeable future, but I’ve come to realize that ain’t such a bad thing either. I’ve been making the most of it in a lot of ways, eating/exercising/living healthier, to the point where the old saying “40 is the new 30” suddenly makes a lot more sense to me than I’d expected it to. I still work in a restaurant, which is only open to limited capacity, with reduced hours. I assist my best friend in teaching fencing, and we love to sword-fight and martial-arts spar. With a little luck and prudence, I’ll keep the positive things on track, continue to grow and change for the better, do what I can for other people, and keep writing crazy yarns that people get a kick out of reading.

Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?

As the final book in a trilogy, it’s the one where everything boils to a head for a giant blow-out go-for-broke finale, y’know? I’m proud to be able to say that a lot of people have been asking me for years, “So when the hell is the next book coming out?” [more on that later] and now that it’s finally officially on the way, I’m both thrilled and nervous about how it’s going to be received. All of the major characters – Rob, Sally, Sheldon, Janie, Remelea, Jesse, Zane, Puttergong, among others – wind up where they’ve been headed this whole time. Many of them change drastically, some for better, some for worse, some, well, in-between. And yes, some of them die.

What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?

I don’t typically write stories with didactic messages at the heart of my authorial intent/narrative. There are obviously themes I want to explore, regarding the human condition and my complicated feelings and opinions about where we’re all at, have been, and could go as a species. I find I explore those kinds of themes best when I discover them organically as I’m writing the story, through what the characters are going through and what they’re struggling with, which makes me more aware of what we’re all struggling with, so it sort of builds from there. Whenever I’ve tried to write a story with some thematic social-commentary axe to grind as my driving motive, the characters end up feeling like mouth-pieces for my argument or whatever, rather than living, breathing people, with their own perspectives and motivations that drive the story forward to its natural conclusion. If I lose sight of that, then the story starts to feel like a writing-exercise, and I’m too old for that shit, so it dies on me.

If there’s a “moral of the story” to The Blazing Chief, it’s probably “Hang onto your critical thinking skills, and don’t be a bootlicker.” There’s definitely a running theme throughout the entire series about the cycle of violence and cruelty self-perpetuates itself, and my perhaps naively idealistic belief that healing those cycles begins with small human connections of empathy and love, that can eventually snowball out and make a difference, with the ignorant growing and changing through self-education and better exposure. 

Who is your favourite character in this book and why? 

It’s a toss-up between Remelea and Balthazar, both of whom were characters who never honestly got their due in this book ’til the last couple drafts or so. In whipping this book into shape, they were the ones I really got to explore on the most fresh ground, so I pushed myself into new territory, and ultimately surprised myself, in ways that I think will make the overall tapestry of the larger narrative far richer and more rewarding to readers.

Remelea’s a character who’s introduced in the second book. She was a hit with a lot of readers. In a lot of ways, she’s the most morally gray character in a series full of morally gray characters. She starts out as this very formidable warrior woman, with a strong, brazen, irreverent sort of personality that readers get a kick out of, that I certainly got a kick out of writing. She likes to see herself as this outlaw rebel who plays by her own rules, except she ironically comes to realize that she’s always just been sort of going through the motions, living life according to how she’s been trained and conditioned, but hasn’t had a cause she’s felt truly passionate about fighting for, ’til she takes up with Rob, one of our central protagonists. She eventually hits a point where she’s forced to question whether this whole revolutionary rampage she’s gotten swept up into is what she really believes in, or if she’s been lying to herself because of her personal emotional connection to Rob. I think that’s a very relatable thing for a lot of people’s continuous journeys of self-discovery through life. A lot of us form deep emotional bonds with people with strong personalities that fire us up to their tune at the time, to where we fall in love more with the idea of them than who they actually are. Then we eventually come to realize later that the relationship was never a healthy one in the first place, and starting over from that place is scary and full of inner-conflict. Most of us aren’t, y’know, monstrous superhuman blade-wielding fighting-machines like Remelea, but still. In the third book, her path diverges from Rob’s, so she’s back to trying to figure out where she fits into this whole apocalyptic mess she’s caught in the middle of. By the end, she’s forced to make some painful decisions, with dire consequences for the big picture, that ultimately define who she truly is on a new, more solid level, as a truly rounded person. 

Then there’s Balthazar, who’s the new heavy-hitter villain who this book introduces. He’s one of the most broadly over-the-top major characters I’ve ever written, in ways that were a lot of fiendish fun to write. I treated him in earlier drafts like a sort of glorified red herring, but in the later drafts, I realized that I hadn’t explored him properly, or made the reader truly feel the threat he represents. In brainstorming from my editor Garrett Cooke’s suggestions, I found myself delving into Balthazar a lot deeper. He ultimately turned out to be a lot more psychologically interesting than I expected. On the one hand, he’s this grotesque, diabolical genetically crafted monstrosity, with superhuman abilities and a brain crammed since birth with all this strategic and tactical military prowess on how to use those powers to make him and those he commands a major threat to what’s left of civilization, yet he also has this childlike, naïve mentality about it all, because of the people who abused, twisted, and conditioned him from birth to be what he is. He’s sort of a pitiable Frankenstein-monster sort of figure in a way. There’s no redemption for him, and he has to be stopped, and he’s the center of some of the book’s most disgusting, nightmarish moments. Yet it’s ultimately not his fault that he is the way he is. The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize that a lot of the worst harm people are capable of doesn’t come from malice or what have you, but just from what people have been conditioned to see as normal behavior. With Balthazar I just took that to the most grotesque, deranged extreme I could think of within the context of these already extreme hypothetical circumstances. A lot of both Balthazar’s character-development and an up-close view of the destruction he’s causing and the threat he poses, comes from the point of view of this young human man who he’s tortured, mutilated, broken, and basically made his pet…who he now sees and treats with what he views as affection, like people raise livestock to eventually kill and eat, who they treat like a beloved pet right up to when they slit the animal’s throat, and don’t recognize the cognitive dissonance there. 

