Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Those Across the River

Those Across the River
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: Read and reviewed in October 2011 from a copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Synopsis: Frank Nichols had carried on an affair with Eudora Lehman for two years before her husband discovered them. Disgraced and blacklisted, Frank has been unable to find another job in a University, but, in what appears to be a great stroke of luck, he inherits a house from his late mother’s sister. She warns him to just sell the house – to not move down to Georgia – but he decides that it would be a good idea to write a book about his great-grandfather who, after the end of the Civil War, refused to release his slaves and treated them so badly that they rose up in revolt and killed him, his family, and all his livestock. So, he and Dora move to Whitbrow, Georgia, where Dora has been offered a teaching position to replace Frank’s aunt in the high school. However, it’s not long after they arrive that Frank begins to notice the superstitious awe with which the townsfolk view Megiddo forest, across the river. Once a month, on the full moon, they send two pigs over the river – no one is really sure how this began, although there are a lot of rumors. However, times are hard, and the townsfolk decide to stop wasting pigs they could be eating. That’s when things begin to go horribly wrong. That’s when people begin to die …

My Thoughts: I’ve read a lot of creepy books over the past couple of months; I think this is the creepiest. The build-up of suspense and horror starts slowly and subtly, with hints and clues and vague allegations. However, once those across the river are revealed completely, things progress rapidly. A crescendo is reached and it seems like that might be the end, only for things to start back up, reach another crescendo … it’s like watching a horror movie when you think the monster is dead, but they aren’t really and they pop back out at you time and again. I loved it - I think it might give me nightmares, but I loved it! If you like horror, you will LOVE Those Across the River.

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Giveaway: Portal Arcane 1: "Reversion: The Inevitable Horror" by J. Thorn, plus some MUSIC!

Hey, folks! So sorry I didn't have a giveaway up last Monday, or on time this week.  The person I was supposed to be hosting said, "Yeah, let's do this," and then never followed up with what was to be given away or any of the necessary details to actually, you know, do this.  So I moved to the next person on the list, and then ... ended up in the ER when I would normally have been setting up the giveaway, and have been sleeping since then.  As a result, I'll be running this one until Tuesday, May 7 at 12 a.m..

Well, but hopefully it was worth the wait!  Check out this awesome cover!  Portal Arcane is a series of either long novellas or short books being written by J. Thorn, and this is the first in the series, Reversion, The Inevitable Horror.  I read an ARC version of the book, and that review can be seen here.  I edited the second book in the series, The Law of Three: A New Wasteland, so I didn't write a review, but I really enjoyed the story, so hopefully if you enjoy the worlds that J. is building, you'll want to read the next one, too!

A neat little detail about J. Thorn.  Throughout all of his books he will reference a band called Threefold Law.  It just so happens to be a band he is in!  They play some great rock music; go check them out here.  To give you an idea, here is a list of a few of their songs, which I think you should be able to play right from here. "Killer of the Sultan" is one of my favorites:

Well, all that said, let's do this giveaway, shall we? J. will be providing three copies of the book in .mobi format to three winners. If you prefer .epub, please note that and he will convert it via Calibre for you. Just be certain you provide me your correct e-mail address so I can contact you if you win! Here's the Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Evernight

Evernight by Claudia Gray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Please note: Read in August, 2008 from a copy provided by Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult

My Synopsis: Bianca has lived her entire 16 years in a small town - Arrowhead - until her parents take jobs as teachers at prestigious Evernight Academy. Evernight is populated by students who are mostly beautiful, and all rich. Bianca, being terminally shy, has a difficult time fitting in with this crowd and becomes friends with several of the new students, who also are outsiders.

A twist about half-way through causes Bianca to realize more about herself than she really wanted to know. In love with Lucas Ross, she is forced to confront her beliefs in the world as she has been taught.

My Thoughts: This is a terrifically fun read, and one I could recommend most strongly. It is written to be accessible to the junior high to high school crowd, and will be probably most loved by those who consider themselves to be "outsiders" - the shy and the lonely. That should not deter you from reading this very well-written book by a new author who I hope to see more from.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Department of Redundancy Department: More Editing tips

So, as an editor I tend to notice a lot of things when I'm reading that just drive me crazy! You may remember my recent post We Gotta Get out of this Habit, addressing the distressing tendency so many people have to overuse the words "got" and "get". Well, along a similar vein, let's talk about redundancy. This happens far too often. Take this paragraph, for example:

Shannon stood to his feet and walked down the sidewalk to the street. Shrugging his shoulders, he looked both ways, turning his head, and then nodded his head up and down a few times, as though coming to some internal decision. The street stretched empty and uninhabited. He knelt to his knees, then rose to his feet, holding the weed he'd pulled from the crack in the sidewalk while shaking his head side to side to indicate no. The whole entire world seemed to hold its breath.

Do you see all the redundancies in that paragraph? I know I see them. Phrases like "stood to his feet" and "shrugging his shoulder" and "nodded his head up and down", multiple adjectives that mean the same thing. Let me show you the cleaned-up version of this same paragraph.

Shannon stood and followed the sidewalk to the street. Shrugging, he looked both ways and nodded, as though coming to some internal decision. The street stretched, desolate. He knelt then stood, holding the weed he'd pulled from the crack in the sidewalk while shaking his head. The entire world seemed to hold its breath.

The whole thing is sort of stupid, but I hope it made my point. Some other redundant phrases I've seen lately:
"sipping at a drink"
"wave her hand"
"rose to her knees" or "rose to her feet"

Anyway, I hope you understand what I mean.  The thing is, your story isn't just about word count.  I know a lot of people who are obsessed about word count, and that will cause them to pad out their story with unnecessary words and phrases.  Keep it clean.  That doesn't mean you need to be terse and staccato, but there is no need for some of the extras I've seen lately.

