“The Toy Thief” Is An Emotional Roller Coaster That Will Rock Your World!

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The Toy Thief
D.W. Gillespie
October 6, 2018
Flame Tree Press
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Being a writer is a tough job that one does almost an obligation to the rest of the world. These stories need to be told and some of us are marked for that vocation. For those writers, it’s not all about the money, glamour, or movie adaptations. Sure, we’d all like to be millionaires with multiple homes and all that jazz. But for writers like D.W. Gillespie it’s about feeding the fire, following the trail, and making things happen. The Toy Thief is an intricate labor of love. A twisted labyrinth with dark surprises around every corner. Some are gifts and some are terrors, but I guarantee that you’ll never feel bored or lonely while reading this amazing new release from Flame Tree Press!

The story is told to us by Jack, who was a young girl when the Toy Thief shattered the tenuous structure that her family balanced upon. It is a single parent family that was brought to that state by a blessed event that turned out horribly. This is a burden that Jack bears at some times and rejects others. Her brother Andy seems to be constantly seething about it, but appearances can be deceiving. Their father is a decent guy doing the best he can to hold everything together. These are regular, working-class people who take life as it comes.

Jack has a friend named Sallie who comes from a rich family, but enjoys the freedom of sleeping over at a house where the kids aren’t under strict adult supervision. It is possible that the girls would have eventually parted ways, but The Toy Thief makes sure of it when he steals Sallie’s doll. Not only that, but Jack sees him doing it! Trouble is, no adult is going to believe in the strange, skeletal creature that walks on ceilings. So Jack is stuck with trying to find her own solution to the problem. A little 9 year old girl isn’t much of a threat to something so huge and powerful, but when her brother Andy joins in, they might just have a chance.

When they do take the offensive approach, it seems uncertain how successful they’ve been. But then Andy disappears and Jack knows that he didn’t just wander off on his own. Regardless of his violent record and official title of juvenile delinquent, Jack doesn’t see him that way. He’s her smart and calculating older brother, who often seems like he’s merely an observer to his own behavior. Things just kind of happen when he’s around. When the police and even their dad have no idea how to find Andy, Jack is pretty damn sure she knows exactly where he is. But can she find The Toy Thief’s lair and save her brother without becoming a casualty in the process?

This is a powerful, Five Star read that will keep you reading long past your bedtime! The complexity keeps readers on their toes the whole way through and when you reach the end, there’s a good chance that you might cry. Not about some happy, sappy family that finally figures out that they love each other, either. No, you will feel the pain Jack bears in her heart for her father and her brother. Why did things have to go the way they did? Are they special or just a normal, screwed up family in an age when doctors prescribe Ritalin to hyperactive children as if they were Sweet Tarts? Is The Toy Thief a who or a what?

D.W. Gillespie’s writing is amazing in the way it pulls us in close, right into the center of things. He never sugar coats or shies away from difficult things and that is exactly as it should be. People need to come to grips with the difficulties of being human again. No electronics or smoke and mirrors here. The Toy Thief is bloody and frightening. It tackles big issues. It’s a cave on fire and you need to get a copy now to see just what I’m talking about! Something just slid my sliding glass door open and I need to check on it…Run! Save yourselves by going to www.flametreepress.com and purchasing The Toy Thief by D.W. Gillespie today! Also available from Amazon.com or your favorite bookseller. Ow! It burns!

Ready For A Science Fiction Thriller That Addresses The Issues Of Gender Inequality? Then You’re Going To Love “OF SOUND MIND AND SOMEONE ELSE’S BODY” By William Quincy Belle!

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Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body
William Quincy Belle
BG Ltd.
September 22, 2016
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

I can’t think of a better way to start this year than by reviewing a book that straddles a number of genres and does it with grace and style. William Quincy Belle’s novel Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body is an amazing combination of Science fiction, medical suspense, humor, and even romance. Belle also spotlights the need for gender equality by pointing out that it is still a “man’s world” in too many ways. Let’s take a look inside!

Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body opens in a very dynamic fashion. Rising financial whiz Alan Maitland hits the hay anticipating a crucial corporate deal and how that will lead to his success. But instead of sweet dreams, he’s rudely awakened into a nightmarish situation. Alan has become a woman in all the physical ways, but still has his regular man’s brain. What the hell is going on here? He’s not even in his own bed! In fact, he’s quite busy next to one. Yikes! What to do?

Fortunately Alan is a cool minded pragmatist, so his brain works even under pressure. He remembers that on the previous day he went to participate in a scientific research experiment. Hmm…Could there possibly be a connection there? Maybe there was a mistake and his brain was switched into the body of the beautiful woman he seems to be inhabiting? One Miss Hana Toussaint? Only one way to find out. He needs to track down his own body and see who’s inside of it. What if it’s also him? What if…

What if he gets his ass in gear? That has to be better than just worrying right? Well, yes and no. Alan discovers quite quickly how difficult it is to be a woman, especially a sexually attractive one. Guys don’t talk to his face and many have one track minds that aren’t interested in giving him directions back to his condo. Then there’s the whole challenge of walking in stiletto heels. You can’t pull the old manly lumberjack stride thing with these babies on! Unless you want to break an ankle or your neck, that is.

He finally makes it back home, only to find out that the worst is true. There’s a woman in his body and get this-she thinks the whole experience is a fun adventure. FUN? Hoo boy, this is getting more complicated by the minute! Both of them are at critical junctions in their lives, too. How is that going to work out? In today’s fast-paced world, no matter if you are a high priced escort or corporate numbers cruncher, it is frowned upon if you call in sick. Plus Alan and Hana really would like to get back into their own bodies ASAP.

So all they need to do is go back to the doctor’s office and get the person who made the mistake to fix it. Simple, right? Not exactly. When they get there, the person who did the procedure is missing and no one believes them. Soon they’re on a wild goose chase after a doctor who’s hard to track down. Did I mention that his lab has very erratic hours? Will Alan and Hana ever be able to return to their physical selves? How about their respective jobs? Things are not looking good. Will Alan learn to love being a woman? What if Hana runs off with someone else in his body? Man oh man! This is one book you will want to read because it is packed with suspense to the very end!

Of Sound Mind and Someone Else’s Body gets a 5 star rating from this reviewer! William Quincy Belle has done an excellent job tackling a lot of important issues while keeping the story moving and using humor to keep things light. Having his characters switch genders makes it easier to get the point, too. Why is being a financial whiz looked on much more favorably than being a highly intelligent sex worker who makes people happy in a safe environment? Why do humans ruin everything by applying so many rules and conditions? It’s not much of a mystery why people are so stressed out these days. Everyone makes so many assumptions that we often miss out on cool people and experiences. Read this book and see if you don’t feel better! Tell them Dr. Blackmore sent you.

William Quincy Belle is the author of multiple books. Including Death is a Many Splendored Thing, Salmagundi, and his newest release Metro Float New York a post-apocalyptic thriller! You can follow William and purchase his books on Amazon.com or check him out at http://www.WilliamQuincyBelle.com  You’ll be glad that you did!

“Dinah the Christmas Whore”—An Excerpt from My Favorite David Sedaris Book!

Thanks to The Sanguine Woods for reminding me of this excellent story by David Sedaris

The Sanguine Woods

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‘“All right, then.” Lisa pulled over and parked behind a van whose owner stood examining his flattened tire with a flashlight. “Things might get a little rough up there, so just do what I tell you and hopefully no one will get hurt.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder and stepped out of the car, kicking aside the cans and bottles that lined the curb. My sister meant business, whatever it was, and in that instant she appeared beautiful and exotic and dangerously stupid. LOCAL TEENS SLAIN FOR SPORT the headlines would read. HOLIDAY HIJINKS END IN HOMICIDE.

“Maybe someone should wait with the car,” I whispered, but she was beyond reason, charging up the street in her sensible shoes with a rugged, determined gait. There was no fumbling for a street address or doorbell; Lisa seemed to know exactly where she was going. I followed her into a…

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New Year-New Typewriter!

