The end is nigh…or is it?

When I finished All Souls Day, I literally couldn’t wait for the sequel. Well, as it turns out, we all have to wait because it’s not ready. In the meantime, author Martin Berman-Gorvine asked  if I wanted to read another book in the meantime. I chose 36 for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m interested in mysticism.

36 takes place in the future, after a third war has rocked the world. Eric Lonnrot, a detective heavily interestd in Jewish mysticism, has been researching people for years. He believes they are the tzadikim, or 36 righteous whose actions justify the continued existence of the world. Through his research, he notices an alarming trend – they’re dying off. What’s even more troubling is that they’re dying off faster than they can be replaced. Lonnrot talks his friend Nahum Applefeld, who himself is a survivor of horrific genocide, to accompany him. Nahum doesn’t share the same views as Lonnrot, but feels responsible since he’s Jewish, and the idea of the tzadikim is a Jewish myth.

Lonnrot and Nahum’s journey turns out to be more than they were expecting. There are glimpses of good, and terrifying abysses of true evil. Through accident and sheer coincidence, Lonnrot and Nahum also learn each other’s deepest held secrets. Their friendship is tested, as are their ideals and worldview.

Nahum eventually splinters off from the quest and goes in search of his own answers. He has seen too much sadness, to much evil, too much horror. Even before he joined Lonnrot. He also begins to suspect that Lonnrot’s motivations are not quite what he’s letting on. Nahum begins to suspect that the journey has more to do with Lonnrot’s own needs than that of keeping the tzadikim alive.

For his part, Lonnrot does experience growth during his journey. The more of good and evil that he sees, the more he searches his own heart. He begins to examine the choices he’s made, and the life he’s lived. There is a particularly dark period of his life that he begins to question. Was he just going with the motions of society, or is it really a reflection of who he is at his core?

I can’t rave about 36 enough. It’s two main strengths are the characters and Martin’s ability to successfully world build. To the point where I found myself checking the web here and there to verify the reality of people and events in the book. He creates a world that is so different yet so similar to our own that it almost feels like a history book, even though it’s obviously an alternate history.

Lonnrot, Nahum, and the other supporting characters all have depth. They are believable in terms of they could actually be people that you know. When they speak, there’s a whole unwritten history below the surface that informs their choices and actions. This also leads into my point about world building. Not only are the characters three-dimensional, but so is the world in which they live. There are no lengthy explanations of events or political alliances between countries, yet somehow Martin manages to get all of his points across. The end result is a book that you can’t help but fact check on the Internet because it feels so real.

Lastly, 36 will leave the reader looking into themselves. It’s easy to sit back and say that if you were in someone’s shoes you would be able to make better choices. When it comes right down to it, is that really the case? There’s always more to the story than what we see in the beginning.

I recommend 36 anyone who is looking for a book that makes the reader challenge themselves and the accepted normalcy of society.

Yesterday Was a Great Day

I’m going to apologize right away, because I have no idea what this post is about. I’d say it’s slice of life, but it’s more like random and happy babbling. If that’s not your thing, I recommend that you check out the other posts, that revolve around more concrete ideas and reviews.

Lately I’ve been spending more and more time in the company of my Kindle Paperwhite. I’m not even kidding when I say that I take it absolutely everywhere with me. I thought I left it at home the other day when I went to work, and let me tell you, that was NOT going to fly!

I have mentioned in other posts that I have anxiety, and am trying to learn to control it better. It was suggested to me recently to have a cup of Tension Tamer tea every night before bed. My first night trying that particular trick was Wednesday night. Tension Tamer isn’t a new tea to me, I used to love it when I was in high school. Although I have what feels like every tea ever produced sitting in my kitchen, that’s one that I had run out of and never restocked, so I will be going to pick that up later tonight. Anyway, I decided to go with the next best thing – pineapple chamomile. I made a large cup of it, went to my bedroom, and proceeded to read while drinking the tea. I remember talking to my best friend on the phone, and I remember messaging with him. I remember my husband coming up to bed. And I remember saying goodnight to my brother, that I would catch him in the morning.

