Book Review: Dusk of Humanity by M.K. Dawn

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Title: Dusk of Humanity
Series: The Decay of Humanity, Book 1
Author: M.K. Dawn
Publication Date: January 10, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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Dusk of Humanity
The Decay of Humanity, Book 1
M.K. Dawn
CreateSpace, January 2018
ISBN 978-1983904158
Trade Paperback

From the author—

An asteroid brought about the destruction of the world…in a way no one thought possible.

After the death of her parents, Sloan Egan left their Montana ranch determined to make a difference in the world. Now a prominent surgeon with an exceptional career in her future, life has turned out exactly as she expected. Until a government summons arrives with an order to report to Fort Hood for a top-secret weekend retreat.

Major Lee Archer’s reassignment as head of military operations at The Bunker felt more like a prison sentence than a promotion. To make matters worse, he’s been assigned to babysitting detail, as a group of the country’s most brilliant young minds come together to test the vitality of the cutting-edge fallout shelter he commands.

But the retreat was nothing more than a ploy. One devised to safeguard the future of humanity, as a catastrophic event renders the world above uninhabitable.

Or so they’ve been led to believe.

Those in charge have a secret. One so horrifying they would do anything to keep it concealed. Because what lurks beyond The Bunker is deadlier than anyone could have ever imagined.

And it’s only a matter of time before it finds a way in.

When people from a wide variety of professions are brought together in a bunker with apparently all the necessities of life, it doesn’t take long for questions to arise. It’s not surprising that some of the “invitees” would have misgivings but so does Archer who should have been more aware of what was going on. Although he has to follow military orders, he’s uneasy with the attitudes of the VIPs towards people they consider unworthy of being saved if a major disaster should happen. When the President comes on screen and tells everyone in the Bunker the truth, the reaction is overwhelming dismay as you would expect but, even after all the revelations, they have no clue what’s really happening.

It’s a minor point but there’s one thing about Sloan that I didn’t like and that’s her stereotypical surgeon superiority. That was obvious early on when she told Major Archer, “If I go on vacation, patients die.” Um, no, you’re not the only surgeon in the world, even if you are one of the best. Other than that, I liked Sloan a lot and Archer appealed to me, too, as did Travis, Evelyn and others. In fact, I’d say all the primary characters were very well developed and they felt real, whether I liked them or not.

I had a lot of trouble believing the premise of this story and so did some of the major characters. For one thing, there is no way the VIPs (which clearly includes government personnel) would be able to keep the approaching asteroid a secret for so many years what with all the backyard astronomers, especially in the last few days. Also, with so much advance notice, it makes no sense that the plan would be to save only 2,000 people. However, this is the core of the story so I decided to just read on and enjoy the tale and enjoy it I did. Trouble is, I can’t tell you why because that would be total spoilery so, suffice it to say, Dusk of Humanity is a fun romp through a world we’ll have to hope we never see…and now I have to wait for the next book 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

An Excerpt from Dusk of Humanity

The room fell silent. President Edward Patterson sat behind a small desk in a make-shift office with an unnatural stillness. An American Flag hung on the cavern wall behind him. It took Sloan a moment to realize he too was in The Bunker.

His expression was grave and his normal youthful demeanor was replaced with an unsmiling, unfocused stare that could only mean one thing: the announcement wasn’t good.

“My fellow Americans,” President Patterson began, “first, on behalf of our great country, I would like to personally thank every one of you for joining us this weekend.” He dropped his head and swallowed so hard the sound echoed off his microphone. When he raised his head, his eyes were wet and bloodshot. “Secondly, I owe each of you an apology. I’ve always considered myself an honorable man. My word is as important to me as the air I breathe.” Another extended pause. “It’s with a heavy heart I share with you my deception.”

The sound of Sloan’s heartbeat thrashed in her ears.

“We brought you here under false pretenses, not out of malice but out of fear. Fear that without each of you the world as we know it would be lost. I will spare you the tedious details and get straight to the point.” He lifted his wrist to check the time. “Approximately five minutes ago, an asteroid close to six miles wide struck the earth. An asteroid this size is known as a global killer. Over the course of the next few months, billions of lives will be lost, as will most of the animals and vegetation.”

