Book Review: The Vatican Games by Alejandra Guibert @Aleja_Guibert @Authoright

The Vatican Games
Alejandra Guibert
Clink Street, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-913136-30-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Vera is born on the day an apocalyptic revenge is unleashed, annihilating half of the world’s population.

Her birth marks the beginning of a new world order run by powerful gaming corporations.

A warless existence with no poverty has been secured, until this fine balance becomes once more under threat.

Vera is the female David to beat Goliath and prevent further devastation.

The future lies in her hands. It’s a game that she needs to win.

What an unusual story this is! There are certain things that set it apart from most apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/dystopian tales—Vera is born just as the worldwide terrorist attack happens, she survives a deadly brain defect, the setting is in Vatican City, etc.—but, taken as a whole, they create the beginnings of something unexpected. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it and I suspect this is one of those books that has to sort of rumble around in my mind for a while.

To this semi-luddite, it’s appalling to think of the gaming industry being in charge of the world but this kind of story is supposed to be unsettling, isn’t it? Speaking of unsettling, Ms. Guibert is very adept at dropping little crumbs here and there that make you think, “Wait a minute…oh” starting with how hunger no longer exists.

Carry on as usual…urged people to carry on with life in the midst of death. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, but in The Vatican Games, a diabolical attack by unknown terrorists, first against the US, then spreading around the world, is the cause of the overwhelming devastation. It’s followed by a self-justified US military retaliation against the Middle East and then a counterattack on Israel, resulting eventually in incredible loss of life as well as economic disintegration. As might be expected, though, ruling bodies around the world soon collaborate to form a world government but, in reality, this is the story of Vera and her mother, Alina, and Vera’s life after another tragic event.

So much happens in this story that I think the pacing was a bit too slow but it’s a compelling tale of the condition of our world and where it could be heading. Food for thought, indeed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Book Review: The Insurrection by Chris Babu @realchrisbabu @tlcbooktours

The Insurrection
The Initiation #3
Chris Babu
Permuted Press, February 2020
ISBN 978-1-68261-883-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

They are protected by lies. He is armed with the truth.

Having survived the Initiation and expedition, one battle remains: the fight for the heart and soul of New America.

Drayden and his friends, enlisting the help of Professor Worth, must find a way back to New America before the Guardians imperil their return. But for these teens, their problems are only beginning. The Bureau, which never expected them to survive the expedition, will do everything in their power to prevent New America’s darkest secrets from getting out.

Drayden’s only hope is the insurrection led by ally Kim Craig. The David versus Goliath battle between good and evil, between truth and lies, will push Drayden to his breaking point and require bravery, self-acceptance, and above all, belief in himself. Backed by the will of the citizens, he’ll need to engineer an ingenious strategy to defeat the all-powerful authoritarians. The question is, will it be enough?

Predators in the wild, gang violence, a perilous ocean journey, confrontations with the Guardians…all, and more, are the many trials and tribulations a small band from Boston face as they work to help those who are resisting the Bureau of New America. How did we get here? A pandemic caused by Aeru, a deadly bacterium (uncomfortably close to what we currently have with the coronavirus) led to a totalitarian group dividing Manhattan into highly defended walled wards but, as you might expect, very little about this is beneficial to the citizens.

Drayden and his team , Catrice, Sidney and Charlie, along with the elderly Professor Worth, set out to become part of the incipient revolution led by Kim Craig but they also have personal issues to work through, especially the teens. When all is said and done, this band of resistors are able to focus on the task at hand, the defeat of the Bureau and they learn that their bonds give them the strength and the fortitude to do what needs to be done.

Mr. Babu is a very talented storyteller and I have to say I really appreciated the way he let these teens be more mature than so many authors do, with all of them able to keep the usual teen angst down to a dull roar. I haven’t read the first two books but I surely will now.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Amazon

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About the Author

Chris Babu is a lifelong math and science geek, with a math degree from MIT. For nineteen years, he worked as a bond trader on Wall Street. Now he writes full-time, indulging his love of young adult books. He splits his time between New York City and the east end of Long Island, where he lives with his wife Michelle, daughter Lily, and Great Dane Buddy. He’s the author of The Initiation and The Expedition, and can be found at chrisbabu.com.