Until next time...

Review: Talulla Rising

Talulla Rising
Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: fans of werewolf stories, those who like Duncan's style, those who find werewolves tragic and might like to see a different type.
Trigger Warnings: Lots of “Mommy” triggers. If you have children, be prepared to cringe a lot. Rape (male, female). Murder.

My Thoughts: This book is a sequel to The Last Werewolf (that review linked here where formatting allowed). Even the synopsis for this book has spoilers for the last, so if you have not yet read The Last Werewolf, and you do not wish to have it spoiled for you, it would be in your best interest to not read any of the plot details about this book. However, I have tried to keep my review spoiler-free, so you should be okay through to my disclosure.

I should warn that if you are looking for the same sort of wry, understated humor as the first book, you will be disappointed. Duncan switches writing style to match this new character, Talulla. Jake was a very old werewolf, one who had been alive almost 200 years, had seen it all, done it all, been through it all—and it showed. Talulla, however, is young as werewolves go, is still learning her way through things, still coming to terms with things, and doesn't have the same sort of feel to her voice. So, in many ways, this is a very different book. Oh, there are still plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, especially in the first few chapters, set in Alaska. But in many ways, while I called the first book Urban Fantasy, this is a much darker book; one I would almost label as horror, but not quite (based on the ending, which is not a horror-book ending). I especially want to warn mothers. If you've read the synopsis, then you know Talulla's son is kidnapped. This is just one of the very mother-nightmare-inducing things that happens in the book, and honestly? One of the mildest. So be prepared to spend a lot of time, if you are a mother, freaking right out.

Because this book is written by a different person, so to speak, it has a very different feel to it. That beautiful, polished lyricism that Jake possessed, based upon his age and the age in which he was born, is missing from American, Manhattan-raised Talulla. But that didn't make the story any less absorbing. Oftentimes werewolf stories make me too sad. I find the idea of werewolves to be unbearably tragic, since the traditional werewolf becomes feral at the full moon, unable to control him- or herself, and thus often destroys those around him or her unknowingly, leaving them depressed and upset once they are aware. However, Duncan's werewolves do not go feral—they maintain consciousness, full memory of who they are—they just have the Hunger to deal with. They must kill and eat at the full moon or, eventually, they will die. Although this is still often tragic, to me it's not quite as tragic for some reason. I guess because they have some choice in the matter. At any rate, all this basically means that if you are like me and find the idea of werewolves to be sad, you might enjoy these books anyway.

I can see some potentials for additional books in this universe. What will the small roads to friendship with the vampires (revealed late in the book) lead to? What about Mia? Will she forgive the thing with Caleb? How about Marco? What will happen with him? How about the “new” werewolves? The idea of packs has been born—will that make them more or less susceptible to WOCOP's Hunts? Or will the Hunts continue? Questions, questions, questions. I hope to see more!

I've decided to continue the theme by next reading Benjamin Percy's upcoming book Red Moon, so expect some compare and contrasts. Meanwhile, if you enjoy werewolf books—or even if you don't, based upon that previous paragraph—you will want to read this one. I have picked up a copy of Duncan's book I, Lucifer based on how much I enjoy his writing and will be reading it when I can, which basically means I highly recommend Duncan in general, and these werewolf books in particular. Check 'em out.

Disclosure: I received an uncorrected proof ARC through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: When I change I change fast. The moon drags the whatever-it-is up from the earth and it goes through me with crazy wriggling impatience . . . I’m twisted, torn, churned, throttled—then rushed through a blind chicane into ludicrous power . . . A heel settles. A last canine hurries through. A shoulder blade pops. The woman is a werewolf.

The woman is Talulla Demetriou.

She’s grieving for her werewolf lover, Jake, whose violent death has left her alone with her own sublime monstrousness. On the run, pursued by the hunters of WOCOP (World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena), she must find a place to give birth to Jake’s child in secret.

The birth, under a full moon at a remote Alaska lodge, leaves Talulla ravaged, but with her infant son in her arms she believes the worst is over—until the windows crash in, and she discovers that the worst has only just begun . . .

What follows throws Talulla into a race against time to save both herself and her child as she faces down the new, psychotic leader of WOCOP, a cabal of blood-drinking religious fanatics, and (rumor has it) the oldest living vampire.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: The Last Werewolf

The Last Werewolf
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of urban fantasy, werewolf stories, beautiful writing
Trigger Warnings: murder, eating people, sex

My Thoughts: “You love life because life's all there is. There's no God and that's His only Commandment.

Ultimately, this book is a love letter to life, and to living life as fully as possible. It's by parts heartbreaking, hilarious, and always a wonderful story. It has the most beautiful language. The humor is an often-subtle thing, although at times it bordered on farce. I repeatedly laughed at Jake's constant comments about “if this were a movie” or “if I were on Buffy” or “If this were the book version...” I thought that was hilarious. In fact, most of the dialogue—whether it was internal or with someone else—was just priceless.

I think the best way to really give you an idea of what it is I mean is to share a few of the quotes I highlighted while reading:
“You love life because life’s all there is. There’s no God and that’s His only Commandment.”

“I still have feelings but I'm sick of having them. Which is another feeling I'm sick of having.”

“The whole disease of your life written but for that last lesion of the heart, its malignancy and muse.”

“She pulled her chin in at the absurdity of that, glanced away to the invisible documentary-maker who’s always with her. Madeline’s narcissism reconfigures awkward moments as opportunities for into-camera astonishment.”

“There's always someone's father, someone's mother, someone's wife, someone's son. This is the problem with killing and eating people. One of the problems.”

