This week in apps: New Pokmon game, Quora videos, and more

Watching Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard commencement speech and learning that the POTUS only has one app on his phone may have kept you too busy to keep up with this week’s app news. We’ve kept up for you.

Each week we round up the most important app news, along with some of the coolest new and updated apps. Here’s what caught our eye this week. (If you’re looking for more, make sure to check out last week’s roundup.)

Pokmon launches a new game

Image: the Pokmon company

There’s a new game from the Pokmon company called Magikarp Jump. The game has you train your Magikarp to jump and then compete with other Magikarp, featuring classic Pokmon music and clever writing. Mashable‘s Kellen Beck calls it a Pokmon version of Tamagotchi.

(Download for iOS and Android.)

Snapchat launches custom Stories

Image: snapchat

Snapchat has finally launched a long-awaited group Stories feature. There are two ways to make them: by location or by specific users. The location Stories have options to include friends and friends of friends.

(Download for iOS and Android.)

1Password launches travel mode

Image: 1password

Following recent travel restrictions, password manager 1Password has introduced a new Travel Mode. It protects 1Password users from being exposed to password searches while traveling. You can decide which passwords you want to keep and which you want to secure by marking passwords as “safe for travel.” When Travel Mode is turned on, all other passwords are removed from devices except those marked safe.

(Download for iOS and Android.)

Quora tests video answers

Image: quora

Q&A site Quora announced a limited, experimental beta of answers in the form of video. Authors with access will be able to record video answers on their phones directly in the app. The beta is currently limited to a small number of topics like beauty, cooking, and fitness.

(Download for iOS and Android.)

Become a car expert

Image: blippar

Similar to Google and Pinterest’s new tools, both named Lens, Blippar wants to build visual search for the real world, starting with cars. Blippar claims to be able to identify any car built after the year 2000, whether in a magazine or on the street and recognize the make, model and year. It then unlocks an AR experience that shows average customer rating, price, a 360-degree view of the cars interior and more. The company has already planned to expand to other categories including fashion.

(Download for iOS and Android.)

Warby Parker gets an update

Image: warby parker

Warby Parker is testing a prescription check app that helps you take a vision test at home. While the app is not meant to be a comprehensive vision test, it’s a convenient alternative to a doctor’s appointment.

(Download for iOS.)

Telegram lets you pay for stuff

Image: telegram

Telegram launched a big update including video messaging, bot payments and Telescope, a video-hosting platform.

(Download for iOS and Android.)

And finally, Apple launched a curriculum for anyone to learn how to make apps.

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Fee-For-Review vrs Vanity Review Overview

fee for review

Probably one of the most controversial topics still in the book publishing industry is the idea of an author (or publicist) paying for a review of their book. It’s an offshoot of the self-publishing versus publishing industry argument that comes from the old vanity presses of the past.

A vanity press, for the younger readers, was a publishing company that would charge an author for the entire print run of a book. The publisher might make attempts to sell the book, but their profit had already been taken in the print run of the book (and sometimes ongoing storage fees of the unsold books). The publisher often kept rights to the book, provided little to no support (cover design, marketing, etc.), or charged excessive fees for those services. The books usually didn’t go through an approval or editing process, the only things required being a manuscript and the money to pay the publisher.

So, the stigma of the vanity press was a hold-over into the era of self-publishing. While many of the vanity press companies morphed into self-publishers, other companies truly did provide a cheap, effective way for an author to get a book into print and platforms to sell it to an audience apart from the traditional publishing route. And even with many self-publishing authors reaching best-seller status with their books, there still is, in the book industry, that same lingering stigma of the self-publisher.

Leading from that is the issue of paying for reviews. As more print publications reduced or eliminated their book sections, the competition for authors and publishers to get attention for books escalated. So, in 2001, ForeWord Reviews launched Clarion Reviews, which charged a fee to provide a review for a book. From there, fee-for-review services popped up, and with the rise of Amazon, services that would provide as many 5-star reviews for your book or product as you could afford.

Over the years, paid review services have become more acceptable, though still controversial to some. Even Kirkus Reviews, the oldest book review service in the U.S., has a paid version for authors or publishers that can’t be reviewed through general submission. But the sigma of the vanity press has also rolled over into the fee-for-review programs. And in some cases, for good reason.

