#Review Roundup: Tamika Thompson, Paula D. Ashe, Rachel Swirsky, Herman Steuernagel

Book Title: Unshod, Cackling, and Naked

Author: Tamika Thompson

Genre/Subgenre: Horror

Story: “The Turn”

My review is on TikTok

Story: “Bridget Has Disappeared”

I mention in my review of “The Turn” that Tamika Thompson masterfully uses the everyday moments of our lives to weave the story and make the revelations all the more shocking. And holy f^#!, “Bridget Has Disappeared” uses that same technique perfectly. I had no idea where this story was going, but I was fully invested and it built up to a gut punch of an ending. 

Ideal Audience: Horror/dystopian fans

Hot Take: Thompson is a master of subtly building a story to shocking revelations.

Story Scores: 5 stars

Cover Score: Above average

Book Title: We Are Here to Hurt Each Other

Author: Paula D. Ashe

Genre/Subgenre: Horror

Story: “Aspects of Emptiness”

From the opening pages, Ashe makes it clear readers won’t get to skim over the stories and maintain emotional distance. This commands our attention, our engagement, with a direct address and some profound ideas about how we see ourselves. It’s a mirror to our darkest thoughts, hinting at what lies ahead in the coming pages.

Story: “Carry On, Carrion”

The relationship is central in this story, echoing a truth from most people’s lives. Most of us are influenced by our relationships with others, and this story shows how another person can convince someone to engage in horrendous acts they might not have entertained on their own. 

Ideal Audience: Horror fans, people who like thought-provoking content.

Hot Take: Ashe is reaching out from the pages and clawing your skin, demanding your attention.

Story Scores: 5 stars

Cover Score: Above average

Book Title: January Fifteenth

Author: Rachel Swirsky

Genre/Subgenre: Futuristic. The categories on Amazon include literary action and adventure, and cyberpunk science fiction, and I’m not sure those are most fitting.

Theme: Inequality is in the fabric of society, even in systems meant to promote equality.

The Nitty Gritty: A slice of life book examining the impact of UBI on a number of women without flinching from the harsh truth that money doesn’t solve everything.

Ideal Audience: Readers interested in societal problems, women’s issues, and stories set not too far in the future.

Strengths: Develops multiple realistic scenarios used to explore issues around social class, domestic abuse, religious abuse, and activism. 

Weaknesses:  Moving through multiple narrators always presents a risk, particularly when they don’t intersect in the plot. Readers may not like some narrators or be as invested in their arcs, which could cause their interest to stall. 

Hot Take: A slice of life book that lingers. Swirsky’s choice to remain neutral on UBI enables her to look at the issue from multiple perspectives and leave readers with a sense of the complexities of solving societal problems. Full review on Goodreads.

Book Score: 3.5 stars

Cover Score: Above average

Book Title: Eclipse

Author: Herman Steuernagel

Genre/Subgenre: Science Fiction

Theme: Confronting oppression/suppression of truth

The Nitty Gritty: In a post-apocalyptic era, not everything is as it seems. Corrupt leaders rule the galaxy while the rich enjoy luxury on Earth, while some are kept in ignorance, believing Earth is uninhabitable. When the truth emerges, it means certain death … or revolt.

Ideal Audience: Hard science fiction fans, military science fiction fans.

Strengths: This book has an interesting premise and it builds to action with each thread it follows. It gained and held my focus.

Weaknesses:  It’s the first book in a duology, which means you don’t get resolution at the end of this book. Also, because it continues to move through different settings until near the end, the description and backstory (for new characters introduced) slow the action some.

Hot Take: It’s a solid offering that will satisfy people who enjoy science fiction and military sci-fi stories. Full review on Goodreads. 

Book Score: 3.5 stars

Cover Score: Average

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