“Oh God,” he said, quietly. “You don’t know what it’s like with her.”
“For the love of Mary,” I said. “I get it, she’s got a nifty twat.”
Do you see what I mean? The lyricalness of the narrative, the humor of the dialogue (internal and external). There is really nothing but to read it for yourself. Highly recommended. I'm very excited to move on to the sequel, Talulla Rising, and more determined than ever to pick up I, Lucifer.

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you'd never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you—and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.

Jake's depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide—even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive. 

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Friday Funny: George Carlin on driving courtesy

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Be seduced! Pre-order "Seduction" by M.J. Rose today!

Coming May 1 to Now is Gone (and all outlets) is my review of Seduction by M.J. Rose.  The book itself is scheduled for release May 7, but YOU can pre-order a copy TODAY if you want!  Not only that, but by pre-ordering the book, you will receive extra swag and a chance to win that gorgeous necklace on the cover.

For more information, follow this link over to M.J.'s site, where you can pre-order the book, enter to win other prizes, see the blurb and some advance praise, and a chance to join a by-invitation-only book club for May.

Again, be sure to say I sent you so we both have a chance to win!

Review: Enlightened Ones

Enlightened Ones
Enlightened Ones by Lacey Reah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: I edited this New Adult novel for the author. I do not receive remuneration based upon sales.

Genre: Literary fiction
Trigger Warnings: domestic violence, authority figures taking sexual advantage of those under their authority, brainwashing, cults
Reading Level: New Adult

My Thoughts: This was a very difficult book to read, and that's a compliment. The reason I say that is because this stirred up strong emotional reactions while I was editing it, and for me, a writer that can create strong, visceral reactions is a good writer. It will not be an easy book for anyone to read, because it deals with heavy issues, but it's a very worthwhile one. Go check it out.

Synopsis: When Maggi turns eighteen and realizes that she has nothing to show for it, she looks for meaning by joining a church of people called “Enlightened Ones,” led by the enigmatic John Cronus. As she is pulled deeper into this organization, the stories of its people are unveiled, revealing how they all joined the church seeking their own form of fulfillment. The followers give up all their worldly possessions to start a commune on a distant island paradise. Will they find the utopia they seek, or will they be pulled into a menace that is even darker than the lives they left behind?

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Thursday Thunder: "The Ultimate Bohab" by GWAR off Beyond Hell

This song includes an absolutely epic guitar riff, where they say, "'Cause this is how we roll this is what we do, we're fucking your girlfriend right in front of you."  Listen and enjoy.

Caution: Explicit and violent lyrics

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Write your own stories in the comments!

I'm trying an experiment in images.  Feel free to write your own story about one or all of these in the comments.  Want to try it yourself?  

Cover Reveal and upcoming release announcement for "The Enlightened Ones" by Lacey Reah

Lacey Reah (who wrote the dark fantasy novella Fireflies, my review linked here) let me work on her soon-to-be-released second book, Enlightened Ones.  It should be available on Amazon and Lulu soon, and believe me when I say I'll be letting you know as soon as it's available!  This is a very dark and difficult book about the dangers of cults and brainwashing, a New Adult novel about how the attempts to find oneself can sometimes lead to subsuming that self within the confines of another's dreams, and I think anyone interested in these ideas will love this story.

Here's the synopsis:

When Maggi turns eighteen and realizes that she has nothing to show for it, she looks for meaning by joining a church of people called “Enlightened Ones,” led by the enigmatic John Cronus. As she is pulled deeper into this organization, the stories of its people are unveiled, showing how they all joined the church seeking their own form of fulfillment. The followers give up all their worldly possessions to start a commune on a distant island paradise. Will they find the utopia they seek, or will they be pulled into a menace that is even darker than the lives they left behind?

Watch for this one; it's going to be epic!  I'm so pleased to let you all know about this book, and to show you the gorgeous cover.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Zombies, Vampires and Texans! Oh, my!!!: Do You Think I'm Pretty? Because I Don't...But I'm...

This is a great post, very important stuff.  We need to remember to love ourselves, and to treat one another with kindness and respect, not tear one another down.  Go read this post...

Zombies, Vampires and Texans! Oh, my!!!: Do You Think I'm Pretty? Because I Don't...But I'm...: Reflecting back on the last few weeks with all the cruel and salacious attacks on several women in the public eye for their weight and appe...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: The Madman's Daughter

The Madman's Daughter
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Recommended for: People who enjoy YA paranormal esp. with romantic triangles
Trigger Warnings: murder
Animal Abuse: Vivisection

My Thoughts: It's so crazy how much things have changed since the time period in which this is set. Take this section:
He rolled up my sleeve, then brushed a finger against the sensitive skin of my inner elbow. My breath caught. I was alone in a young man's room, letting him touch me in places he shouldn't even see. Oh my, what a hussy, showing off her inner arm! Meanwhile, I'm reading this in a T-back tank top and shorts while sitting outside in the sun...
What really bothered me about this is that despite her stated modesty and propriety in the story, she's shown on the front cover with her hair loose, and a loose gown hanging off her shoulder, and barefoot.

Here's the thing. This was a tossed-across-the-room book. I finished it, which is the only reason it received 2 stars. Why did I end up throwing it across the room in a fit of pique? Because of Juliet. GAH! Juliet... Here's the thing. Remember last week with my “too stupid to live” heroine (see review linked here where formatting allowed)? Juliet is the same way. She would put herself into really idiotically dangerous situations and then she'd end up panicking and becoming absolutely useless. Or throwing a conniption fit and becoming absolutely useless. The only reason I finished the book was because I enjoyed The Island of Dr. Moreau and I enjoyed the other characters: Montgomery, Edward, Balthasar, Alice. Henri Moreau himself was a jerk, but the rest I just felt sorry for.