I woke up a few hours later, the bedroom light still on, face-down, my body hanging half off the bed (thanks to Zelda, she’s an aggressive snuggler),  and my Kindle open a few inches from my face. My memory doesn’t include the moment when I took off my glasses and put them on the side table, but they were there.

Yesterday was a really really good day all around. Work went smoothly, and then I got to go and visit Dipper and Phoebe. McDonalds is selling LEGO Batman themed cups with their Happy Meals. Luckily, you don’t have to buy a meal to get a cup, you can purchase them separately. I snagged a red and orange for dad, a red and orange for me, and Phoebe got the orange cup with her meal. All we are missing now are the green and yellow cups. I bought what I thought was a Batman mask for Dipper, but it turned out to be a Viewmaster type toy. Explaining that to Phoebe was a riot! It was hard explaining what a kick-ass toy it was back then, especially when you’re talking to a kid who plays games on a tablet in her hands, and can talk to anyone in the world with the touch of a button.

After we had dinner and checked out our cups, I pulled out my crochet. I’m working on a blanket for one of mom’s friends. It’s a wild colored monstrosity that I almost frogged and started over a few times. Phoebe was the one who encouraged me to see it to the end. It’s definitely going to win the title of Most Colorful Afghan to Date. It’s always dicey crocheting at their house, because Vampira has a way of playing tug of war with me. Usually she’ll pounce on the yarn, tug on it, and then follow it right to my hook. When I was in Dollar General the other night, I picked up a pink plastic basket with a trellis design. It fits 4-5 skeins of yarn easily, and if I start out right, I can spool the yarn from the top without having to turn the whole skein. I put the yarn in the basket, sat it close to me, and began. I think I have momentarily outfoxed Vampira, but I don’t expect that to last. She’s really clever and energetic. I expect this method to hold up maybe one more visit before she finds her way around it. You can see her giving me what Phoebe calls “a look” in the picture on the right. After that she stayed close, thumping her tail and throwing shade at me whenever I glanced her way. Phoebe tries to help me distract Vampira, and I appreciate her efforts, but that kitty has laser focus when string is concerned! While I crocheted, we watched tv, and Phoebe showed me her new Monster High doll. Originally it was a Target exclusive, but Dipper snagged it off ebay for a reasonable price. It’s the version of Clawdeen Wolf where she’s dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood. (Believe me, it’s on the list of things I need for my horror-themed library downstairs!)

Dipper and I had a big brother talk, which I was very much in need of having. My anxieties have been getting the better of me recently, and when that happens, it sometimes is necessary to ground me in reality. After our talk, I feel much better. More secure, and in a better spot in general in regards to the anxiety.

As it turned out, Phoebe hadn’t finished all of her homework yet. She still had to do her 20 minutes of reading. I’m so happy that her school has the students reading every night. Not only is it an important life skill, but it’s fun. Phoebe was already sitting on the couch under her Wonder Woman fleece blanket, so she just needed me to grab my Kindle and join her.

Phoebe is reading a graphic novel called Smile, by Raina Telgemeier. She’s really into it. She’s in fourth grade right now, so the character in the story is close to her age. The story follows the author from grades six to high school. On top of everything else she has to deal with, she trips and falls, injuring her two front teeth. After that it’s braces, trips to the dentist, and all sorts of coming-of-age obstacles. Phoebe would stop here and there to read me a few frames, or show me a picture. She’s a very involved reader, often laughing out loud, or rolling her eyes when the characters do something silly. A few times, she pointed out to me how some of the characters weren’t very nice to each other. Thus the difference between kids and adults. She thought it was mean. I thought the comments were pretty funny, as I read them as sarcasm. Phoebe’s innocence and loving personality is like a little space heater. You can feel it radiating off her.