New Year's Royal Typewriter

Okay, maybe what I should say is, “New Year and Old Typewriter!” Either way, I’m grateful for a friend who thought of me when he came across this awesome vintage Royal at a barn sale. Not only did he nab the typewriter, but the textbooks with it! One of which has exercises written in pencil dated February 15, 1932. The machine itself is in pretty nice condition after being kept safe under a plastic cover. The paint is groovy olive green color and everything moves without much effort. Quite a different story from the Rod Serling Royal KMM I restored a few years back, which was totally frozen and required significant work.

After some cleaning, oiling, and a fresh ribbon-this might just become my new favorite! Although I will never put my Remington Quiet-Riter away. I may be disabled, but there is something magical about typewriters that helps me go where I want to be. Big Thanks to Dan Foster for giving me a gift that will last forever. Happy New Year to ALL! Time to start writing.

Craig DiLouie’s “One Of Us” May Be The Most Powerful Book of 2018!

One Of Us cover shot

ONE OF US
Craig DiLouie
Orbit
July 17, 2018
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

When I read and reviewed One of Us by Craig DiLouie for Hellnotes this summer, I was really excited about it. Amazingly enough those feelings never went away and I wanted to make sure to share them with you here before year’s end. DiLouie presents a rich collection of powerful images that are branded into your brain as you read. Here’s a couple of them: A boy named Enoch Bryant who has the head and limbs of a dog. He stands upright, wears clothes and goes to school. A dilapidated mansion that is the remnant of a large plantation in Huntsville, Georgia. Its original purpose was to house cruel people who kept slaves to do all their dirty work. In 1984, the grandness is long gone, but the cruelty behind those doors isn’t. A strikingly beautiful teenage girl who’s innocent on the outside and dirtier than a truck stop hooker on the inside. She might be true to her beau or toss everything away for a cheap thrill. A small southern farm town that looks like a picture postcard, but has enough secrets and dirty laundry to burn down a paper mill. Over all that, lay down a big powerful soundtrack made up of songs by Black Flag, The Clash, X, and Oingo Boingo singing “No Spill Blood.” If you’re not familiar with this band, look this song up-It will add much to your experience!

I hope you are intrigued by my lengthy and lurid introduction! One of Us is a book about monsters that everyone should read. Yes, fans of horror, science fiction, and fantasy always enjoy well done monsters, but there’s a lot more going on here. The monsters in Craig DiLouie’s book are constantly changing, shifting shape, and proving that there’s a lot more to a person than how they look. In fact, it will surprise you just who the monsters really are in a book rich with emotions and images that you won’t be able to get out of your head for a while. There are twists and turns galore in this excellent novel. You’ll be kept off balance or hanging on the edge of your seat a lot. So make sure to wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes! Oh, and you might involuntarily shout at times when the action gets really hot. I know I did!

Our point of entry is The Home-an orphanage that is meant for the containment of plague children. Which, put that way, sounds like a noble and health conscious effort by the town of Huntsville to keep everyone safe. Unfortunately, there is nothing kind or gentle about raising these children that everyone has identified as monsters. Besides Enoch Bryant, who is called Dog, Goof’s face is upside down. Brain has the head of a lion and the body of a gorilla, while Wallee glides around on things that look like roots. All manner of combinations exist and some of the children don’t appear to be altered much until they are put into situations of intense stress. A strain of what the adults in town call “plague germs” are the cause of these mutations. They are kept away from “normal” society and forced to work on farms for free and other demeaning jobs.

A few miles away, in the village proper, life goes on in a semi-normal fashion. The year is 1984 and we are in the rural south. Many of the kids live on farms or have parents who work at The Home. Even though some of the more broad minded teachers in the area are trying to show the kids that the monsters are really just unfortunate children, the overall consensus is that the creepers at the home are horrible and should be dead. Some of the children at the home are quite aware of this, others like Dog, are still hoping that the humans are friends that will help them and see to their welfare. There is a sheriff in town and he is a mixture of decency and pomposity. He is a smart man and knows the truth about many things, but he also wants to get re-elected. Plus, who gives a hoot about the monster kids anyway? The only time anyone does is when caring about the kids will benefit them. Like the good old US Government, they care when they exploit the special powers of the plague children. Otherwise, they keep many of them locked up like one might serial killers or high level drug dealers. The kids try to be friendly and cooperative to adults that give grief in return. Especially Mr. Gaines who gets my vote for stalker of the year.