What inspired you to write this series?

At the time I started writing the first book, there were several ideas of books I wanted to write, then there was the book I started writing. I was playing around with all sorts of concepts, stumped on what to start next. My mind was a pretty big mess over a lot of recent trauma, including the death of a dear friend, and I wasn’t sure where to start processing that whenever I sat down at the keyboard. I felt like writing a straight-up horror novel, in the old-school Stephen King or Robert Bloch vein. I also wanted to write a giant epic adventure story, incorporating all the classical elements of heroic myth…all the intrigue, action, romance, friendship, betrayal, and epic stakes, like in all the great stories my dear departed friend and I used to geek out about…but to somehow make it all my own, to turn all those elements on their heads, say something about my own observations about life, so readers might not even realize that’s what they were reading at first, but by the end still feel something of that sublime rush that my buddy Dave had always gotten out of such tales at their best, hoping to honor his memory that way. I just didn’t know where to start, had to find some way in to make it my own, so I wouldn’t just regurgitate what had already been said in all those masterworks we’d read/watched/loved.

When I started writing The Night and the Land, that’s honestly not the story I thought I was getting myself into. I was more fascinated with the daily minutia of Brattleboro, Vermont, my adopted home town I was living in at the time and have since moved back to and settled in. I started tinkering with writing a quieter, semi-autobiographical magical-realism ensemble novel, about the various quirky characters in the community I was part of. Hell, if I’d continued in that vein, it may well have turned into something publishable under the label Literary Fiction, and wouldn’t that be a hoot? Then I wrote that scene in the bus station in Pittsburgh, where we meet Sally’s family while they’re looking for her, and the whole thing took on a life of its own from there. I sure as shit didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but here we are.

A lot of people these days in the speculative-fiction community will say that the trilogy is a played-out, over-used format. It’s one Tolkien pretty much accidentally invented when he wrote his giant War-and-Peace-sized epic which the publishers decided to split into three parts, but it’s a cool format, in my opinion. When it works, it works, particularly for a long, multibook story with a beginning, middle and end. I was never interested in writing one of those gargantuan 12-books-plus fantasy series that I saw cluttering the bookselves at the time, nor was I interested in making it feel like one continuous book split into three parts, or anything pretentious like that. Once I realized what I’d gotten myself into, it wasn’t long before I had an amorphous, general idea of where everything was headed, and a trilogy just felt like the story’s natural shape. The whole thing should tell a cohesive story, but I always approached each book as its own entity with its own beginning, middle, and end. The first book wound up being on some levels a small-town horror story in that aforementioned King/Bloch mode. There’s a love story driving the central narrative, but I wouldn’t call it a romance novel. The second one expands a great deal on the hidden-world mythos, through the perspective of a lot more characters in lots of different places all over North America. It’s probably the tightest and fasted-paced of the three, basically a chase/road-trip-through-hell story. Which brings us to the third and final book, which starts out like a post-apocalyptic story, then turns into a full-on psychedelic multi-dimensional fantasy tale, with hints of sci-fi, where certain characters, under circumstances I won’t spoil, actually travel through time and space to these other worlds and realities that through most of the series, we’ve only heard spoken of as vague lore and mythology among the people of this hidden society. 

What are your writing ambitions? 

Artistically, to keep stretching myself, to keep working with the various elements of storytelling that I love, keep making them my own in ways I haven’t even thought of yet, and overall to keep spinning good yarns driven by fascinating characters who hopefully more and more readers continue to discover and connect with. Professionally, I’m very proud to have beaten the odds to the point where my writing is legitimately a source of secondary income, so I figure if I keep my shit together and stay on track, five years from now I’d like to have made it my primary source of income…that’s all assuming, the way things are going in real life, that we’re not all fucked and living in a worse dystopian, apocalyptic nightmare than anything I could come up with. But hey, no one ever accomplished jack shit by succumbing to despair and futility, amIright?  

Are you working on any new projects presently? 


I’m in the process of re-writing a new novel set in the far future of the world of these stories, where the world is still in the process of rebuilding itself after an apocalypse or two, and many of the characters readers have come to know in the trilogy and the adjacent works have themselves become the stuff of distant, unreliable mythology. It’s been wild and challenging, in some ways like settling back on familiar ground, while at the same time in many ways building a whole new world, with its own new rules, from scratch, and dropping a whole new set of characters into the middle of it. I’ve also had a hankering of late to dive head-first back into contemporary horror, and I have several ideas kicking around about where I might go with that.  

Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you work in multiple genre?