I’m currently reading 36 by Martin Berman-Gorvine, which is about the tzadikim. The tzadikim are, according to Jewish tradition, the 36 righteous who justify the continued existence of the world. In the story, Martin posits what would happen if something were to happen to the 36. It’s a very dark, involved, and intense novel. I’m enjoying every page of it. Phoebe asked what it was about, so I shortened it. I told her it was two friends on a road trip. Which is not untrue. The difference is that Lonnrot is chasing the tzadikim to warn them that something is happening to the others, and Nahum is more or less along for the ride because he decided since he’s Jewish, he feels responsible for Lonnrot following this “myth”. It’s a little too involved to explain to Phoebe, not to mention she doesn’t have the educational background in fourth grade to understand the Holocaust or many of the motivating factors of the characters. That’s alright. When she’s older, that book will be waiting for her. She was satisfied with that answer, and we started reading.

As we sat and read, Vampira came over and demanded that I scratch behind her ears. She purred loudly, and for the first time ever, I caught her drooling copious amounts. Phoebe was overjoyed when Vampira hopped onto the back of the couch and settled down with us. It was fantastic! To the point where we actually read a little over the 20 minutes.

When I went home, I made some more pineapple chamomile tea, walked Zelda, got my Kindle, and hopped in bed to read. Zelda grabbed a chew toy and hopped up on the bed with me. The only thing missing was that it was a Thursday. That would have been perfect as a Friday so I wouldn’t have left early!

 

Is it ready yet? Is it ready yet? Is it ready yet?

I recently read All Souls Day by Martin Berman-Gorvine, and reviewed it for this site. (Read the review here!) Then, do yourself a favor and go purchase it here. I finished this book in a matter of days. It’s a helluva page-turner, and it leaves you absolutely salivating for more.

Luckily, it’s part of a series called The Days of Ascension. The next book in the series hasn’t been published yet, so you still have more than enough time to go and read the first book, then peruse the rest of Martin’s works.

Martin was kind enough to send me a 7 page teaser of the next book, Days of Vengeance. Holy mackerel! I’m going bonkers dying to know what happens next! Talk about a cliffhanger! Even though this isn’t the final copy, we pick up right where we left off in the last book. Our surviving characters trying to figure out how to move on, and what to make of their shattered lives and relationships. To that end, I’m going to say “holy shit!” because the characters have found themselves in a hellish interpersonal tangle. One that I do not envy them for one single iota! I wish I could say more, but Martin has me on a gag order not to give too much away, and I don’t want to spoil the ending of the first book.

Along with the book teaser, Martin sent me an image of the cover. The art is by Christian Bentulan, whose work I was previously unacquainted with. If you peruse his website, you will find a variety of covers. He sells both pre-made and custom covers.

Christian’s work is original, and done by photo manipulation. His pre-made covers go for $50, and are so interesting that I wish there were a story behind them so I could read it. (For my author friends out there looking for a really standout cover artist, his FAQ states he will hold a pre-made image for 7 days free of charge while you consider. Sounds like a steal to me!)

While on his site, you can also take a look at his past work. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but I am more than willing to look into some of these books solely based on their cover art.

If you’re looking for a wild ride of a read, pick up Martin’s All Souls Day, so you can begin the countdown to the release of Day of Vengeance. If you’re looking for a smashing book cover, check out Christian’s pre-mades, or have him custom design one of your own (starting at $150).

 

Anyone up for a little Virgin Sacrifice?

I’ve been sitting here at my computer for fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to begin this review. I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers and deprive the reader of the sheer force of the gut punch that Martin Berman-Gorvine delivers. On the other hand, I am all but bursting with excitement to tell you about this book.

