Review: GhostCityGirl

GhostCityGirl by Simon Paul Wilson (Not A Pipe Publishing 2020)

Serial killers, starvation cults, and spicy noodles −  just another day in Nihon City.

It’s been one hundred years since Tokyo was ravaged by a ghostquake and talking about the supernatural was forbidden. To escape her unhappy family life and mundane job, Kichi Honda spends her days off visiting Mister Tanaka, an old man who tells her illegal tales of haunted Japan. But when Kichi gets stranded on Level One, she meets an impossible girl who claims to have come from Tokyo.

Kichi learns the truth about what really happened all those years ago … and discovers history is about to repeat itself.

My Review:

This is a ghost story (of the gory variety) and also a heroic origin story. Kichi Honda is a young woman with not much life to speak of. She lives with her mother, a VR TV addict, in an extremely high highrise apartment and works in the meaningless position of mall greeter. But Kichi finds joy where she can, in spicy food, old pop music, and the ghost stories shared by her elderly friend Mr. Tanaka. “Spook talk” has been forbidden by the Department of Paranormal Activity since the Tokyo ghost quake a century before, but Mr. Tanaka is able to keep their conversations secret. Kichi has never seen a ghost and isn’t sure she wants to, but she loves the stories. Then she meets Miaka, a girl who has escaped from Tokyo on a mission to prevent a recurrence of the ghost quake. Kichi and Mr. Tanaka team up with Miaka to stop the world from ending, but the clock is already ticking and things are getting weird.

Kichi is an appealing companion in a story that goes from quirky to spooky to straight-up terrifying. Although frustrated with her home life and government restrictions and surveillance, she retains curiosity, compassion, and a snarky sense of humor. Her interest in a local serial killer and encounters with creepy cultists end up being central to the apocalyptic plot. This is the first book of a trilogy; the cliffhanger ending hints at an even more heroic role for Kichi in future volumes.

I received an advance review ebook from the publisher.

Order your copy today from your local independent bookstore. Find it using IndieBound.org.

Available on Amazon HERE.

Available on Amazon UK HERE.

Available on Barnes & Noble HERE.

Available on Kindle HERE.

Available on Kindle UK HERE.

Review: Back to Green

Back to GreenBack to Green: Part 3 of the Going Green Trilogy by Heather S. Ransom (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2020)

Available now!

Order your copy from your local independent bookstore. Use IndieBound.org to find it HERE.

Order online from Oregon Books and Games HERE.

Order from Barnes & Noble HERE.

Order from Amazon HERE.

Back to Green wraps up Ransom’s Going Green trilogy with an exciting and satisfying story that keeps a few surprises until the end. (If you haven’t read Going Green and Greener yet, what are you waiting for? This one could be read on its own but will make much more sense with that background.)

Calyssa Brentwood used to be a spoiled rich girl. At 18, she underwent the Green enhancement procedure that would allow her to photosynthesize and be part of high-class Green society. As the process was taking effect, she fell hard for non-Green Gabe Stayton and learned about the anti-Green, anti-GMO rebellion taking place just outside SciCity. Then she and Gabe both suffered terrible losses for which they blamed each other, ending their romance. But when their home was destroyed in a flood, Calyssa and her father sought refuge with the Staytons on their farm. Back to Green opens in that awkward position, with Calyssa and Gabe on speaking terms but not much else.

Calyssa’s father has contracted the deadly PKPH virus and is returning to AGHA (his research institute) to begin an experimental treatment. He wants Lyssa with him. In packing to leave, Lyssa and Gabe discover a journal from over a century before, when plants were dying from the PK virus and the Green enhancement was being developed as a way to save lives and resources. The friendship warms over this shared interest. But her return to AGHA puts her back in the orbit of charismatic Maddax Steele … and Eve Huxley, the mother who doesn’t remember her but is obsessed with her DNA for a project to create superior humans.

Calyssa is often scared to the point of hysteria, but who wouldn’t be, living in the same building as a driven psychopath who has lost all empathy? She doesn’t know who she can trust and almost drives friends and family away. But she finds her courage when she needs it, risking everything for a friend.

I appreciated how Calyssa and Gabe didn’t just get back together, forgive and forget, no hard feelings. The relationship they rebuild is earned. The book ends on an upbeat note, full of surprises, including one that leaves the door open for more stories.

After losing her sister and almost losing her father, Calyssa Brentwood is finally returning to a somewhat “normal” life … until the PKPH virus mutates and attacks, and she once again finds herself scrambling. When her maniacal mother who had been presumed dead resurfaces for a second time, there’s far more danger than Lyssa has ever known. But now, when it matters most, she must decide who she should trust and what is truly worth fighting for.