The room erupted in a mixture of cries and gasps. Sloan couldn’t think. She couldn’t breathe. This couldn’t be happening.

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About the Author

As a lifetime reader, M.K. Dawn always dreamed about becoming a writer. Then one day an idea came to her and then a story; so she started to write. And when she started to write, she couldn’t stop. Not only does she love to write fantasy, paranormal and dystopia books she can almost always be found with her nose buried deep in them as well.

M.K. lives in South Texas with her husband and two children. When she isn’t writing, she is reading, watching her favorite TV shows or dreaming about sitting on a beach somewhere.

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Amazon // Goodreads

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Book Review: Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum

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Title: Selected
Author: J. Allen Wolfrum
Publication Date: January 18, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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Selected
J. Allen Wolfrum
CreateSpace, January 2018
ISBN 978-1981498970
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Former Army helicopter pilot, Susan Turner is Selected as the next President of the United States. In order to avoid a nuclear war, she must overcome personal demons and learn to navigate the murky waters of international diplomacy.

Five years ago, the Dove Revolution changed the political structure of the United States. The President, Senate, and Congress are no longer elected by the public, they are Selected at random every two years. A shadow organization known only as The Board, advances their sinister agenda by taking advantage of their anonymity and Susan’s tendency to make brash decisions. Blackmail, espionage and murder are all in play as The Board manipulates geo-political events to spark a war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

With the help of her former Squadron Commander, General LeMae, Susan Turner attempts to lead the nation through these turbulent times while battling her own internal demons. Susan is a battle-hardened war veteran but she must learn what it takes to be a world leader. Nuclear war and the future of the human race hang in the balance.

Reading this book took on a strange and frightening aspect when I thought about it in terms of our very real political climate these days. I have no idea exactly when Mr. Wolfrum wrote it or if he was influenced at all by our president’s love of Big Business but the similarities are alarming. In some ways, this story is a blueprint for what could happen in our not-too-distant future.

Having a particular group control a political system isn’t a new concept—we only have to look as far as the Illuminati conspiracy theories that have existed and, supposedly, been active for centuries to see the possibilities. When Susan Turner becomes the chosen president, she doesn’t realize or fully understand the intentions of The Board but she soon finds out that she is viewed as a mere pawn. Fortunately for the country, Susan objects and the race is on to stop the intended war.

Despite her initial shoot-from-the-hip ways, Susan is a credible character with the kind of personal baggage you’d expect her to have with her Army background but that baggage also helps her when she has to face up to what is going on behind the scenes. Whether she can prevent the evil behind the scenes is at the core of an intense and exciting story.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

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An Excerpt from Selected

Susan Turner looked up through a haze of white dust and saw a group of men in black suits huddled around her body. The muffled ringing in her ears overpowered their voices. The men helped her to her feet and they ran as a group toward the entrance to the underground tunnel. Her hearing slowly returned, screams of panic in the hallway replacing the ringing. As they ran, she recognized the men surrounding her were Secret Service agents.

Four agents surrounded Susan as they jogged through the underground tunnel together. Ten yards into the tunnel, she slowed down. In mid-stride, she took off one heel at a time and returned to the pace of the group. There were no words exchanged; they moved together in focused silence. Four hundred yards down the tunnel, the group stopped at two large steel doors. The lead agent opened the doors and light from the helicopter pad above burst into the tunnel.

Before moving toward the helicopter, the agent standing behind Susan shouted into his headset, “Checkpoint Bravo. Waiting for clearance.” He nodded as the response came through and relayed the message to the group: “Let’s move.” They ran from the tunnel into the daylight and across the tarmac to the open doors of the helicopter.

The agent sitting across from Susan handed her a communications headset. “Ma’am, are you okay? Any injuries?” Susan wiped the sweat and dust from her face. “No, I’m fine. My family?”

“They’re safe. Your children were brought to a safe location under the Pentagon, and your parents are there with them.”