I consider myself to be well-read in the horror genre, and All Souls Day by Martin Berman-Gorvine still knocked me on my ass. Hardcore. The story takes place in an alternate 1985, where the Cuban Missile Crisis actually triggered World War III. The war laid waste to the United States, paving the way for the ancient god Moloch to rise. If the name sounds familiar, Moloch was mentioned in the Old Testament, where his worship is expressly forbidden. (A quick Internet search reveals that Moloch was closely associated with child sacrifice, if that’s any indication of the mindset of his followers!) A closed off suburb of Philadelphia, Chatham’s Forge, is run by the evil Pastor Justin Bello, who rules as the right hand of Moloch. Any other worship is forbidden, causing Jews and Christians to hide their true religions. If they don’t, Pastor Justin will make a terrible example of them, because public torture and execution are alive and flourishing in Chatham’s Forge. Moloch himself guards the suburb, and has insidious ways of dissuading the inhabitants from leaving and joining the “muties” outside the wall. As is true in so many societies, there is a fierce us vs. them component, and the townspeople are led to believe anyone outside the wall is a horrific mutant. Corrupted by the nuclear war and the absence of their god, Moloch. This allows for raids into the wasteland, where the muties are captured, raped, and killed with reckless abandon by the raiders.

In the middle of this hellish society are our main characters. They are stymied by a caste system that keeps everyone in a high school mindset for their entire lives. There are Nerds, Jocks, Nice Girls, Sluts, Jesters, and Punks. While it’s possible to be demoted to a lower caste, it’s impossible to be promoted, and just as impossible to date outside your caste.

Nerd Amos longs to openly date Nice Girl Suzie. It doesn’t seem fair that his friend Tom, a Jester, can openly date Suzie’s best friend, fellow Nice Girl Vickie. Throughout the story, Amos, Suzie, Tom, and Vickie struggle against the harsh caste system, the oppressive rule of Pastor Justin, and the rebellion and resentment they feel towards Moloch. At prom, the alpha Nice Girl is chosen to be the virgin sacrifice for Moloch. She is taken to an old armory known as the Castle, where she lives in isolation for five months before being served up to Moloch, tied to the hood of a car. As if that weren’t bad enough, Moloch isn’t exactly quick in terms of accepting his sacrifice. The virgin sacrifice faces a gruesome and agonizing death, and all so that Moloch will leave the rest of the people alone, perpetuating the survival of the sick and twisted society.

All Souls Day was an absolutely amazing book. I couldn’t put it down, and raced through it in a matter of days. The whole time I read it, my mouth hung open. Martin is very detailed in terms of his world building, but not so much as to be intrusive. Instead of setting the story with the entire layout of the world, he lets the reader take it in, a little at a time. It’s so complete, and it feels like everything is accounted for. The part that floored me the most was the treatment of religion. One of the main characters is Jewish, and the family practices in secret. Rather than expressly stating it, Martin left little clues here and there, until finally the subject of Hanukkah is breached. As it turns out, there are practicing Jews and Christians stuck in the midst of the others. They are forced to hide, as has happened so many times in history. Jews are considered extinct, and I use the word because they are spoken of as almost another species entirely by the people who worship Moloch. I wasn’t expecting that level of detail, because most of the time authors merely state what’s going on in the world of their characters. Martin brings it to the reader, and dumps it on their lap, forcing them to confront the harsh reality that the characters live in.

When I finished the book, I immediately emailed Martin, and sure enough, this is not a standalone. I am itching for the next book to be released, because the ending of All Souls Day is not only a complete shock, but I’m dying to know what happens to the characters next. In the spirit of fairness, I will say that Martin approached me two years ago with an advanced reader copy, in exchange for an honest review. Personal circumstances caused me to put the book aside, and I only recently was able to read it. I am kicking myself for not having read it sooner. I also plan on delving further into Martin’s catalog in order to see what other gems he’s been hiding.

I can’t recommend All Souls Day by Martin Berman-Gorvine strongly enough. Whether or not you like alternative history, horror, or romance, you NEED to read this book. It’s engrossing, engaging, horrifying, and ultimately satisfying.