My first love, writing-wise, was really horror fiction, particularly the classic Gothic horror works from the likes of Poe, Stoker, Shelley, and Leroux. I really cut my teeth at a young age trying to emulate those styles, before maturing, reading more broadly, going through more life experiences, etc, and developing my own style. As an oddball, neurologically atypical misfit kid growing up, I was particularly drawn to the kinds of larger-than-life human-monsters who were really just misfit social outcasts at odds with mainstream society. I’ve also always been drawn to stories of high adventure, and there’s a fine line between a lot of the morally gray kinds of heroes from those kinds of stories (such as Indiana Jones, the Man With No Name, Conan the Barbarian, or Long John Silver) and Gothic horror villains/anti-heroes like Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, or the Phantom of the Opera. There’s also a very fine line, I think, between adventure stories and horror stories. Compelling fiction is driven by conflict, and both adventure and horror distill that to a primal level, where it’s about high stakes such as the struggle for survival – the stuff of a ripping good yarn that gets the reader’s blood pumping. I think what continues to fascinate me the most at this point, with those kinds of stories, is exploring the contrasting psychologies of different types of characters caught up in those kinds of situations, how different kinds of people will respond differently in any number of ways, depending on their background, temperament, etc, and how those kinds of experiences change people, for better, worse, or some combination of the two. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

When reading the kind of shit you want to write, take mental notes on what does/doesn’t work when perfecting your craft. Also, get out there and live a life that makes you feel alive. Take risks, make mistakes, get into trouble, get into adventures, whatever that means to you personally (if not on the scale of the kind of “adventure” yarns I write, well, that’s probably for the best 😉 ). Above all, follow your own inner creative voice. You never know where that’ll take you. You’re not so unique in your experiences and feelings as it often seems, but no one can write about it exactly like you can, and you never know whom your voice is exactly what they need. Shoot for the moon, you may or may not make it, but you’re still likely to hit something along the way that those who didn’t dare never would have dreamed of. 

Thank you, Matt, for all your insightful and fun answers!


About The Book

The Blazing Chief

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

In the Louisiana swamps, Rob and Remelea press towards the ruins of New Orleans, for a final confrontation with Talino.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

You can find The Blazing Chief here:

Amazon | Goodreads


To read more author interviews, click here.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed or if you are a publicist and want to get your author interviewed on TRB, then please get in touch through direct e-mail: thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: The Seventh Cup by Nitesh Kumar Jain

Author: Nitesh Kumar Jain
Release Date: 9th September 2020
Genre:  Mystery
Series
Format: E-book 
Pages: 311 pages
Publisher: Cyberwit.net
Blurb:
A student of history in Switzerland goes missing; a man drinks exactly seven cups of coffee everyday in the same restaurant and believes in Mind Transportation. Two newly married Swiss detective agents arrive and begin a shocking tale of love, friendship, betrayal and death. From the colorful coasts of Goa, India to the enchanting backdrop of Zurich, Switzerland, the mystery of Verona Schmidt baffles everyone. With shocking twits and turns in every chapter, The Seventh Cup might just have the addictive flavor to stir the readers mind…may be forever !!!

Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Seventh Cup by Nitesh Jain is a very unique mystery read that was fun and entertaining to read. I liked this book because the author has weaved a complex mystery tale layered with good characterisation and has taken it all to the next level by making use of the concept of the law of attraction which gave this book a very refreshing feel.

I did had some issues with the dialogues but compared to how much I loved the story, the settings and the writing (other than the dialogues) it was nothing. Also, the overall execution of the plot was very good and therefore I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who likes reading mystery books.

You can also read this review on

Book Excerpt: The Blazing Chief by Matt Spencer

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author  Matt Spencer for sharing the excerpt from his latest release The Blazing Chief, the 3rd book in The Deschembine Trilogy.

About The Book

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

In the Louisiana swamps, Rob and Remelea press towards the ruins of New Orleans, for a final confrontation with Talino.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

You can find The Blazing Chief here:

AmazonGoodreads


Excerpt

PROLOGUE:
THREE MONTHS AFTER THE SOLAR STORM

At nineteen, Ronald “Fishhook” Fairbanks figured he’d seen it all. Over the back end of Summer, he’d seen a whole lot more. For one thing, he’d never expected to see a dude get chopped in half with a Goddamn sword. By the end of the early Autumn day, that wouldn’t even be the weirdest thing he witnessed, or the worst.

That morning, he woke up in a ditch, under a blanket of leaves. He couldn’t remember his dreams, but he knew they’d been bad. He sat up, brushed most of the leaves out of his face and hair, blinked his eyes clear, and looked at the sky. He almost panicked, because it wasn’t the same sky anymore. So what if he should be used to it by now? It still freaked him out, whenever he woke up looking at it. It never had gone back to normal after the solar storm, never lost that weird, sickly, purple-orange tinge. 

Fishhook twisted the worst of the snap-crackle-pops out of his body, hoisted his bag over one shoulder, shuffled to the edge of the road, and stopped dead in his tracks. A little kid stood on the other side of the road, staring at him, four or five he guessed by the height, dressed even shabbier than himself, in plain brown shirt and britches with legs and sleeves falling to the knees and elbows, with dirty bare feet. No, wait, hold up. That wasn’t a kid. It was a fully grown, evenly proportioned adult, except only three or four feet tall. 