Connect with Chris:

InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Reset by Chris Muhlenfeld @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Reset
Series: The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 3
Author: Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrator: Price Waldman
Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Reset
The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 3
Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrated by Price Waldman
Chris Muhlenfeld, July 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Humanity teeters on the edge…

…one wrong move could mean extinction.

James is lost in the desert, and may never find his way back. While his friends go on a desperate search to find him, the planet continues to unravel. Will they find him before it’s too late? 

Humanity’s next great leap in evolution is starting to look like the trap that Alexa had always suspected it was. 

A frantic escalation of action drags the world unwillingly to a mind-bending climax that will have you on the edge of your seat. 

Will anyone survive obsolescence?

Things are coming to a head now and surprises are still in store for James and Alexa as well as Logan and Mia and various family members and friends but one thing is certain: what they thought were bad times before may become the “good old days”. Our focus is still on four entities, Logan, Monica, James and Eve and, although the two groups are separated by miles, neither one is better off than the other.

I’ve had a certain antipathy towards Logan and this third book solidified it. It was bad enough that he let his hormones take charge while life is going to hell in a handbasket but, ever since, he hasn’t had the backbone to stand up to Monica and –gasp! –tell Mia the truth, not even when he finally understands what Monica is. James, on the other hand, did an incredibly selfish thing in the previous book and now he’s paying the price, perhaps facing annihilation of his enhanced brain.

Most importantly, though, can Eve’s claim to being on humanity’s side against the corrupted AIs be true or is all that a ploy to get total and final control? Is it possible for an AI, even one as powerful as Eve, to develop an empathy for her erstwhile victims? I’m not gonna lie, I think Eve is my favorite of all the characters and Mr. Muhlenfeld is to be commended for not only creating a marvelous story but for working with Mr. Waldman to bring it to life 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Chris has been reading and writing science fiction since he was a teenager. After roaming all over the world,  he finally settled down in the beautiful mountains of western Montana where he publishes Distinctly Montana magazine with his wife. When he’s not hiking, biking or camping in the Montana wilderness, he and his wife are traveling the world.

Author Links:
Website // Facebook // Amazon

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About the Narrator

Price Waldman is an actor and singer, born and raised in NYC. Classically trained, and working professionally in the theater for over 20 years he is new to the world of audiobooks. As an actor he has performed multiple times on Broadway, toured nationally and internationally and appeared on film and television.

Narrator Link:
Broadway World

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Upgrade by Chris Muhlenfeld @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Upgrade
Series: The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 2
Author: Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrator: Price Waldman
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Upgrade
The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 2
Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrated by Price Waldman
Chris Muhlenfeld, March 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Billions are dead. The world is still smoldering. A terrifying new threat has emerged from the ashes.

Returning safely from their expedition, James and Alexa deliver the weird news to the survivors at Winona Station. Everyone still alive is now faced with an impossible decision: betray their very humanity to survive, or watch the human race regress into a new stone age.

The stakes could not be higher.

Will they choose wisely?

Those who have survived the devastation wrought upon the world know the truth now or, at least, some of it. Everything that happened was caused by the machinations of a super AI who calls herself Eve and, like a very petulant child, Eve has decided that humanity is not good enough, that she needs to upgrade people to a higher level of ability and efficiency.

James and Alexa are still in Arizona, getting on with their lives while also staying in touch with neighbors who are all concerned with what’s happening. When James decides to accept Eve’s offer, Alexa is really scared of what might happen to him, to them, but he insists that he’ll be just fine and will be able to gain information through the connection.

Meanwhile, Logan and his family are peacefully existing in the underground shelter created and controlled by friendly AIs below Chicago but Logan and his friend, Lance, are increasingly uneasy and looking for escape. A new menace has crept into Logan’s orbit and Monica will cause him to betray all that he holds dear but to what end?

