Book Review: The Emergence by A. O. Khalil


Review requested by the author.

Jayson’s and Jule’s peaceful lives are interrupted one day by an appearance of sinkholes in the ground and terrifying creatures that climb out of the holes and kill everyone on sight. Zombies? Aliens? Savage dwarves?

None of the terms above seems to apply to the Uglies, as Jayson starts to call them. A bunch of them attack their apartment and together with his wife and neighbours, they barely make it out of there and drive off to rescue their families. As their journey continues, they pick up quite a few diverse characters on the way. Once they make it to Jule’s parents’ house, things take an even stranger turn. Will the humanity be able to survive the attack of the Uglies? And who even are they? And what’s up with Jayson’s very… strange neighbour?

“The Emergence” is the first installment in A.O. Khalil’s Missing Era series, which the author self-published this year. I can definitely say that this is one of the few self-published novels that hooked me from the very beginning – the prologue. It indicates that the book takes place a couple of years from now and from the first page, it’s clear that humanity continues to screw with nature and the world is still a terrible place. Jayson and Jule are your normal American married couple in their early 30s, and they clearly have a great partnership. Throughout the novel, both of them, together with various other characters, display themselves from many sides, reasons for which were occasionally unclear, but the plot and the pacing made up for the abundance of characters and admittedly very few editorial mistakes. The author makes a great attempt at diversifying the female characters of the book – Jule, Jayson’s twin sisters, Jule’s mother and others – but Jayson’s first-person narrative does seem to put them under certain labels. The characters are not the book’s strongest suit – that would be the pacing and the plot.  Although it could have had a little less dialogue and slightly fewer exclamations of how Jayson wants to impress his wife.

Up to the last chapter, the reader believes that the Uglies are the biggest threat to the planet, but it is then revealed that there are worse things to come, serving as a setup for the next book in the Missing Era series. The book sort of ends on a cliffhanger, which is a great way to end a self-published novel in my opinion and maintain an interest in the series. This plot twist makes for a very interesting concept (at least in theory). Also the author put a little riddle at the final page – which is also fun! (although I don’t know the answer). Overall, it’s a decent sci-fi thriller that sometimes tries to be something else, but fails.


Favorite quotes

“I’d never have thought that we would end up together in the same basement after fighting our way through waves of demented dwarves.” 

“So we’re under attack by dwarves with health and physical complicationd? How did we allow this to happen?”



You might enjoy “The Emergence” if you liked:

“World War Z” by Max Brooks

“The Walking Dead”



Book Review: Never Look Back by Sabine Bunnel


Requested by the author.

Jen Butler has a dark past, her life has been filled with pain and grief. It takes a deadly turn after Will, her boyfriend of one year disappears one night completely. Unable to believe that she’s been dumped, Jen, after exhausting all the other possibilities, goes to his New England hometown to find out more information. The tiny town is where she first notices that she’s being followed. The brief snippets of her boyfriend’s past lead her to Boston where she finds out that he is a lot more than an owner of a small computer company. The people on Jen’s tail are forced to follow her all the way ’round the country, getting closer and closer with each stop she makes. Will she ever learn what became of her boyfriend? And why can’t she stop having strangely prophetic nightmares almost every night?


The best way to define the genre of “Never Look Back” would be to call it an action-packed mystery. I’ve recently gone through a Gillian Flynn binge and needless to say, I was hungry for more thrillers of the sort. I almost forgot about this book referred to me by the author until I browsed through my Kindle in search of a suitable follow-up to GF, and spotted the haunting cover.

The debut novel starts with a terrifying nightmare in which our heroine gets brutally attacked. Dream sequences aren’t the best way to start books, but in this case, it was a pretty good way to get me interested. The pace, as I learnt right away, wasn’t going to be slow, but rather, most pages were packed with action sequences, such as car accidents, boat shootings, and dark alley encounters. I should say that I figured out the mystery about halfway through the book – I’ve seen too many crime shows to not be able to guess what was going on. The romantic parts were very cheesy, although I was grateful for the brevity of the love triangle arc between Jen, her boyfriend, and her college ex. The writing was pretty decent, for a debut novelist, but I had some issues with it that I’m going to elaborate on below. The author has clearly followed some writing tips that circulate on many writing portals of which I’m a member – this was evident in the way she mocked the cliches in the book while using them relentlessly. The main character, Jen, was rather well-rounded, with a backstory that tied well into the plot, but sometimes, she annoyed me by acting like one of those characters in horror movies who adopt the “There’s something scary down here, let’s go check it out” attitude when they see a creepy basement or something along those lines. Her love interests weren’t particularly swoonworthy, but this isn’t a romance novel. The story itself was engaging, gripping and fast-paced.