Fishhook blinked, made sure he was seeing this right. “Hello?” he shouted. “Hey, what’s up!”

The short fucker just kept staring, past Fishhook. When he looked around, another face peered out of the bushes, on the other side of the ditch. It was shaped like a human face, but it sure as shit wasn’t human. It wasn’t staring out of the bushes, either, but rather was made of them. Branches and leaves jutted and twined together, pressing against each other at just-so angles, so they formed a jaw, eyebrows and forehead. Knotty clumps formed the chin and cheeks, with the leaves from two parallel horizontal branches for lips, two budding pods that hung in twin hollows for eyes. The breeze drifted through the bush, fluttering the face so it moved, like it was talking to the short fucker across the road. When the air went still, so did the face.

Fishhook spun back around. The short fucker was gone. When he looked again, the bush still had a face. Plants could play tricks on the eyes at funny angles, sure, but such illusions usually faded once you looked closer. The more Fishhook looked at this one, though, the clearer he saw it. Its gleaming seed-pod eyes looked right back at him. 

He shivered, muttered, “Well, fuck you too, then, you freaky bitch,” turned, and hurried up the road, doing his best not to look off into the woods. He didn’t want to see more plants with faces, or something even freakier.

At sixteen, Fishhook’s birth-family had kicked him out of the house for being queer. Well, kicked out wasn’t technically accurate. More like he’d left on his own, because his piece-of-shit stepdad would have beaten him to death for it otherwise. Since then, he’d found his brothers and sisters of the road and the rails, and he’d been to plenty of their funerals; all in nice, neat funeral parlors, with open caskets displaying serene, well-dressed, made-up mannequin-like young corpses, of boys and girls who’d died of overdoses, stabbings, shootings, beatings, or exposure. Anyone who showed up who’d known the departed—really known them—might think they’d wandered into the wrong place. More than once, Fishhook had wondered, when his time came, how many of his real friends would show up and ask, Who the fuck is Ronald Fairbanks?

Fishhook hadn’t touched any drugs in months, yet ever since the solar storm, it seemed like the whole world had overdosed on bad acid. He hadn’t seen any of the others in a while; Shipwreck, Scags, Skunk, Stonewall, old Boxcar, Abby, any of them. He usually caught up with folks on the rails, and he’d been avoiding trains like the plague lately. Where the trains still ran, folks said, those railroad bulls had cracked down, gotten twice as diligent and four times as mean. They didn’t even bother to arrest you anymore, just beat you to death, lucky if they didn’t pull a train on your ass first, and that’s if the freaky people—the things—didn’t catch you first. 

Who the hell had Fishhook first heard about the things from? Skunk? Yeah, probably. Of course that crazy motherfucker would believe something like that. Except Skunk had never had that much of an imagination. The last time they’d ridden the rails together, though, he wouldn’t shut up about the people from another dimension who you had to watch out for now. Then as the weeks passed, Fishhook heard more folks spouting the same shit…the same strange words and names…

Schomite. Spirelight. Crimbone. And finally, High Natural.

Since the solar storm, cell phone service had come back in some places, but WiFi was a thing of the past. That threw a wrench in anyone keeping up with anyone. The last time Fishhook had seen Abby, she’d mentioned she’d be in Chattanooga in a few weeks, visiting some cousins. If he’d kept track of time right, she should be there by now. So that’s where he was headed.

When the solar storm happened, there’d been a lot of train wrecks, all at once, all over the country, along with plane crashes, prison riots, riots on the streets of major cities…Hell, some people claimed the military had turned on and eaten itself, which was why not even the National Guard had swooped in, to either save everyone or just fuck everything up worse. Nowadays, the back roads were the closest place left to safe. Chattanooga sounded too densely populated for Fishhook’s liking, but if he could just get there and find Abby, maybe he could get his bearings. She’d given him her cousins’ address. If he could just find her—find anyone he trusted who was left—then maybe…

Whenever he heard a vehicle whirring towards his back, he stepped a little further off to the side and stuck his thumb out. A few cars and trucks blasted past him. There were fewer of them these days, and hitching was always a crapshoot, more so in some parts of the country than others. Here in the middle of the damn Bible Belt, you got fewer motorists willing to take a chance on a dude with ratty dreadlocks, with ears and a face full of piercings, including a big septum ring, wearing a beat-up leather jacket covered in radical political buttons. To be fair, they had more reason than usual to be suspicious. Maybe they thought he was one of those others, never mind that he was five-five and weighed a hundred and forty pounds soaking wet, probably less by now.

Something big and clanking slowed to a stop behind him. He turned and saw a long, gray pickup with a rattling U-Haul trailer hooked to the back. Two people sat up front within the truck, which had a backseat in it, to Fishhook’s relief. The U-Haul had a dinosaur painted along the side, advertising some resort out in California that probably didn’t exist anymore. The truck pulled over onto the shoulder. Fishhook hurried up alongside it and yanked on the right rear passenger door. He found it locked. The front passenger window cranked down. 

“Just a moment, son,” crooned the driver. “Before we let you in…do a little dance for us. You know what I mean.”