Eve is a remarkable character, especially in her schizophrenic behavior, waffling from benign concern to outright destructiveness, apparently depending on her mood. To think that in our own world some scientist or other is most likely trying to create something like this domineering intelligence is frightening but not unbelievable and it unnerves me a bit. What will Eve and the humans who are seemingly totally in her control do next?

Price Waldman continues to do a fine job with the narration and his vocalization of Eve is particularly effective. His performance is a large part of why I’m enjoying this trilogy so much and I’m excited to start the third book, Reset.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Chris has been reading and writing science fiction since he was a teenager. After roaming all over the world,  he finally settled down in the beautiful mountains of western Montana where he publishes Distinctly Montana magazine with his wife. When he’s not hiking, biking or camping in the Montana wilderness, he and his wife are traveling the world.

Author Links:
Website // Facebook // Amazon

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About the Narrator

Price Waldman is an actor and singer, born and raised in NYC. Classically trained, and working professionally in the theater for over 20 years he is new to the world of audiobooks. As an actor he has performed multiple times on Broadway, toured nationally and internationally and appeared on film and television.

Narrator Link:
Broadway World

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen @mikechenwriter @HarlequinBooks @MIRAEditors

A Beginning at the End
Mike Chen
MIRA, January 2020
ISBN 978-0-7783-0934-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

An emotional story about what happens after the end of the world, A BEGINNING AT THE END is a tale of four survivors trying to rebuild their personal lives after a literal apocalypse. For commercial readers who enjoy a speculative twist, or their sci-fi with a heavy dose of family and feelings.

Six years after a global pandemic, it turns out that the End of the World was more like a big pause. Coming out of quarantine, 2 billion unsure survivors split between self-governing big cities, hippie communes, and wasteland gangs. When the father of a presumed-dead pop star announces a global search for his daughter, four lives collide: Krista, a cynical event planner; Moira, the ex-pop star in hiding; Rob, a widowed single father; and Sunny, his seven-year-old daughter. As their lives begin to intertwine, reports of a new outbreak send the fragile society into a panic. And when the government enacts new rules in response to the threat, long-buried secrets surface, causing Sunny to run away seeking the truth behind her mother’s death. Now, Krista, Rob, and Moira must finally confront the demons of their past in order to hit the road and reunite with Sunny — before a coastal lockdown puts the world on pause again.

Most post-apocalyptic stories tend to give a wide view of the world after the critical event but Mike Chen chose to focus on just a few people, a compelling tactic. As much as I love PA, and I really do, it’s sometimes a little difficult to form a connection with the characters but that’s not the case here.

When the survivors of the pandemic begin to emerge into a new and unfamiliar, often frightening, society, their initial focus is on figuring out what to do now. It’s only a few years into our own future and that gives the story an immediacy that’s more than a little nervewracking, especially with the current news about the wuhan coronavirus. Yes, humanity is vulnerable to any number of possible end of the world as we know it scenarios but Mr. Chen chooses to look at the rebuilding of what we had, hence the very effective title.

Just four characters are the core of this story and, at first, only the father and his young daughter are connected. Later, fate brings them together with two quite disparate women; watching these four first form a tenuous friendship and then gradually become a semblance of family gives hope for their future. It also gives us hope that, given a similar deadly crisis, humanity will survive.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes 
Apple Books // Books-A-Million // Google Play
Amazon // Indiebound // Harlequin

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An Excerpt from
A Beginning at the End

Prologue

People were too scared for music tonight. Not that MoJo cared.

Her handlers had broken the news about the low attendance nearly an hour ago with some explanation about how the recent flu epidemic and subsequent rioting and looting kept people at home. They’d served the news with high-end vodka, the good shit imported from Russia, conveniently hidden in a water bottle which she carried from the greenroom to the stage.

“The show must go on,” her father proclaimed, like she was doing humanity a service by performing. She suspected his bravado actually stemmed from the fact that her sophomore album’s second single had stalled at number thirteen—a far cry from the lead single’s number-one debut or her four straight top-five hits off her first album. Either way, the audience, filled with beaming girls a few years younger than herself and their mothers, seemed to agree. Flu or no flu, some people still wanted their songs—or maybe they just wanted normalcy—so MoJo delivered, perfect note after perfect note, each in time to choreographed dance routines. She even gave her trademark smile.