She nodded. “Is it over?”

He pursed his lips before responding, “I don’t know. I only heard snippets of radio chatter while we were on the way to the helipad.”

Susan leaned back in her seat, cupping her hands over her face and replaying the events in her mind. The group stayed in radio silence for the remainder of the brief flight. The helicopter landed at Andrews Air Force Base and the doors immediately opened. Susan and her security detail rushed across the tarmac and boarded the Boeing 747. She walked onto the plane in her bare feet. Jogging on concrete caused the pinky toe on her left foot to bleed. She left a trail of blood down the center aisle of Air Force One.

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Excerpt from Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum. Copyright © 2018 by J. Allen Wolfrum. Reproduced with permission from J. Allen Wolfrum. All rights reserved.


About the Author

J. Allen Wolfrum is a fiction author and former Marine. He served four years as a Marine Corps Infantryman in the most decorated Regiment in Marine Corps history. During Operation Iraqi Freedom he led an infantry squad on missions spanning from the oil fields of Southern Iraq to the streets of Baghdad.

After the Marine Corps, he spent the next fifteen years exploring life from several perspectives: press operator in a plastics factory, warehouse stocker, confused college student, Certified Public Accountant, bearded graduate student, management consultant, and data analyst.

J. Allen Wolfrum’s writing career began in 2017 with his debut novel, Selected. He uses the unique combination of his Marine Corps, professional and life experience to create a realistic perspective on the political thriller genre. He lives in Southern California with his beautiful wife and two cats.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !

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Book Review: State of Emergency by Mary Hallberg

State of Emergency
Mary Hallberg
CreateSpace, August 2017
ISBN 978-1548327958
Trade Paperback

From the author—

17-year-old Dallas Langdon is fighting off zombies with a pizza cutter.

Dallas has always loved zombie movies. But when she catches a real live (erm, dead) musician eating a man’s intestines backstage after the show, she knows her movies have become a reality. And what do characters in zombie movies do? Seek shelter. Fortunately, Dallas’s eccentric uncle owns a farmhouse in Chattanooga, an eight hour drive from New Orleans. It’s on top of a steep mountain, surrounded by electric fences, and cut off from the worlds of the living and the dead.

Dallas’s parents, still safe at home, laugh at her idea over the phone. Her friends only agree to join her because it’s fall break and they could use a mini vacation anyway.

But then Dallas’s best friend is killed by a zombie horde when they’re attracted to her ringing cell phone. Civilians think their reanimated loved ones simply have the flu, leaving them alive (well, undead) and rapidly increasing the zombies ranks. And since minors can’t buy guns, Dallas’s only weapon is a giant industrial pizza cutter she swipes from a gas station. George A. Romero never mentioned anything like this. With one friend dead and no zombie survival guides to help her, Dallas and her friends must get to Chattanooga before joining the ranks of the undead themselves.

Be honest…if someone told you a zombie outbreak was going on “out there”, would you believe it? I’m pretty sure at first I’d think somebody had come up with a great prank but, the first time I saw one, I’d believe my own eyes. Or, at least, I hope I would so I’d have enough time to run like hell 😉

Fortunately for her pals—sister Talia and friends Ashleigh, Sam and Pierce—Dallas knows right away that she’s looking at a zombie and, better yet, knows how to deal with it, having grown up with zombie movies. Dallas and Talia have an Uncle Jack who has a fortified compound in Tennessee and they all agree to head there as long as it’s just for the weekend. After all, they might be on fall break but they’ll have to get back to school on Monday. So, off they go on a race to find safety, led by a seventeen-year-old girl armed with an industrial-sized pizza cutter.

This was a fun little story  and I found the characters very appealing in one way or another. The brevity of the story meant that there are plot holes here and there but no matter, it’s still a good tale for zombie lovers 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

Book Reviews: Ink by Alice Broadway and Back Roads by William Bitner, Daniel Boyd and Jason Pell

Ink
The Skin Books #1
Alice Broadway
Scholastic Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-19699-3
Hardcover

In Saintstone, the destiny of the soul is determined not by a deity, but by the government. From birth until demise, the body is marked to illustrate the life being lived. At death, the skin is flayed, then bound into a book. If the soul is worthy, the book goes home with the family. If not, it is obliterated by fire and the person is forgotten forever–as if everyone’s collective memories merge with the smoke, dissipate, then disappear.