Now, onto my issues with the writing. This book is one of the few works I have come across that is self-published. And I’m going to go on a limb here and take a guess that the author didn’t have an editor. I myself am a writer and I do sometimes miss out on the stupidest things when I read my writing. However, it felt as though the author decided to stick with the spellchecker privided by Microsoft Word or something of the sort, and didn’t get the chance to have a read through before going ahead with publishing. The constant “your-you’re” errors, the apostrophes being in the wrong places, the sentences repeating themselves twice in the same paragraph, and other things have almost made me put the book down. If it weren’t for my thirst for good thrillers (and this one would have been pretty decent if the author had an editor), I would have done exactly that. What is significant in a good thriller, that some people tend to overlook, is punctuation, which was unfortunately off the mark many times during the action sequences in the book. The other thing that bugged me was that the author didn’t separate Jen’s dream sequences from the real-life action. I realise that it might have been an attempt to confuse the reader and make it harder for them to figure out what was true and what was the stuff of nightmares, but it didn’t work too well in this case.

So, to finish this off, my advice to the author is to either fire their editor right away or actually get one. It is clear that she is a very good writer, both character- and plot-wise, and I believe that her next book could potentially be excellent after some editing.


Favorite quotes

“The words on her computer were not only a source of income but a method of healing”

“Her writing had brought her comfort but it became her alternate reality, a place to hide her emotions, a place to bury them”



You might enjoy “Never Look Back” if you liked:

The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill

“Dark Places” or “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

“In The Woods” by Tana French



Jen Butler – Amanda Seyfried

Will – James Marsden

Cameron – Josh Dallas


Book Review: Gifted by David Bridger


Review requested by the author.

Jessica’s peaceful post-exam summer is interrupted when she suddenly receives the news of her great-grandfather Peter passing away and bequeathing her a castle in the West Country. Stunned, she travels down with her grandparents only to be met with a property a lot grander and a much more hostile extended family than she could have ever expected. Not only that – she also begins to hear things. Things like ghosts whispering to her about the devastating secrets of the Kidd castle and the horrors her ancestors were involved in. While the haunting atmosphere may be too much for her grandparents, Jessica nevertheless chooses to save the Kidd castle from her relatives who want to redevelop the land and live in it – it is hers by virtue of her great-grandfather’s will, after all. However, very soon, she comes to a realisation that she isn’t the sole inhabitant of the property. What business does Diane Kell, a half-mad Romani, have in the area? And what are the motives of her nephew, Joe? Also – what is the net and why does it only seem to affect him and Jessica?

If one looks at the Kidd family as a whole, it becomes clear that Nick, Peter’s father, is the antagonist of the series. He manipulates the “net” – a source of magic that I don’t fully understand myself and that apparently runs in the Kidd family – to manipulate business deals, races and most of all, women in his family. Jessica, quite correctly, sees his actions as rape, when the net reveals the past to her, relative by relative. She is horrified and devastated by the revelations. Nick is followed by Peter, his son and arguably, the protagonist of the story. Peter has been emotionally manipulated by Nick for most of his youth and adolescence – so when he’s finally free, he swears to never use the net in fear of becoming a monster like Nick. However, that does not do him much good.

Peter’s story is closely intertwined with the story of his cousin Catherine – they have a mind-link, paralleling that of Jessica and Joe’s. I must warn those bothered by incest – Peter and Catherine do have a star-crossed relationship (Slight spoiler here, sorry!). Catherine is my favourite character – she is a smart and honourable junior editor turned writer turned WWII correspondent who loved her family more than anything. Which makes her story all the more tragic.