It's really a pity, this book had a lot of promise. But I just ended up so annoyed by the end that I had to throw it to rid myself of some of that aggravation. If you like this sort of book, please don't let me stop you, but I will not be bothering with the rest of this trilogy, nor will I be bothering with the movie when/if it is made. PASS!

Disclosure: I received a paperback ARC from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.

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J. Taylor Presents: Cover Reveal. "Crossroads" by Jonathan Lister


Release Date: November 4, 2013
Target Reader: Adult
Back of the Book

Werewolf. Bar bouncer. Dad. Standard traits for any self-respecting, reformed criminal, living under the radar in Demos City. For Leon Gray, normal is what he wants—for himself and his not-yet-changed teenage daughter.

Playing bodyguard to crusading reporter David Hastings would totally ruin Leon’s peace, especially since Hastings has hired killers on his trail, pros who know how he takes his espresso in the morning, and where Leon lives. 

The payoff, though, would fill up Shauna’s empty college fund, and in a battle between opportunity and ordinary, money wins. He just has to keep Hastings alive long enough to cash the check.

If only he didn’t have to save his daughter, too. 

As a budding wolf, she’s piqued the interest of a local pack Alpha—one Leon knows will steal Shauna right out from under him the first chance he gets. 

Leon isn’t about to give up on his daughter or Hastings, and will fight for both longer than it took Demos City to see werewolves as equals to humans.

He can only hope it doesn’t take a thousand years.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review: A Book of Tongues

A Book of Tongues
A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: I read this book in November, 2011 from an e-galley I received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Synopsis: “Reverend” Ash Rook and Chess Pargeter run one of the most notorious gangs in the weird west, using Rev’s hexes in order to rob and murder their way across the country. They are also lovers, as in love as two apparently soulless outlaws can be. However, hexes don’t mix, and that is a serious disadvantage to the Rev’s future plans – so he sets out to make it possible for hexes to work together. In doing so, he will raise a pantheon of lost gods back from their own hell and set them loose upon the world. Agent Ed Morrow of the Pinkerton Agency has infiltrated their gang in order to try to establish parameters that it is hoped will help the US find hexes before they come into their power and nurture them, in order to have them work for the government. However, Ed is found out by Rook and ends up a part of Rook’s plans, all unwitting. Will Rook end up sacrificing everything he ever loved in his quest for power? Will Ed survive the whole experience? And will the world survive the cataclysms that may arise along with the ancient Meso-american gods?

My Thoughts and Recommendations: This was a … very strange book. I liked it – a lot! It was unique and I definitely enjoyed all the Aztec/Mayan legends and lore that were worked into the story. Rook and Chess’ love affair was so beautifully dysfunctional, and the supporting cast of characters were all developed in such a way to give them depth and interest. I particularly liked Hosteen. If you enjoy steampunk, “weird West,” and adventure, and are not bothered by m/m interactions, you should find something to enjoy in this delightfully strange and different story.

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Review: The Blood Gospel

The Blood Gospel
The Blood Gospel by James Rollins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Historical fiction/Supernatural Thriller
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Folks who enjoy treasure-hunt type stories, stories that intertwine history with fantasy, fast-paced thrillers
Trigger Warnings: murder, torture, child abuse (implied), child murder (historical)

My Thoughts: Come on, who can resist a book that combines ancient religious conspiracies with vampires? I know I can't!

The story is fast-paced and that helps prevent the reader worrying too much about details. However, some things stood out to me. For instance, as far as I'm aware (and if so, it's only recently), Stetson does not make a straw cowboy hat. Stetson is the gold-standard for cowboy hats and makes high-quality felt hats. Also, at one point Rhun bloodies his palm “where the nails had been driven into the palms of Christ.” However, research has shown there is absolutely no way that anyone was crucified by driving nails through his hands; the small bones would not support the weight of the body and would rip free. Likely the nails would have been driven through the wrist, between the major bones of the arm.

Jordan is really funny. Every time I laughed, it was at something Jordan said. For instance:
We [solders] just bang on it [mass spectrometer] with rocks, Doc, but it seems to work.”

Or this conversation with Erin:
[Erin:] “What do you think they want with us?”
[Jordan:] ... “Don't know. Maybe to debrief us. Swear us to secrecy. Maybe give us a million dollars.”
[Erin:] “Why a million dollars?”
He shrugged. “Why not? I'm just saying... let's be optimistic.”

I felt really badly about Magor and Bathory. Yeah, Magor was a vicious, bloodthirsty killing machine, but he was so devoted to Bathory. The scene made me cry.

There were a lot of “Oh!” moments in the story, like when they revealed who the Vitandus was, who Aloysha was, and who the head of the Belial was. These were sprinkled through the story, providing one surprise after another. It kept things interesting!

In the end, I really enjoyed the story. I'm not well-enough versed in Church history to know how much of the dogma and history used in the story is accurate, but it is provided in such a way as to keep the reader interested and focused on the story. The pace is fast and furious, and it definitely keeps you reading. If you like these sort of stories, don't hesitate. It's a good 'un.

Disclosure: I received an ARC paperback from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: An earthquake in Masada, Israel, kills hundreds and reveals a tomb buried in the heart of the mountain. A trio of investigators—Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist—are sent to explore the macabre discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl.

But a brutal attack at the site sets the three on the run, thrusting them into a race to recover what was once preserved in the tomb’s sarcophagus: a book rumored to have been written by Christ’s own hand, a tome that is said to hold the secrets to His divinity. But the enemy who hounds them is like no other, a force of ancient evil directed by a leader of impossible ambitions and incalculable cunning.

From crumbling tombs to splendorous churches, Erin and her two companions must confront a past that traces back thousands of years, to a time when ungodly beasts hunted the dark spaces of the world, to a moment in history when Christ made a miraculous offer, a pact of salvation for those who were damned for eternity.