Reading One of Us made me shout in surprise and anger while trapped on the emotional roller coaster that DiLouie put us through. I felt the fear and anger deeply. There were times when I even felt hopeful, then crushed when the humans failed. Especially when I understood what “the plague” really was and how it came to be. Amy Green and her mother will put you through the wringer. I’m still not sure how I feel about them! Maybe they’re victims, but they are also experts at manipulation and even murder. But they do what they have to in order to survive. If the men can cat around whenever they feel like it, then why can’t women? Jake Coombs is a noble young man who aches to do the right thing. He and Dog are very similar in their direct and innocent approaches to the world of “normals.”

This is a FIVE STAR work that has risen high on my Wall of Fame! As the book races towards its climax in the last third, One of Us just keeps blowing you away. Your heart will be broken, sensibilities altered, and you will find yourself taking a good hard look at the powers that enforce the rules wherever you live. For those of us who feel marginalized, this book brings hope by showing what a bunch of “good for nothings” can do when their backs are against the wall. A smashingly good book with so much to say! Don’t wait another minute to purchase your own copy of One Of Us! Available NOW from Orbit, Amazon.com, and your favorite bookseller. Put those holiday dollars and gift cards to good use on a purchase you’ll never regret!

O Unholy Night in Deathlehem – a holiday horrors charity anthology available now

This great new collection from Grinning Skull looks like a good, scary read. Check it out and help an important charity at the same time!

S.E. Casey Author

My doom laden Christmas story, TRADITIONS AND ROTTEN DELICACIES, is included in the latest edition of the Grinning Skull Press annual Deathlehem charity anthology series available here. Its for a good cause as proceeds go to The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

This was a story I wrote a long time ago which was to be included in a Christmas/winter weird horror anthology by me. Due due to some heroic procrastination techniques I diligently employed throughout 2018, it hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, so it gave me an excuse to work on polishing one of the stories. Plus, it’s going to a good cause.

Thanks to Harrison Graves (editor) and Grinning Skull Press for publishing. Other authors include fellow flash fiction writers I often get published with Wiebo Grobler and Christopher Stanley (#teamdarkness).

Happy holidays and good reading!

S.E. Casey

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Guest Article: Four Activities to Teach Your Kids About Other Cultures by Anna Levine

For those with young readers to buy for, may we suggest this excellent book by Anna Levine and illustrated by Chiara Pasqualotto?

Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK!

Today I welcome Anna Levine to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Last week, my daughter’s and I reviewed her picture book All Eyes on Alexander. We loved it and you can see that review HERE! Now, she offers us some educational ideas to be done with children after reading the book. Thanks, Anna!

now-you-are-the-western-underneath-this-holding-hands-around--1280467Where in the World…?
A few fun activities to learn about different cultures!

All Eyes on Alexandra is a picture book about a crane that flies from Europe to Africa. Let Alexandra introduce your child to the world.

1. Play the migration game. The Smithsonian has a wonderful on-line migration game. Fun questions teach about the habits of a Wood Thrush that migrates from Costa Rica to Maryland. https://nationalzoo.si.edu/migratory-birds/play-migration-game

2. Follow the Leader. Alexandra leads her family in their Vee. Here’s an opportunity to talk about good leaders, people who take responsibility and…

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“Who to Be Kind to”—A Poem by Allen Ginsberg

Thanks to The Sanguine Woods for sharing this poem, which is just as vital now as it was in 1965. The monsters are still here, they’ve just changed their masks and gone in for spray tanning of their unhealthy hides. Be kind now, don’t wait. Because if you do it may be too late. Love is love and it warms the universe, keeping the forces of fear and hate from taking over completely.

The Sanguine Woods

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