“Riveting, intense, and thought-provoking. Back to Green masterfully weaves the action and tragedy of unregulated science and politics with hope for a better future.”

Mikko Azul, author of The Staff of Fire and Bone

“This series grows with every installment, and Back to Green is a perfect conclusion. Nothing short of a triumph!”

Benjamin Gorman, author of Corporate High School

 

Review: Don’t Read This Book

Don't Read This BookDon’t Read This Book (2019 Not A Pipe Publishing) by Benjamin Gorman

At once hilarious and heartbreaking, this novel uses fantasy monsters and rollicking comedy to make sophisticated philosophical and political points about identity and meaning. A tall order that Don’t Read This Book fulfills, and then some.

The story is set in our familiar world, but with one difference: all the monsters and magical creatures of myth and legend are real, hiding among humans … and preying on them. They have long ago formed a governing body with rules that prevent the various creature factions from attacking each other. They meet annually in Las Vegas for a convention. Bel (vampire) and Nando (werewolf) are buddy cops, tasked with capturing and punishing monsters who break the rules. But now they have a new unofficial assignment: rescue a kidnapped human writer and keep her—and her manuscript—away from the necromancer who would use this book to destroy modern civilization.

It would be a spoiler to reveal why he believes a novel could do this, but it has a lot to do with what gives life meaning and how that differs depending on who you are. Lena, the writer in question, exists at an intersection of identities: Black, Latina, lesbian, Millennial…Oregonian. She begins the story full of doubt and fear but under the influence and protection of her unlikely rescuers, she rediscovers her voice and power. Her heartbreaks and triumphs felt real and I couldn’t help rooting for her.

In addition to Las Vegas, Gorman makes good use of real-life settings in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and France for scenes of narrow escapes and monster battles. Also like the real world, his monster population includes literal internet trolls, flinging flaming poo and thriving on chaos. Most real of all, it takes all the good guys working together to achieve their goal. Still, my favorite character and the true hero of the piece is Josef, a faceless clay golem who punches Nazis. Go, Josef!

Until April 19, 2019, you can pre-order your copy (and consider getting one for your local library) using the Kickstarter here! Or ask for it at your favorite independent bookstore, or order from Amazon here.

Review: Greener

GreenerGreener (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2018) by Heather Ransom

Calyssa Brentwood of Going Green is back in a sequel that’s even better than the first book. In that volume, she wasn’t yet fully Green—a genetic enhancement that allows humans to photosynthesize, saving resources and time so they can devote themselves to bettering their community (with a side effect of improved health and attractiveness.) She became close to the Non-Green Staytons, even falling in love with hunky Gabe, and blamed herself for a terrorist bombing at their farm.

Greener opens eights months later, with Lyssa fully Green, in college, working an internship at her father’s company Advanced Human Genetics Assessments (AHGA), and helping care for her sister Livvy as she recovers from a near-lethal viral infection that has left her yellow and unable to photosynthesize. Lyssa uses her internship for secret investigations into possible corruption among SciCity’s Security Enforcers.

Lyssa is drawn back to the Stayton farm when her friend Ana Stayton dies from a black market Green enhancement gone wrong. Meanwhile, her new friend Ayva is into Nock, an enhancement to the enhancement from a private, unregulated lab that makes Greens Greener with party-drug side effects … but it also has a dark, dangerous side. And Livvy has a few secrets of her own. Everybody seems to, including Lyssa and Livvy’s long-lost mother. Themes of secrecy, loss and regret are woven through the narrative, as well as those of peer pressure, community, and loyalty.

Lyssa thinks she knows about loss, but also recognizes her privilege. She lost her mother as a child, had to give up her first love (who now blames her for his sister’s death), and nearly lost her own sister to the virus. In this book, the losses pile up and even wealth and power can’t shield her.

I was glad to see that music still plays an important role in Lyssa’s life. Her family is after her to choose a practical career, but playing cello is where she really comes alive and feels a connection to her mother. I particularly appreciated the realistic but compassionate portrayal of a college freshman, who feels so much more mature and knowing than she was in high school but is still naive and vulnerable. Lyssa believes she is a better spy than a pro, who is secretly keeping tabs on her and Livvy. Lyssa is unusually susceptible to the attentions of handsome genius Maddax Steele and can’t quite bring herself to ask if that’s why he’s paying attention to her. She takes crazy risks, pulling back before anyone is hurt but with real consequences.

A much bigger plot takes over before Lyssa’s personal dramas can be resolved, so there is still much to come in the inevitable 3rd book. I hope she has her cello with her after the disaster; music may be the thing to save her world.

You can get your copy here:
Oregon Books and Games, Grants Pass: HERE
Barnes & Noble: hardcover HERE, trade paperback HERE
Amazon: hardcover HERE, trade paperback, HERE
Kindle: HERE