Here is a novel that is explosive in its revelation of a secret history. Why do Catholic priests wear pectoral crosses? Why are they sworn to celibacy? Why do the monks hide their countenances under hoods? And why does Catholicism insist that the consecration of wine during Mass results in its transformation to Christ’s own blood? The answers to all go back to a secret sect within the Vatican, one whispered as rumor but whose very existence was painted for all to see by Rembrandt himself, a shadowy order known simply as the Sanguines.

In the end, be warned: some books should never be found, never opened—until now.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Great North Road

Great North Road
Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Speculative Fiction/Crime Thriller/Murder Mystery/Science Fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of Peter F. Hamilton, those who enjoy an epic story, science fiction/speculative fiction
Trigger Warnings: murder, torture (mostly by drugs, but some physical)
Animal Abuse: people flee and leave behind their cats to fend for themselves, leading to the cats freezing to death

This is a fairly long review, but then again, it's a really long book. The important stuff is in “My Thoughts”; you can skip the rest if you want.

My Thoughts: Call me a hopeless optimist. I've read a number of Peter Hamilton's trilogies, and even a few of his rare stand-alone books (like this one), and been blown away by them up until about the last quarter of the final book (or the very end, as the case may be), where he inevitably pulls out a deus ex machina after painting himself into a corner. However, the stories are always so awesome up to that point that I just keep picking the books up and keep hoping that this time... this time he'll do it right. And, to my delight, he did! While the very last chapter is a bit puzzling, and makes me wonder if we'll ever learn what happened during those 225 years, this story had a great ending.

Am I the only one for whom political correctness is a real pain? I don't mean the idea behind it—after all speaking mindfully is a good thing—but the excesses that some people insist upon? For instance: Charmonique Passam, who declared the term “Human Resources” offensive and should be changed to the “Office for Personkind Enablement”. “Human” is fairly easy to understand—after all, it does include “man”—but her reasoning behind the offensiveness of “Resources” is that it makes one think of something one digs from the ground, and since so many minerals and such are rare... Seriously? I'm also thinking of the moment where Sid first sees Vance Elston and describes him internally as Afro-American. Well, the reader knows this is true, that Vance is from Texas, but how does Sid know? Sid is, after all, in England, leading an English crew and expecting someone in from Brussels, not the US. So why Afro-American? That seems to me to be an author desperately wanting to ingratiate himself with a certain demographic. He also tends to carefully point out the race of his characters, which I find troublesome. I've noticed that elsewhere lately there is a trend to avoid the sorts of descriptions that would pinpoint a race; I've read books where I've been almost to the end before reading a specific character is of African or Indian or Asian descent, and I think that sort of “color blindness” is a better way to work things than to so carefully let people know, because honestly? Their race isn't important; their character is. But that's just me. Anyway, for a good example of that sort of non-description, see London Falling by Paul Cornell (review linked here where formatting allowed). While I found the extreme lack of physical description occasionally disorienting, I did appreciate that the author didn't constantly mention the races of his characters.

I noticed that some weird things have changed by 2143, 130 years in the future. For instance, the word cafetière is now spelled cafeteer instead of French press. The waters of the Tyne manage to avoid freezing despite a long stretch of sub-zero temperatures (although the waterfall on the North property does freeze). But people apparently still use the term “WTF”. Fascinating.

I had a difficult time engaging with this book initially. I was almost a third of the way through it before it really grabbed my attention, and that took me three days. There was no specific fault that caused this, I just kept finding my mind drifting away, finding myself re-reading sections over and over again to try to make them stick. The typical Hamilton approach of throwing huge casts at the reader certainly doesn't help, as it makes it difficult to really connect to any specific person right away. However, the advantage to the length of the book is that even with this method, eventually all the characters are introduced and developed and the reader can begin to understand them.

That said, once it caught me, it really caught me, and as I mentioned above, this story probably had the best-done ending of any Peter F. Hamilton book I've read thus far (and I've read a number of them). If you, like me, enjoy his writing style but are continually frustrated by the ending, you'll be pleasantly surprised by this one. I would like to know the meaning and history behind the happenings in the final chapter, but life isn't always tied up in a neat bow, and even the best-told story will leave questions if done properly. Overall I can recommend the story. If you're interested, check it out.

Disclosure: I received a paperback ARC from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family—composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone “brothers” have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies.

Or maybe not so friendly. At least that’s what the murder of a North clone in the English city of Newcastle suggests to Detective Sidney Hurst. Sid is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand off this hot potato of a case. The way he figures it, whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career.

Yet Sid’s case is about to take an unexpected turn: because the circumstances of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to a killing that took place years ago on the planet St. Libra, where a North clone and his entire household were slaughtered in cold blood. The convicted slayer, Angela Tramelo, has always claimed her innocence. And now it seems she may have been right. Because only the St. Libra killer could have committed the Newcastle crime.

Problem is, Angela also claims that the murderer was an alien monster.

Now Sid must navigate through a Byzantine minefield of competing interests within the police department and the world’s political and economic elite . . . all the while hunting down a brutal killer poised to strike again. And on St. Libra, Angela, newly released from prison, joins a mission to hunt down the elusive alien, only to learn that the line between hunter and hunted is a thin one.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: The Doomsday Brunette

The Doomsday Brunette
The Doomsday Brunette by John Zakour

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: I read and reviewed this book in 2007. Copying over review from Amazon.