Until a few months ago, Fishhook would have gone, You gotta be shittin’ me. A year or so back, he’d spent part of his winter on the streets of Manhattan. He was only half black, and usually passed for Caucasian. That hadn’t stopped the NYPD pigs from pulling over to harass him for a laugh, to make him do the chicken-dance. For all the stereotypes about the North and the South, the racist bullshit he’d encountered in Tennessee had nothing on what he’d gotten from the New York pigs. Except he’d heard the driver’s tone, and he knew that wasn’t the issue here. He still froze up.

The driver leaned over towards the glove box. A knob turned and it dropped open. Fishhook heard a pistol cock. “You know what I mean,” the driver repeated.

Fishhook’s extremities tightened. His heart pounded while the edges of his jaw quivered with deer-in-the-headlights dread. He wanted to tell the driver to fuck off, wait for the next ride, but lately, that might still be an invitation to get his head blown off. He let his pack slide off his stinging shoulders, then he hopped like a bunny, waving his arms around like some poor bastard in a stupid costume spinning a sign outside a tax-return office.

“Okay, that’s good enough. Well, go on now, Fran. Let the boy in.”

The front seat passenger twisted around, reached back, and pulled the lock up.

Fishhook hoisted his pack, opened the door, climbed in, and tossed the pack across the other side of the long back seat. It smelled like a thousand years of stale dust and wood chips in there. It reminded him of his dad’s truck when he was a little kid, before his mom had won the custody battle and hooked up with that right-wing scumbag who’d become his stepfather. Fishhook bit back on the urge to break down sobbing. His real dad had always been a kind man, fuck what his mom had told the judge. Would he have still been a kind man if he’d been around long enough to find out his son was a queer? Fishhook liked to think so.

He noticed another smell in here, like old rotten eggs. He fumbled around ’til he found the seatbelt strap, then buckled up. The driver up front looked absurdly small, almost a midget, coming up barely high enough to see over the dash. Fishhook remembered the other weird little fucker from earlier, but no, this guy was just a really short dude. He had big, pale, bespectacled bug eyes, with silky salt-and-pepper hair cascading from beneath a dark blue ball cap, around a narrow, weather-beaten, stubbly face. His jaw and cheeks had that sunken quality, from the bone-deterioration that happened after smoking too much meth. He wore a checkered green and white shirt, with sleeves that were too big around his gnarled, spidery hands. He put the pistol back in the glove box and returned both hands to the wheel. Next to him, there sat a woman with pasty, pillowy arms, beneath a sloping, wrinkly neck, supporting a wobbly head that looked too small for the rest of her, covered in pale, patchy, stringy hair. She smiled at Fishhook, showing off more black gaps and tortured red gums than teeth. Looking at the two of them side by side, Fishhook got the impression of an insomnia-crazed Kermit the Frog and a googly-eyed, lobotomized Miss Piggy.

The truck lurched back onto the lonely highway and sped off through this world that wasn’t the world anymore. Fishhook only just now noticed a tiny ceramic crucifix dangling from the windshield mirror. Great. Jesus freaks. Just my luck.

“Sorry I had to scare you like that, son. I had to make sure. You understand.”

“Make sure of what?” Fishhook got the gist, but he had to make sure too. There were a lot of versions of the story going around. Fishhook still didn’t know what to believe, but someone else’s ideas about it could mean the difference between life and death.

“That you’re a man. That the bones beneath your flesh move the way a man’s skeleton is supposed to move. That you don’t move like one of the abominations.”

“Yeah, I get it. A Crimbone, you mean.”

The old guy nodded, keeping his eyes on the road. “What’s your name, son?”

“Fishhook,” said Fishhook.

“No it ain’t,” hiccupped the old bastard. “That’s not your real name, is it?”

“That’s what everyone who knows me calls me.”

“But that’s not the name your loving parents gave you, is it? It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. My name’s Norm. This is my wife Fran.”

Fran looked back at Fishhook, gave him that infected, gappy smile again, and waved with a hand like a speckled, flesh-colored Mickey Mouse glove. “Hi!”

“Hi.” Fishhook waved back, even though her high-pitched voice made his skin crawl.

“You want some coffee?” said Norm. “You’re shivering like a leaf back there.” He pulled a thermos from a drink holder and held it back.

“Yeah, that’d be great. Man, thank you so much!” He grabbed the thermos and unscrewed the cap. Steam wafted out. The first gulp burned his tongue. He almost gagged, then tilted the thermos, blew on the liquid’s surface, and sipped slower. It tasted like shitty gas-station coffee, but he didn’t care. The warmth flooding his veins reminded him what true relaxation felt like.

“Where are you headed to, son?” said Norm.

“I’m trying to get to Chattanooga. I’ve got a friend waiting for me there. Or at least she said she would be, before…well…all this craziness.”

Norm nodded. “A girlfriend, then?”

Fishhook glanced at the cross dangling from the dashboard mirror. “Yeah.”

“Chattanooga is on our way. The place used to be a good, God-fearing city. These days, though…I still own land up in the north, son. That’s where we’re going, where we hear things are still good. You and your girlfriend could come with us…”

“Maybe. I’ll have to see what she wants to do.”

‘We’ll be stopping in Rock Spring soon. This highway takes us straight through the center of it. Have you been to Rock Spring, son?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Lovely little town. God-fearing people there. At least I hope that’s still the case. We’ll have to stop for gas there. If the Lord is on our side, there will still be a gas station open. Amazing that there are still gas stations open anywhere, when you think about it, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.”