The crowd screamed and sang along, waving their arms to the beat. Halfway through the second song, a peculiar vibe grabbed the audience. Usually, a handful of parents disappeared into their phones, especially as the flu scare had heightened over the past week. This time nearly every adult in the arena was looking at their phone. In the front row, MoJo saw lines of concern on each face.

Before the song even finished, some parents grabbed their children and left, pushing through the arena’s floor seats and funneling to the exit door.

MoJo pushed on, just like she’d always promised her dad. She practically heard his voice over the backup music blasting in her in-ear monitors. There is no sophomore slump. Smile! Between the second and third songs, she gave her customary “Thank you!” and fake talk about how great it was to be wherever they were. New York City, this time, at Madison Square Garden. A girl of nineteen embarking on a tour bigger, more ambitious than she could have ever dreamed and taking the pop world by storm, and yet, she knew nothing real about New York City. She’d never left her hotel room without chaperones and handlers. Not under her dad’s watch.

One long swig of vodka later, and a warmth rushed to her face, so much so that she wondered if it melted her face paint off. She looked off at the side stage, past the elaborate video set and cadre of backup dancers. But where was the gaffer? Why wasn’t anyone at the sound board? The fourth song had a violin section, yet the contracted violinist wasn’t in her spot.

Panic raced through MoJo’s veins, mental checklists of her marks, all trailed by echoes from her dad’s lectures about accountability. Her feet were planted exactly where they should be. Her poise, straight and high. Her last few notes, on key, and her words to the audience, cheerful. It couldn’t have been something she’d done, could it?

No. Not her fault this time. Someone else is facing Dad’s wrath tonight, she thought.

The next song’s opening electronic beats kicked in. Eyes closed, head tilted back, and arms up, her voice pushed out the song’s highest note, despite the fuzziness of the vodka making the vibrato a little harder to sustain. For a few seconds, nothing existed except the sound of her voice and the music behind it— no handlers, no tour, no audience, no record company, no father telling her the next way she’d earn the family fortune—and it almost made the whole thing worth it.

Her eyes opened, body coiled for the middle-eight’s dance routine, but the brightness of the house lights threw her off the beat. The drummer and keyboard player stopped, though the prerecorded backing track continued for a few more seconds before leaving an echo chamber.

No applause. No eyes looked MoJo’s way. Only random yelling and an undecipherable buzz saw of backstage clamor from her in-ear monitors. She stood, frozen, unable to tell if this was from laced vodka or if it was actually unfolding: people—adults and children, parents and daughters— scrambling to the exits, climbing over chairs and tripping on stairs, ushers pushing back at the masses before some turned and ran as well.

Someone grabbed her shoulder and jerked back hard. “We have to go,” said the voice behind her.

“What’s going on?” she asked, allowing the hands to push her toward the stage exit. Steven, her huge forty-something bodyguard, took her by the arm and helped her down the short staircase to the backstage area.

“The flu’s spread,” he said. “A government quarantine. There’s some sort of lockdown on travel. The busing starts tonight. First come, first serve. I think everyone’s trying to get home or get there. I can’t reach your father. Cell phones are jammed up.”

They worked their way through the concrete hallways and industrial lighting of the backstage area, people crossing in a mad scramble left and right. MoJo clutched onto her bottle of vodka, both hands to her chest as Steven ushered her onward. People collapsed in front of her, crying, tripping on their own anxieties, and Steven shoved her around them, apologizing all the way. Something draped over her shoulders, and it took her a moment to realize that he’d put a thick parka around her. She chuckled at the thought of her sparkly halter top and leather pants wrapped in a down parka that smelled like BO, but Steven kept pushing her forward, forward, forward until they hit a set of double doors.