David is a friend and has kindly offered me a copy of “Gifted” for an impartial review. The book manages to compile a story of several generations of one family into 225 pages. Jessica’s ancestors are all complex characters and it is debatable as to who the villain of the story is. The ending makes it seem like it is the first book in a series, which would be really cool. The premise is rather promising and I would really like to learn more about the net and Peter’s science experiments with it. On the other hand, however, David did tie up quite a few loose ends so it is debatable as to how well the story of the Kidd castle would do as a dilogy or a trilogy. If more books are written on the subject, I won’t say no!

The first half of the book is admittedly hard to get into – mostly because of the large amount of characters and initial confusion as to the chapters’ POV. Most chapters are told from either Jessica’s or Peter’s POV, though there are several other ones. It became easier to differentiate as the book went on, though – David writes distinctive narratives really well. I do believe, however, that Jessica’s chapters could have been better in first-person point of view. That wasn’t a big thing, though, and I have enjoyed the book. My rating is 7.5/10


Favourite character

Catherine, as explained above


Favourite relationship

Jessica and her grandparents – they’re adorable!


Favourite quote

What could be worse for one’s mental health than becoming obsessed with the interior workings of one’s own mind?”



Jessica – Hannah Murray

Joe – Sebastian Stan

Peter – James Spader

Catherine – Natalie Dormer



You would like “Gifted” if you liked:

“The Lynburn Legacy series” by Sarah Rees Brennan

“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

“In Your Eyes” by Joss Whedon

Book Review: Disorderly by Jayme K


(Requested by Before Sunrise Press)

Warning – extensive descriptions of cannibalism and mention of necrophilia

Colton Reznik is in his late twenties and has terminal brain cancer, which turns him into an even bigger arsehole than he already is. He’s also a writer and a tumblr blogger – one of those cynical ones. He’s severed most ties with his friends and family and hates everybody and everything. One day, he decides to venture outside.

He really shouldn’t have done that.

A deadly virus is spreading across America (not dissimilar to Supernatural’s Croatoan) which is turning people into… well, zombies of sorts. You can guess what happens next. Reznik gets bitten and infected. At first, nothing happens. Then, he experiences a previously unknown attraction to raw meat, which leads to him going on a murderous and cannibalistic rampage.

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it is, to put it bluntly, a work of transgressive fiction. It is also the first work of the type I’ve ever come across, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Jayme K, however, from what my research tells me, takes “transgressive” to a whole new level. Colton Reznik is probably one of the most repulsive characters I’ve ever come across (and I’ve read about Joffrey Baratheon). Someone pointed out that he might as well be an extreme case of online trolls who troll IRL as well as online. The instances of sexism, slut-shaming racism, xenophobia and homophobia are almost on every single page. Some have pointed out that this guy is a grown-up modern day Holden Caulfield. I disagree – while Holden and Colton are both “misunderstood and angry at everything”, deep down Holden was a good guy. Colton is a horrible excuse for a human being. At first, I kept rolling my eyes at the author’s writing style, and was offended, but then I looked him up. Jayme writes for ThoughtCatalog and blogs on Tumblr, and he is probably one of the most sarcastic writers I’ve ever come across.

“Disorderly” is, therefore in no way meant to be taken seriously. The language of the book is pretty repulsive 95% of the time, what with all the racism, sexism etc, as well as graphic descriptions of cooking human flesh, but somehow, Jayme makes it work. The remaining 5% are actually inspiring writing quotes that Jayme sneaks in. Overall, this isn’t something I’d read again – not because Jayme is a bad writer (quite the contrary), but because transgressive zombie novels aren’t my thing. I was going to give it a 6/10 rating, but the excessive use of the “c-word” when describing people made me knock it down to 5/10.

Favourite character:

None – Reznik may be horrible, but thanks to Jayme’s writing, the supporting characters are even worse. So I’m gonna have to go with his cat – he’s amusing.

Character who gets the most development:

Colton – his “development” is central to the story

Favourite quotes:

“It wasn’t until I began blogging about the logistics involved in eating human flesh that I recaptured their attention”

“If I wanted to read bad “horror” stories, I’d look up homoerotic fanfiction”


Colton Reznik – Kevin Zegers (I’ve got a feeling that Colton himself, as well as Jayme, would hate that idea)

Oliver – Ryan Cartwright

Leah – Blake Lively


You might enjoy “Disorderly” if you liked:

“Perfume” by Patrick Suskind;

Season 3 of “Bones”