“That’s why people don’t realize the end times are already here. They all expected it to happen at once. After the sky let the fire loose on us, you’d think that would be that, but no, it’s still happening slowly. Lots of people still have electricity. They still go out to eat, would still go to the movies if there was anyone out in Hollywood still making them or shipping them to picture houses…act like this big old world keeps spinning on as always. But I take one look at you, boy, and see that you’ve seen it too.”

Fishhook sipped more coffee from the thermos. “Yeah. Yeah, no shit, right?”

“You know, further down south, there is the town where I grew up. I courted and married Fran there.” As if on cue, Fran looked back at Fishhook, smiled and nodded. Thankfully, she didn’t open her mouth this time. Maybe that meant there was a god. “Fran and I here used to have a program, on the local radio station, talking of the word of the Lord. When the Lord unleashed the wrath of the sun, he spared our radio station, so we might continue to preach our ministry to whoever was still out there listening, right when more people needed to hear it than ever. Except the people no longer liked to hear us tell what the good Lord had to say. I was forced off the airwaves, for speaking the truth of our Lord. Even now, while society falls apart, people still find ways to tell themselves that our civilization has not already abandoned us. Soon, only one civilization shall remain…that of our Lord’s making. That will be the Kingdom. It was censorship, plain and simple. People don’t want to give up the evils they think define them. You can’t be one of the drug-addicts, in the Kingdom. You can’t be a fornicator in the Kingdom. You can’t be one of the homosexuals, in the Kingdom.

Fuck, Fishhook couldn’t get out of this truck fast enough. The guy’s being nice. So is his wife. He doesn’t have to know who you are. No one’s making you suck their dick for a hit, or anything like that. Count your blessings. It’ll all be over soon enough.

Fishhook also noticed that he really needed to piss. Damn, he should have done that back on the roadside. He tried to will the contents of his bladder further up through his abdomen, away from his aching dick. “Yeah, I know, right? Say, how far are we from…wait, which town, man?”

“Rock Spring. Just another mile or so.”

Even with the windows up, the closer to Rock Spring they drove, the more something smelled like burning pork. It didn’t exactly cancel out the rotten egg smell, but it made Fishhook pay a lot less attention to it. The truck rounded a bend, and he saw all those little boxes made of ticky-tacky buildings of downtown Rock Spring, Tennessee, nestled in the shadow of the Smoky Mountain ranges. Half the town was on fire, including a red caboose in what used to be the yard of the local historical society.

“Norm?” squeaked Fran. “What’s going on? I don’t like this.”

“I don’t like it either, hon. Just sit tight. Now what in the world…”

“We should turn around.”

“We can’t. This is our route to where we’re going.”

“So we can find another route! Come on, honey, we can find one that doesn’t…”

“Doesn’t what? Make us to look in the eye what the Lord hath placed before us? No, my dear, many are those who would avert their eyes, and look where that’s gotten us.”

“Man, seriously,” said Fishhook, “listen to your wife. This is no good.”

“You’re speaking out of turn, young man. I don’t recall asking—”

The nearer the center of town drew, the louder the screams echoed. Fishhook twisted around against the seatbelt in rising agitation. “Dude, look, I know when I’m in a bad place that it’s time to get clear of, and this—”

“We will be clear of it soon enough. Now hush.” The truck sped up.

Far ahead, a soot-covered woman ran screaming out of a burning municipal building. She tripped, fell, got back up and shambled a little, then sprinted across a big, green common-area lawn. What she ran from came from every doorway, alleyway and corner, converging towards her…bodies that did move with superhuman speed and agility, like they didn’t have real human skeletons under their filthy, scarred skin. They weren’t dressed like Fishhook or any of his old train-hopper buddies. Some of them weren’t wearing clothes at all. They all looked like those others, some with the mottled, swirly skin folks now called Schomite or Crimbone or whatever, others with the gleaming, pearly, whiter-than-white elf-like builds of those called Spirelights. It didn’t matter anymore. Some new master had united them, under a banner of rape, murder and plunder. None of the safeguards of so-called modern civilization were left to do shit about it. 

The fleeing girl must have had a good thirty feet head-start. One of the Schomites stretched out its gnarly clawed hand and grabbed her, like time and space folded between them to close the distance. It tackled her to the ground, ripping her clothes off, its teeth tearing and worrying into the flesh beneath. 

Something hit the side of Norm’s truck. The whole world spun through the air…

~

Blood stung Fishhook’s eyes. When he wiped at it, his arm screamed.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, don’t let it be broken, don’t let it be broken…

Shattered glass blanketed him like sharp snowflakes. Some of it stuck in his face and hands. Someone kept screaming. At first, he thought it was him, then he realized it was Fran. His jaw felt like someone had popped it off and stuck it back on upside down. All that came out of his mouth were huffs and grunts. The whole world screamed, along with every nerve in his body.