Leora easily understands this definitive divide and especially embraces it when she loses a loved one. An absence so overwhelming can bring even the staunchest believers to rock bottom. Surfacing secrets shove the bottom away, resulting in a figurative free-fall of uncertainty and doubt.

Hearing something often, particularly from people most admired, certainly makes that thing seem true. Perhaps Leora has been purely parroting the comfort and confidence contrived by her firm trust in her faith. As Obel’s new intern, she is shaken when she attempts to answer his apparently innocuous questions, but finds herself floundering.

His queries feel bold, almost blasphemous. Leora has never had reason to doubt the separation of the despicable blank people from the marked, but when called to support her stance with facts and logic, she is speechless, then stunned. Seeing every single thing in a new light can be disconcerting. No longer knowing who to trust or what to believe, terrifying.

Looking at life through Leora’s eyes is humbling. As she adamantly, albeit ignorantly, explains why the evil White Witch, the first blank, does not deserve to be remembered; it begins to be easier to see what actually is, as opposed to what Leora has always been told. Accepting that real knowledge is indeed power, Leora learns, then she plans. The young girl’s tremendous growth, against all odds is enlightening and empowering.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2018.

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Back Roads
William Bitner, Daniel Boyd & Jason Pell
CreateSpace, March 2017
ISBN 978-1544194806
Trade Paperback

Definitely distinct, yet stitched with a common dark thread, these short stories flow with an inexplicably familiar feel while featuring fresh frights.  Each author seems to settle back and spin yarns with a natural knack for story-telling that evokes an avalanche of emotions. A strong, soft, somber voice speaks.  Instinctively, I am in.  I felt the crisp cold of the mountain air instantly freeze the inside of my nose, heard the ripples and rush of the rivers and felt my heart in my throat and my body tense as turning the page felt like taking a hairpin curve at high speed on a steep mountain road.

Creatures creep from the dark, formative…to spark a spooky image, while monsters mangle with brilliantly bold detail that may make you squeeze your eyes shut.   Substance makes these shorts stand out, as if the writer has wrung a bit of his soul into the words to sneakily seep into the reader.  In some instances, real-life-right-now social, environmental and health issues blur the line between sci-fi and reality, bringing a chilling sense of foreboding along with the ugly, unfiltered view of cruelty and corruption.

I love that these stories show scenic, wild, West Virginia and portray the people honestly; quietly quashing inaccurate stereotypes; humbly highlighting the genuine good.  To me, this book is a treasure chest filled with rare, remarkable jewels that will bring me pleasure every single time I open it.  I enthusiastically recommend it to voracious readers, as well as reluctant ones.  In merely minutes, engage in a tumultuous, terrifying escape….and I mean that in the best way possible.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2017.

Book Review: Murder in Little Shendon by A.H. Richardson

Murder in Little Shendon
A Haxlitt-Brandon Mystery #1
A.H. Richardson
CreateSpace, August 2015
ISBN 978-1515283973
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens — not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper.

Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! From his housekeeper to Lady Armstrong and her household staff. Or could it be the shy librarian new in town? Or the defiant retired army major and his ladyfriend, the post mistress? Or perhaps the weird sisters who live on the edge of town? Then there is the couple who own the local inn and pub, along with the two Americans who are staying there? Even the vicar and his wife fall under the gloom of suspicion.

Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community?

A murder mystery that will keep you reading until you learn the details, uncovered by Police Inspector Stanley Burgess and his two amateur detectives, Sir Victor Hazlitt and Beresford Brandon. The three sift methodically through the Alibis and life stories of the suspects until they uncover…

You are challenged to discover the culprit before the last few pages. And no fair looking ahead — it’s the journey that proves the most enticing.