Overview and Synopsis: Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last private eye on Earth - and he wouldn't have it any other way. When he receives a call at 3 am from Ona Thompson - the richest being on the planet - he really has no option but to do as she directs and come to her complex. There he finds her in the company of her siblings - Twoa, Threa and Fora. Of course, there is a problem - Fora is dead. This is made even more problematic because the Quads (as they are called) are nigh-invulnerable, having been genetically created by their genius father to be beautiful, intelligent and superior in every way. This resulted in their skin being slightly purple, but that only enhances their charm.

Zach has to discover who killed Fora, and how it was accomplished. This is easier said than done, since it appears that almost everyone had not only the desire to murder her, but also means and opportunity.

Characters: The book is filled with terrific characters - most notably the Quads themselves. Ona inherited her father's wealth, so she is a super-model and play-girl. Twoa is a super-hero - seriously - cape and everything. Threa is a fairy queen - she even has nymphs to follow her around. Fora was (to Zach) the most normal as an anarcho-goth who preached the dangers of materialism in New Vegas.

HARV - Zach's computerized personal assistant - develops a keep interest in detecting in this novel and begins to change his appearance as a result, with often quite amusing results.

Then there is W, the ancient butler who specializes in table setting; Opie, the silver-back mountain gorilla who has been genetically altered to have human intelligence and is a fan of practical jokes; the Pfauhans, who are identical "twin" cousins named Sturm and Drang who look like Teutonic power houses but have a shocking secret . . . as well as the return of Randy, Carol, Electra Gevada and Tony Rickey. There is also an amusing character in the person of the coroner, whose name has slipped my mind at the nano - he refuses to call anyone by name, as he feels that would personalize people and keep him from doing his job properly. Zakour has a true genius when it comes to creating memorable and interesting characters!

Review and Recommendations: These books are wonderful works of cross-genre fiction, mixing science fiction with PI noir in a delightful concoction that is sure to please fans of both types of books, as well as fans of a well-concocted bit of word play. Zakour has a lot of fun with language and it shows in his writing. This book is a definite "don't miss" from me!

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Review: The Plutonium Blonde

The Plutonium Blonde
The Plutonium Blonde by John Zakour

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: I read and reviewed this book in 2007. Just copying over review from Amazon.

Overview and Synopsis: In the year 2057 the world is brand new - everything is New - New New York, New New Mexico (the state) as well as New Mexico (the country). Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last licensed private investigator - the licensed bit is the important thing here. There are other private investigators (for example - the employees of DickCo) but none are licensed like Zachary! Gates is God and DOS is hell and news is down to the nano.

When Zachary receives a call from BB Starr - an ex-exotic dancer who is now CEO of the largest corporation of the planet - he is naturally concerned. She is one of the richest and most powerful people on the planet - why does she need him? It turns out she requires his discretion and - unique - skills. So, with the help of HARV - his holographic assistant (who is the most intelligent computer in the world - and is, during the course of this adventure, implanted directly into his brain) - Carol, his psionic receptionist and potential future niece-in-law and Dr. Electra Gevada, his fiance, he sets out to track down BB-2. Of course, things aren't always as they seem. . .

Review and recommendation: Always funny, constantly exciting and eminently readable, I cannot recommend this book enough. Zakour and Ganem play with the English language with all the virtuosity of a savant while keeping the story readable and the pace swift. Do yourself a favor and get this book!

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Review: The Frost-Haired Vixen

The Frost-Haired Vixen
The Frost-Haired Vixen by John Zakour

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please Note: I read and reviewed this book in 2007. Just copying over the review from Amazon.

Overview: John Zakour goes it alone in this, the fourth book featuring freelance PI Zachary Nixon Johnson - the only freelance PI left in the world in the year 2060. In his latest adventure, he is approached by Santana Clausa - who runs the North Pole to make the toys for Holiday, when each person on Earth receives 3 presents. Two of the elves that she oversees have been murdered and she wants Zach to find out who did the deed.

Immediately people start trying to kill him. Just another day in the life of Zachary Nixon Johnson!

When he arrives at the Pole, he goes undercover to try to determine who among the current guests may have been the murderers. With guardbots being reprogrammed to attack him, sugared-up Elves all around and argumentative fellow guests to contend with, this won't be a walk in the snow.

Review: In some ways this book was superior to the joint ventures in the previous works - it is a bit more gritty and "real." In others, it needed more work - there were a lot more typos and grammatical errors, for instance. All-in-all, I would say it holds its own against the first three books in the series and I look forward to seeing where Zakour takes this most amusing cross-genre series in the future. Keep 'em coming!

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Review: OTHERWORLD: Historical Evidence of Parallel Universes

OTHERWORLD: Historical Evidence of Parallel Universes
OTHERWORLD: Historical Evidence of Parallel Universes by Steve Peek

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: This review is based off the 2010 edition, which I edited for re-release in April 2013.

My Thoughts: This is a really interesting read. Peek explores the idea that not only are there parallel worlds--Otherworlds--but that access to them has led to the monster myths, UFO sightings, and the building of megaliths, monumuents and henges across the world. He expands on this idea using everything from the Theory of Relativity to nuclear submarines and torpedoes to tales of the fairy folk. I'm very excited to see the updated edition that will result from my edits; I think it'll be amazing.

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"No Alternative" by William Dickerson: Excerpt, Guest Post, Book Feature and GIVEAWAY!!

Today I welcome William Dickerson to Now is Gone.  We have a book feature, excerpt and giveaway here, so let's start, shall we?

NO ALTERNATIVE is a coming-of-age drama that drills a hole into the world of suburban American teenagers in the early 90's.

Thomas Harrison is determined to start his own alternative band, an obsession that blinds him to what's either the mental collapse, or the eruption of musical genius, of his little sister, Bridget. Bridget boldly rejects her brother's music, and the music of an entire generation of slackers, by taking on the persona of an X-rated gangsta' rapper named "Bri Da B."