One of his eyes still more or less worked. Except every time he opened or closed it, he saw something different. There was Fran up front, shrieking and gyrating. Next to her, Norm stared blankly, over the steering wheel embedded in his chest. Through Norm’s window, Fishhook could see the top of the police car that had broadsided them. The red and blue lights still spun and flashed while smoke rose from the mangled hood. One of the cops moved like a drunk toddler while he tried to pull his partner out of the wreckage. He was gray with ash, except where scarlet streamed from his scalp, down his side. The wrecked cop car wasn’t the only siren blaring. It sounded like there were a lot of them, for miles around.

~

A grumbling whoosh sounded somewhere. Flames licked out of the edges of the twisted hood of the truck, small and pale at first, then dark with smoke, puffing out thicker and thicker. They leaked past the border of the shattered windshield, into the truck. Norm didn’t appear to mind, probably because he was dead. Fran shrieked louder and thrashed furiously. Her seat rocked and banged against Fishhook’s knees.

Fishhook tried to bolt, but his seatbelt held him in place. He tried to unbuckle it, then shrieked because he’d just used his fucked-up arm. Yep, it was definitely broken. Shit! He took a few deep, rapid, whistling breaths to get himself under control. His good hand shook as it found the button. The belt snapped and slithered away. When he tried the door handle, it refused to budge. The whole rig was twisted around him. He rammed the door with his shoulder. Bigger flames were filling the front seat. Fran squalled like a bobcat caught in a trap. Parts of her face turned red, bubbling up with welts full of boiling white pus It smelled a lot worse than the rotting-egg scent from earlier. Fishhook drew up sideways across the seat and mule-kicked the door, once, twice, thrice…

The hinges gave, so the cold air spilled in on him…

~

Concrete pressed against his shoulder, shoving chips of broken glass through his coat so they bit into his arm. Every time he thought he’d gotten the pain under control, it seemed, another part of his body moved funny, so his whole being lit back up with grinding, shrieking raw nerves. He smelled more burning buildings, more burning flesh.

I have to move. I can’t, though. I don’t want to. Why am I even conscious? Can’t I just go back to sleep? Just let all this go away…

~

His eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…

Someone let out a furious howl. At first, Fishhook thought it was one of those things, closing in on him. Then a dark shadow passed overhead. He shifted sideways and tried to crawl under the truck, but the rising fumes sent him scuttling back the other way.

His eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…

~

Everything blurred in and out of focus. His fucked-up arm felt just as bad as before, but it seemed further away now. He got a grip on the next overturned car and pulled himself to his feet.

An echoing clash shook the earth, of metal striking metal…with a chime that reverberated through the concrete, beneath his feet, a sound that pulsed through his whole being. At first, he assumed it was another car accident, but that was wishful thinking. No, it was the clash of otherworldly matter against otherworldly matter…something that shouldn’t even exist in this world, yet there it was.

When his eyes snapped back open, he saw the center of the town lawn. Two of those freaks had just slammed into each other, howling with elemental bloodlust. What the hell was Fishhook watching? This was nuts! It looked almost like a kung-fu fight in some Jet Li movie on TV, but the more his vision cleared, the more it looked like two wild animals ripping each other apart, quicker than the human eye could follow…both of them swinging long, curved blades of black metal, ’til one deflected the other’s downward chop and sidestepped him with a diagonal slice. A meaty crunch sounded. The loser split open and hung in two directions like a blooming flower, his insides gleaming and gushing…because another man had just chopped him in half like a head of cabbage, with a fucking sword. A sword made of unearthly black metal. Fuck!

The winner righted himself, let out a joyous growl, then looked at the split-open body, which was somehow still standing. He gave it a boot to the ass so it fell over, spilling its insides across the grass. That’s when Fishhook noticed the whole lawn alive with a melee from some other reality, an even weirder one than the last few months. Fishhook couldn’t even tell who was on whose side…until the swooping shape descended…

Fishhook’s eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…

~

More meaty crunches sounded, as blades cleaved through bones and organs, everywhere. From where he leaned, Fishhook still heard Fran shrieking. The burning truck wasn’t that far away, still somewhere to his left. He was no badass, that was for sure—and now that he saw all those otherworldly mutant freaks hacking the shit out of each other in the distance, he realized he didn’t want to be—but there was no way was gonna leave someone to burn to death like that, not if he could help it. He lurched, righted himself, hobbled halfway over to the truck. Then the heat of the blaze pulsed in his face, repelling him like a wall of pure, hot energy. Fran stopped screaming. Fishhook’s guts turned to liquid and tried to fall out of his asshole. 

Plenty of other folks kept screaming, people who lived around here, while the otherworldly marauders dragged them out of their homes and jobs, while they laid waste to the infrastructure. Big, greasy rednecks came out brandishing shotguns, pistols, semi-automatics, automatics, you name it. At first, they looked happy as pigs in shit to finally get a chance to act like the local militia against the invaders…until they started shooting, and it didn’t do a squirt of piss worth of good, except to get the things’ attention. Fishhook couldn’t tell if the creatures moved fast enough to dodge bullets, or if the bullets just didn’t hurt them. Either way, they swarmed in on the gunmen. Before Fishhook knew it, the shooting had stopped, replaced by more blood, guts, hair, teeth and eyeballs flying all over the place.