When I was first offered the opportunity to read and, perhaps, review Murder in Little Shendon, I had never heard of the book, although it came out two years ago, or of the author but I’m drawn to English village mysteries so I thought I’d give it a go and I’m glad I did.

The premise of a village police inspector tackling a murder case is, of course, not new but Ms. Richardson added in two elements that aren’t so common. The murdered man has a connection from the past to MI5, which is certainly not typical of the usual village murder victim, and that leads Inspector Burgess to enlist the aid of Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick (his Watson, if you will), stage actor Beresford Brandon. Sir Victor was active in MI5 and had known the victim, thus the request from Stanley Burgess, and he invites Berry to go along because of his side interest in criminology. The next morning, off they go for a 10-day sojourn in Little Shendon and an adventurous patch of sleuthing with more than one murder and a multitude of suspects and possible motives.

There were a few noticeable construction flaws in this book and the pace is leisurely, almost too much so at times but, on the whole, I spent a very pleasant few hours with this trio trying to get to the bottom of this crime and the village itself was a step back in time. Sir Victor and Berry return in 2016’s Act One, Scene One…Murder and I’m going to make time to check it out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

Book Review: Temptation Trials by B. Truly

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Book Reviews: A Perfect Manhattan Murder by Tracy Kiely and Closing the Book on Santa Claus by Ron Chandler

A Perfect Manhattan Murder
A Nic and Nigel Mystery #3
Tracy Kiely
Midnight Ink, May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7387-4524-4
Trade Paperback

If one reads a lot of crime fiction in various sub-genres, categorizing this novel is easy, just read page one. Indeed, the first paragraph will do it. Echoes of the best of the Golden Age mysteries from England, of the sophisticated not-quite-family-fare motion pictures of the late thirties and early forties, are here.

For the lover of the so-called Cozy Mystery, brought cleverly and carefully to the Twenty-first Century, this is a definite winner. For anyone hooked on Michael Connelly, Lee Child, the darker, more explicit often bloodier and more violent modern thrillers and even true mysteries, this novel could be a little disappointing. Still, for a clever plot, sharp, whizzing dialogue among the principals and scene after scene with the moneyed, beautiful people of New York, parading through elegant up-scale venues, I recommend this story.

Nic and Nigel Martini(!) are back in New York. Nic is a former NYPD detective who left the force to join her husband in a private investigator enterprise on the West Coast. They have been invited by a school chum of Nic to the Broadway opening of a play written by another schoolmate of Nic and Harper’s named Peggy McGrath. Readers are introduced to the players and soon, a thorn appears. The thorn is the husband of Harper. He is a prominent, curmudgeonly, popularly disliked, New York theatre critic who doesn’t seem to practice discretion or restraint in his articles. Predictably, he is soon found dead—murdered. His wife, Harper, is of course accused of the deed and Nic and Nigel swing into action to prove Harper innocent.

The pace is upscale, the dialogue is excellent and the author’s descriptions of place and atmosphere greatly enhance the overall feeling. Then, there is Skippy. Skippy is one of the largest and most unusual characters readers are likely to encounter. He is an adorable, lovely giant Bullmastiff. Skippy is three years old and fills up the room when he saunters in and sprawls on the carpet.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Closing the Book on Santa Claus and Other Holiday Stories
Ron Chandler
CreateSpace, March 2015
ISBN: 9781508434900
Trade Paperback

Author Ron Chandler is a free-lance writer. This collection of nine holiday stories is aimed at people for whom the holiday season can be a bit much. Overwhelming, even. Heavy on the narrative side, the stories are all well-put together with a reasonable cast of varied characters and settings. Readers will find a range of emotional tides, all relating to human relationships and ultimately holiday satisfaction, if not the highest grade of cheer.

Probably the most interesting if bizarre story, is “Inside the Glamorous Life of Lady Plum,” in which the Lady in question experiences a startlingly wide range of life experiences. Like most collections of short fiction, the quality of the writing is a bit uneven, but overall readers should be satisfied. All in all, the slender paperback is a pleasant distraction from the pressures of the season.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.