NO ALTERNATIVE probes the lives of rebellious kids who transition into adulthood via the distortion pedals of their lives in an era when the "Sex, Drugs & Rock'n'Roll" ethos was amended to include "Suicide" in its phrase. 

COMING SOON!! No Alternative Tour with a huge TOUR WIDE Giveaway! Contact for more information!!


"A sympathetic coming-of-age story deeply embedded in '90s music. Reflective, unafraid of big-picture pronouncements--'nothing is more do-it-yourself than suicide.' The cool, casual tone results in knockout diagnoses of the '90s teenage condition: 'You feel older as a teenager than you will ever feel in your entire life.'" -Kirkus Reviews

"The novel--with its clear-eyed glimpse into the lives of a troubled family--satisfies." -Publishers Weekly

"Simultaneously brutal and funny, caustic and caring, 'No Alternative' is a sacrament to be shared by all the survivors who grew up at the tail end of the fragmenting century." -Jack O'Connell, author of "The Resurrectionist"

Now, before I tell you all about William Dickerson, let's take a look at a most interesting guest post he had provided to me today.  Oh, I also want to mention, while I can, that I will be reading and reviewing No Alternative at some point.  So be sure to watch for that!  Now, a guest post!

To Tattoo Or Not To Tattoo? That Is The Question

I’ve often said that if I ever made it big as a rock star, I would get a tattoo. 

It’s a bit of an empty threat, considering the chances of me, or anyone really, becoming a rock star are so infinitesimal that it’s almost not worth the breath to even suggest such a thing.  This sentiment of mine is literally echoed by some of the characters in “No Alternative” –

“Would you ever get a tattoo?” Connor asks.
“Maybe,” Thomas replies, nervously.  “You?”
“If we make it big, I’ll get a tattoo.  Not sure what, but I’d get something.”
“Where would you get it?”
Connor slaps the inside of his left forearm, where he’d shoot heroin, if he were into that stuff.  “Right there.  So I can show it off when I play.”
“Dave Grohl has one there.”
“And Dave Grohl was a guitarist before he became a drummer.”

Even still, I’ve had my eye on this for a while:

It’s the image most associated with Nirvana; if they had a logo, this was it: a smiley face with crossed out eyes and a crooked mouth.  I would get it on the underside of my wrist, I think, and it would be small. 

Tattoos are fascinating, not only as an art form, but also as a commitment.  They become, quite literally, part of your body.  Some people are attracted to them as art, some as fashion, some as personal mission statements or memorials for those they’ve lost.  There has been a recent dustup in the film industry over tattoos on film.  Basically, if an actor’s on camera and he or she has a tattoo, the producer must get the permission of the tattoo artist to feature the design on screen.  Without permission, the artist has the right to sue for copyright infringement.  The precedent for this was just set in a lawsuit against the producers of THE HANGOVER 2 filed by the tattoo artist who created Mike Tyson’s famous (or infamous) face tattoo.

The artist, S. Victor Whitmill, claimed ownership of the copyright; and therefore, the producers needed his permission to replicate the design on actor Ed Helms’ face.  The case settled out of court, presumably in Whitmill’s favor, and this raises some interesting questions.  In light of this, producer friends of mine have been taking precautions on sets, covering up actors’ pre-existing tattoos with fake tattoo designs that they have previously cleared for use on screen.

What about satire?  What about fair use?  The tattoo on Mike Tyson’s face is synonymously associated with him.  So much so, that merely seeing it on Ed Helms’ face, outside of any context, conjures the image of Mike Tyson in most viewers’ minds.  Not just Mike Tyson’s tattoo, but Mike Tyson himself.  Tyson and his tattoo are one in the same; no one can really argue against that, it’s literally a part of his skin.

I grant Whitmill and others who agree with him that in this case, the design is one step removed.  He created the design, he created it for Tyson, and now someone else is wearing it in a commercial film.  However, what about Tyson himself on screen?  What about other actors who appear on screen with their personal tattoos visible?  I’m assuming most actors who have tattoos did not ink themselves; they likely hired an artist to ink them.  What are the ramifications of being commissioned to create art and then having clients showcase that art on screen without the artist’s permission?  Normally, the artist would have a solid claim of infringement.  But, here we have art that has become a part of the client’s body itself. 

Who owns it then?  If there’s ever a good reason to claim ownership over something, it’s when that something is a part of you.  It doesn’t get much more clear-cut than that. What about when the color fades, or the design stretches as skin stretches over the years?  The body itself is altering the image, is contributing to the art…the body as co-artist, co-copyright owner.  When the canvas is a living, breathing, evolving organism, it is as much part of the art as the inked portion of the art is, if not more so. 

So, is a tattoo a statement of one’s individuality and freedom, or are we being scammed into paying others to use our bodies as canvases for their paintings? 

If I were to get the Nirvana “Smiley Face” tattoo, would I be expressing my individuality, or would I be arresting it?  More importantly, in the future, would I potentially have to pay royalties to the band, their corporate subsidiaries, and/or the graphic designer of their logo?

Some really interesting things to think about!  As a person with lots of body art, I have to admit this is something I have thought about; the next tattoo I have planned I found in a book, so I sought out and obtained the permission of the author of the book, the book's publishers, AND the artist who did the drawing. Now I just need the money to actually do the tattoo!
Now, let me provide you a bit of information about our author, before I finally let you read the excerpt!

William Dickerson graduated from The College of The Holy Cross with a degree in English and received his Masters of Fine Arts in Directing from The American Film Institute. He is an award-winning writer/director whose work has been recognized by film festivals across the country. He recently published his first novel, “No Alternative,” and completed his debut feature film, DETOUR, which hits Theaters and Video On Demand (VOD) this year. He is currently finishing up his second feature, THE MIRROR.