Out on the lawn, a strange sort of circle had formed. Somewhere in the middle of all this, Fishhook had gotten a sense of the two sides fighting each other. The ones who’d attacked the town were made up of both those dirty, animalistic freaks and those…pale, gleaming, whiter-than-white elf-like fuckers…Spirelights; that was the word for them, right? Except weren’t those two sides supposed to be fighting each other? What the hell were they doing, ganging up on this town together? The ones who’d come to fight them all seemed to be the other kind, the beastly ones…Crimbone? It was like they’d swarmed in out of the hills, as though to defend the place…baited into a trap, apparently, one which must have worked, given how few of the latter were left, and by the way the leader strutted back and forth like a rooster in a henhouse.

Fishhook couldn’t make sense of the leader’s appearance. It looked like a cartoon animal version of Axl Rose or Kid Rock or one of those assholes, the cap of its head tied up in a dirty red bandana, but with a jutting, deformed snout like a dog’s face, with big dragon wings fanning out on either side. And it was dripping in blood, from head to toe…blood, and who knew what other fluids.

“Okay,” the creature’s voice boomed, while it rubbed at its crotch, “this is where the Daddy told me to git shit rollin’. Can’t tell why just yet. Place looks like a shithole to me. Still, I gots ta say, not a bad Goddamn start at all. Ain’t that right, bitches? Why, just look at all these bitchass so-called Crimbone we got here to start replenishin’ our ranks with.” The creature cast an eye around, at the last of the gnarly defenders who’d been herded into the circle. “Why, it’s almost like they all swam right up to our fishhook, ain’t it?”

In that moment, it might have been Fishhook’s imagination, but he swore the monster peered across the expanse and looked him right in the eye. That’s when he quit pretending not to be a coward, when he booked it, quick as he could, back behind the nearest wrecked vehicle that wasn’t on fire.

“Not as big a haul as we’d hoped for, but that’s okay. Shit, this won’t do at all. No, wait, let me check.” A crunch split the air, followed by another shriek, along with a wet, ripping noise. “Gah, peh, these here Earth-line bastards an’ bitches get more rancid every stop! Oh well, catch as catch can. Nah, nah, nah, boys, you take ’er easy with the good folks of this cute little town. The meat tastes better when you get it off the bones alive.”


About The Author

Matt Spenser

Matt Spencer is the author of five novels, two collections, and numerous novellas and short stories. He’s been a journalist, New Orleans restaurant cook, factory worker, radio DJ, and a no-good ramblin’ bum. He’s also a song lyricist, playwright, actor, and martial artist. He currently lives in Vermont. 

You can find author Matt here:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Review: A Thanksgiving Tribute – Ancestors In New World America by Gayle Michelle Fowler

Author: Gayle Michelle Fowler
Release Date: 9th September 2020
Genre:  Holiday Story, Historical
Series
Format: E-book 
Pages: 103 pages
Publisher: 
Blurb:
Through a granddaughter’s narrative, peek into the phenomenal triumphs that led to a “Gratitude Celebration,” a Thanksgiving tradition.
The story centers on William Brewster, ancestor to many, father of the pilgrims and the nation, who perseveres through dividing issues of his era.

Living in an oppressive state that deems him an outlaw, he must hide before indenturing himself to servitude. Knowing the suffering endured by the tiny fraction who lived to tell of the horrific sacrifices it took to survive in the New World, he shepherded his family onto the Mayflower to voyage to undeveloped lands on a foreign continent to make a new home.

This short exposé connects the holiday feast to both of the first victorious American settlements Jamestown and Plymouth, covering Queen Mary and King James; notable sea captains during the pirate era: Newport, Smith, and Argall; First Nations Indians: the Powhatans, the Wampanoag and their chiefs, Powhatan and Massasoit, as well as crucial pilgrim allies Pocahontas, Namontack, and Squanto. Historical pictures provide visual accompaniment to an epic that passes on these early ancestor’s spirit of survival, hope, and actions for an amicable future.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Thanksgiving Tribute by Gayle Michelle Fowler is a beautiful holiday story about one of the most famous holidays in America – Thanksgiving. But even though the book is primarily about the American tradition and the history behind it – the sacrifices and the bravery of the ancestors, it also shows the relevance of the tradition in other countries, such as India.

Hailing from a country and religion where being grateful is one of the ways of life, I was able to relate to the book a lot, on many levels. I enjoyed it as well as got to learn a lot from it. The main theme of knowing and respecting one’s roots strung at the strings in my heart and I felt emotionally satisfied reading this beautiful book.

I’d definitely recommend it to all readers, especially considering that it is a short and sweet read and also the fact that with Diwali and Halloween approaching, the holiday season is just around the corner!

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Book Spotlight: The Blazing Chief by Matt Spencer

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, we are featuring author Matt Spencer novel The Blazing Chief, the 3rd book in the The Deschembine Trilogy.

The Blazing Chief


Synopsis

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

In the Louisiana swamps, Rob and Remelea press towards the ruins of New Orleans, for a final confrontation with Talino.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

You can find The Blazing Chief here:

AmazonGoodreads


About The Author

Matt Spenser

Matt Spencer is the author of five novels, two collections, and numerous novellas and short stories. He’s been a journalist, New Orleans restaurant cook, factory worker, radio DJ, and a no-good ramblin’ bum. He’s also a song lyricist, playwright, actor, and martial artist. He currently lives in Vermont. 

You can find author Matt here:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook


If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com