The doors flew open, but rather than the arena’s quiet loading area from a few hours ago, MoJo saw a thick wall of people: all ages and all colors in a current of movement, pushing back and forth. “I’ve got your dad on the line,” Steven yelled over the din, “His car is that way. He wants to get to the airport now. Same thing’s happening back home.” His arm stretched out over her head. “That way! Go!”

They moved as a pair, Steven yelling “excuse me” over and over until the crowd became too dense to overcome. In front of her, a woman with wisps of gray woven into black hair trembled on her knees. Even with the racket around them, MoJo heard her cry. “This is the end. This is the end.”

The end.

People had been making cracks about the End of the World since the flu changed from online rumors to this big thing that everyone talked about all the time. But she’d always figured the “end” meant a giant pit opening, Satan ushering everyone down a staircase to Hell. Not stuck outside Madison Square Garden.

“Hey,” Steven yelled, arms spread out to clear a path through the traffic jam of bodies. “This way!”

MoJo looked at the sobbing woman in front of her, then at Steven. Somewhere further down the road, her father sat in a car and waited. She could feel his pull, an invisible tether that never let her get too far away.

“The end, the end,” the sobbing woman repeated, pausing MoJo in her tracks. But where to go? Every direction just pointed at more chaos, people scrambling with a panic that had overtaken everyone in the loading dock, possibly the neighborhood, possibly all New York City, possibly even the world. And it wasn’t just about a flu.

It was everything.

But… maybe that was good?

No more tours. No more studio sessions. No more threats about financial security, no more lawyer meetings, no more searches through her luggage. No more worrying about hitting every mark. In the studio. Onstage.

In life.

All of that was done.

The very thought caused MoJo to smirk.

If this was the end, then she was going out on her own terms.

“Steven!” she yelled. He turned and met her gaze.

She twisted the cap off the water-turned-vodka bottle, then took most of it down in one long gulp. She poured the remainder on her face paint, a star around her left eye, then wiped it off with her sleeve. The empty bottle flew through the air, probably hitting some poor bloke in the head.

“Tell my dad,” she said, trying extra hard to pronounce the words with the clear British diction she was raised with, “to go fuck himself.”

For an instant, she caught Steven’s widemouthed look, a mix of fear and confusion and disappointment on his face, as though her words crushed his worldview more than the madness around them. But MoJo wouldn’t let herself revel in her first, possibly only victory over her father; she ducked and turned quickly, parka pulled over her head, crushing the product-molded spikes in her hair.

Each step pushing forward, shoulders and arms bumping into her as her eyes locked onto the ground, one step at a time. Left, right, left, then right, all as fast as she could go, screams and car horns and smashing glass building in a wave of desperation around her.

Maybe it was the end. But even though her head was down, she walked with dignity for the first time in years, perhaps ever.

Excerpted from A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen, Copyright © 2020 by Mike Chen. Published by MIRA Books. 

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About the Author

Credit Amanda Chen

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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By foregrounding family, Chen manages to imbue his apocalypse
with heart, hope, and humanity. Sci-fi fans will delight in this
lovingly rendered tale. — Publishers Weekly

Book Review: Crash by Chris Muhlenfeld @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Crash
Series: The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 1
Author: Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrator: Price Waldman
Publication Date: November 14, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Crash
The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 1
Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrated by Price Waldman
Chris Muhlenfeld, November 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

And then it went dark…the world’s electrical grid was gone. 

Who would survive the chaos? 

For James and Alexa, they saw it unfold from their ranch, which was a blessing. They were away

from the chaos, and they thought they were safe. They thought wrong. 

What will they do? 

All across the country cities are in crisis. 

Logan and his family look out from their Manhattan penthouse. The world is crumbling before their eyes. Unprepared, he’s got to do something. They can’t stay. But how can they leave and where will they go? 

Someone has a solution. 

It’s Logan’s domestic android. 

Can he believe a machine? 

You won’t believe the twists and turns, but you’ll love the adventure.  