He is hard at work on several new feature films and is writing another novel. In his spare time, he creates music for his band 9068dash39.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Rachel, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Duet.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, the EXCERPT! (and don't forget the giveaway at the bottom)

No Alternative, Excerpt 2


William sips a cup of instant coffee at the kitchen table, reading the Sunday Edition of The New York Times. It’s not that he dislikes coffee beans; he simply acquired a taste for stirring grounds into a steaming cup of water, because this was how they did it in the army. He’s a creature of habit, a man who is happy with routine. He’s also a sitting Supreme Court Judge, in the Empire State of New York, and he sits at his head of the table as though he’s on the bench. He looks the part, he always looks the part, minus the robe. He has just settled into enjoying this weekend ritual when crunching guitar and thunderous drumming reverberate through the walls, circumventing the insulation, shaking the foundations of the house. He removes his reading glasses, looking up with subtle disdain.

In the lush backyard, Thomas’s mother, Maureen, waters a flower garden. If Martha Stewart was a hippy with a biting sense of sarcasm, she’d be Maureen. Noticing the impending noise, she halts the hose. A small poodle and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel skitter around her. The dogs of the privileged. The King Charles was bred to warm the bed of the King of England, and warm the bed it did. Now they warm the beds of American politicians. The perfect lap dog, foot and leg warmer, cursed with a mouth filled with absolutely terrible teeth, either on account of generations of inbreeding, or on account of their British birthright.
Meanwhile, Bridget listens to rap music in her bedroom, her foot pumping anxiously at the base of her easel, as she continues to labor over the sketch of fruit. Bridget likes rap because her brother hates it, because her family hates it, her friends hate it. Thomas tried to sell her on the idea that if music is defined by the counterbalance of melody and rhythm, then rap is not really music, since it contains no discernable melody. It’s nothing more than performance poetry set to rhythm. As if some grunge-addled white boy is in a position to define the merits of rap. Bridget, on the flipside, sees it as the most daring of contemporary music, full of energy and anger and perfectly expressive of her own teen angst. But is she really in any position to define it either? She stares blankly at her sketch. She hasn’t made much progress. She feels like she’s having trouble focusing. Understandable, given her nature. Bridget’s appearance is neat, she’s at least showered this morning, but her room is an abject mess: grimy plates tilted haphazardly on something that must be a desk; empty packets of cereal; half-full mugs of coffee; shattered pieces of saltines; pencils stuck in the ceiling, suspended above her like stalactites; globules of glue adhered to the fibers of her wall-to-wall carpet; a suspension bridge of empty Gobstoppers boxes connecting her dresser to her windowsill, just waiting for the wind of her presence to surge past and upend it.

Hurricane Bridget.

Posters of assorted hip-hop artists line the walls – Wu-Tang Clan, and their 36 Chambers, ain’t nothin’ to fuck with – and a spirited hamster, Bumpy, runs in a caged wheel on a shelf. Bridget erases an edge of a peach, which she’s added to the apples, then stops, distracted by the repetitive assault of garage rock blasting from below.

“Fucking hell.”

She cranks her rap music all the way up, adding insult to aural injury. Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” promotes rawness, but in no way is that rawness associated with the low-end his clan produced in the studio. Unfortunately, the bass from Bridget’s modest tweakers isn’t nearly substantial enough to provide adequate consolation, but she bumps her boombox to the max anyway. It’s the intention that matters to her.
In the garage, the scene of this domestic disturbance, Thomas pounds the skins of his new drumheads as Connor strums a hand-me-down Fender Stratocaster, its distorted sound driven through a decent combo amplifier, solid state, but doing its best to replicate the sound of vintage tubes. They play the same three chords over and over again, religiously, immersing themselves in a blanket of unadulterated noise. It feels like only this vibration exists, as though nothing else flows within the winds of this world. If all of humanity is connected by one underlying force, the unity proposed by followers of Yogis worldwide, surely it’s connected via the vibration of the electric guitar. B, to C, to E minor. Power chords, the index and ring finger, clamping down on tinny and tiny strings, sliding from fret to fret, as if charting the path toward sonic salvation. Or oblivion, the apocalypse, depending on your point-of-view and taste in music.

The overhead light in the garage flickers on and off, three times in regimented intervals, as though William is trying to communicate a message in some kind of covert Morse Code, as he had once done as a soldier in the jungle years ago. Thomas and Connor cut the song short and look up at Thomas’s ‘rents, perched at the top of the small staircase. Maureen squints down at the teens.

“What are you guys doing?”

“We’re playing,” Thomas says.

“Can you play softer?”

“Not really…loud is the whole point. You said it was okay, Mom.”

“I didn’t know that Tinnitus was part of the deal.”

The youngsters just stare at their elders, who in turn, stare back at them, a Berlin Wall of understanding between these people.

“If we’re going to be forced to listen to you, how about playing something we like? Or at least know?” 

Maureen asks. “Do you know any Grateful Dead?”

“Don’t you have to be on acid to enjoy that stuff?”

William, who’s trying real hard to let Maureen do all the talking in this situation, can’t bear it any longer. He chimes in, ominous and monotone: “Thomas…”

“You guys have one hour,” Maureen says.

The parental units leave the teens to their order of business. Thomas and Connor erupt into a fit of laughter. Thomas turns to Connor, egging him on, “Turn that shit back up, man, and make it louder.”

Connor grins like a spoiled little kid, “Fuck the Grateful Dead.”

Thomas smacks his drumsticks together, firing off a four-count, launching them into the throes of the next song. If you can call it that.

Very cool, huh? So, finally, here we are... the giveaway. Thanks for reading, this is your reward!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note: Now is Gone is not responsible for providing the prizes for this giveaway.