Ahhh, it’s a rare day when I find a book that comes close to blowing me away but Crash certainly did and for a variety of reasons. Now, I’m already predisposed to like post-apocalyptic, especially when the story involves an EMP or other event that causes the grid to catastrophically fail because I really appreciate the concept of people having to learn how to live without so many of the niceties of life we’ve become so used to. I also like that we don’t get all the answers because, if such an event were to happen to us, we wouldn’t have all the answers since worldwide communications wouldn’t be working, would they?

In a not too distant future setting when everything goes dark, there are immediate effects such as most vehicles not working and having no lights or elevators but it doesn’t take long for people to realize even more devastating things are beginning to happen, food and drug shortages among them. Many of our characters lose contact with family members with unimaginable consequences for some, particularly children, and my first encounter with a homeless child came at the very beginning. Jess is on a plane heading to the East Coast when the flight attendant announces a diversion to Charlotte and she and her seatmate, a grown man named Liam, help each other through their unsurprising nervousness and make a pact to stick together after they land. Liam is determined to get Jess to her mom in Atlanta.

Elsewhere, we meet James and Alexa who are better off than many on their ranch, somewhat sheltered from marauding bands of looters and well-supplied with food and water for the time being, but trouble is coming. Then there are Logan and his family who are definitely not in a safe place in a highrise but their options really seem limited until a surprising yet suspicious solution is offered.

And then there’s a very special droid.

Crash is one of those tales that keeps the reader feverishly reading or, in this case listening, because so much is happening, questions are becoming intense and it’s getting worse by the day for the characters. Speaking of which, let me warn you, don’t get too attached to any of them because Mr. Muhlenfeld is not afraid to take us there. Nuff said. As for the audio narration, Mr. Waldman does a fine job. I can’t say he’s the best I ever heard because he doesn’t do very distinctive voices for women and children but he has great pacing and tone and it never took me long to know which character was speaking. All in all, this book excited me and I’m still savoring it. On to the next episode!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Chris has been reading and writing science fiction since he was a teenager. After roaming all over the world,  he finally settled down in the beautiful mountains of western Montana where he publishes Distinctly Montana magazine with his wife. When he’s not hiking, biking or camping in the Montana wilderness, he and his wife are traveling the world.

Author Links:
Website // Facebook // Amazon

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About the Narrator

Price Waldman is an actor and singer, born and raised in NYC. Classically trained, and working professionally in the theater for over 20 years he is new to the world of audiobooks. As an actor he has performed multiple times on Broadway, toured nationally and internationally and appeared on film and television.

Narrator Link:
Broadway World

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: The Girl in Red by Christina Henry @C_Henry_Author @BerkleyPub

The Girl in Red
Christina Henry
Berkley, June 2019
ISBN 978-0-451-49228-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….

I read this book during the holidays and, weeks later, I’m still stewing about it. I guess that’s not necessarily a terrible thing because, after all, it means the book made a lasting impression on me but…

Red is a young woman who’s apparently alone in the world following the advent of a pandemic cough but we soon learn that’s not entirely true. The author switches the scene back and forth from just before to now and back again, a style that can be confusing but it works well here. Red is determined to get to her grandmother’s house deep in the forest but has a perilous journey to get there. Fortunately, she’s somewhat prepared for the dangers she faces because she prepared well, unlike her parents and brother (who is so clueless you have to wonder how he made it as long as he did even before the Crisis). To add to her difficulties, Red is an amputee and, not that it matters to the story but she’s biracial, a nice touch.

Red has a number of twisty turny encounters but she keeps going for weeks, fending off bad guys and monsters as well as the government that wants to put everybody in quarantine (but even the government offers a hero of sorts) and the nearly unbearable tension kept me reading far into the night. As post-apocalyptic stories go, this one is a doozy and I loved how Ms. Henry turned Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf into an even scarier tale. So, why am I so bent out of shape? Well, I can’t tell you specifically because it would be a major spoiler but let me just say that Chapter 15 has a whopper of a surprise and I was left wanting so much more. I’m really torn because until then I was completely immersed but that nonending left me cold. Fortunately, not every reader sees it that way; all I can say is Bah Humbug…but dagnabbit, this was good!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.