For every professional review company offering a review for a fee, there is another company offering a glowing 5-star review for a fee. While they couch their program in vague generalities about placing a book with the perfect reader or that they only release 4- and 5-star reviews, they’re really just going to write up a review guaranteed to make the author happy. Kirkus reviewers have always been anonymous, so they have the freedom to say what they think without potential retribution, and because fee-for-reviews isn’t the primary income stream for Kirkus, they also don’t need an author to be happy with a glowing review so they’ll come back with the next book the author writes.

City Book Review started in 2008 with a policy that they only reviewed books that had been released in the last 90 days. That kept the focus on new releases, but authors looking for a review from the Sacramento or San Francisco Book Reviews started asking for their book to be reviewed from outside of that period. That was the initial impetus to start charging, first for books outside the review window, and then authors who just wanted to make sure they received a review from us and didn’t want to go through the general submission process for free.

One good sign if a review program is more “vanity” than “fee:” does the company review any other books or only books they’re paid to review? Much like the vanity publishers whose only business model was being paid by authors to publish their book, not sell the book to bookstores or the public for the author, vanity review services only review books they’ve been paid to review. That creates both the impression that they’re only in the business of providing “feel good” reviews for authors and getting them to come back book after book, but also reduces the credibility of the review to bookstores, libraries, and other readers.

Reasons to pay for a review:

  1. It can get you that first review to kick-start your marketing and to give you something to include on your book cover and media kit (if you get the review done pre-publication).

  2. You’re looking for an independent, critical look at your book, outside of your friends and family who have read it so far.

  3. Your local newspaper or media outlets don’t do local book reviews (or any book reviews).

  4. You need a professional book review (or several) to get your local bookstores or libraries to carry the book or set up a local author appearance for you.

Things to watch out for:

  1. The fee-for-review service only reviews books they’ve been paid to review, or the majority of the books they review are paid reviews.
  2. They don’t review books and authors you don’t recognize (all of the books reviewed are self-published or very small press).
  3. Industry professionals recognize and recommend the service and don’t get a referral fee for sending business to them (not something easy to discover, but an important issue).

Where to get a good professional review if/when you need to pay for it:

  1. City Book Review (starts at $199)
  2. Kirkus Indie (starts at $499)
  3. Clarion Reviews (starts at $450)
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Gringo By Dan “Tito” Davis

Story Summary:

Dan “Tito” Davis comes from a town in South Dakota that’s so small everyone knows their neighbor’s cat’s name. But once he got out, he made some noise. While at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, he started manufacturing White Crosses, aka speed, and soon had the Banditos Motorcycle Club distributing ten million pills a week. After serving a nickel, he got into the weed game, but just when he got going, he was set up by a childhood friend. Facing thirty years, Davis slipped into Mexico, not knowing a word of Spanish, which began a thirteen-year odyssey that led him to an underground hideout for a MedellIn cartel, through the jungles of the Darien Gap, the middle of Mumbai’s madness, and much more.

5 Stars San Francisco Book Review –

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Harold Hardscrabble by G.D. Dess

Story Summary

Harold Hardscrabble, by G. D. Dess, captures the feelings of frustration and helplessness that many of us experience in our daily lives. These sentiments are embodied in the contemplative, quietly charming protagonist, Harold, who, like Walter Mitty, lives largely in his own world of thoughts and dreams. We follow Harold’s transformation from a dreamer to a man of action as he struggles to discover how to live a meaningful life in a materialistic world.

Harold copes admirably with the many disasters and injustices that assail him on his life’s journey; but when he is finally overcome by circumstances beyond his control, he is forced to take matters into his own hands to attain justice for the all the misfortunes he has been made to suffer. This is a story of a quest for self-realization that unfolds slowly as it builds to its explosive climax.

Midwest Book Review
Harold Hardscrabble is a kind of Walter Mitty figure and in this deftly crafted novel by G. D. Dess the reader follows Harold’s gradual (and sometimes painful) transformation from a dreamer to a man of action as he struggles to discover how to live a meaningful life in a materialistic world.

Harold copes admirably with the many disasters and injustices that assail him on his life’s journey; but when he is finally overcome by circumstances beyond his control, he is forced to take matters into his own hands to attain justice for the all the misfortunes he has been made to suffer. “Harold Hardscrabble” is a story of a quest for self-realization that unfolds slowly as it builds to its ineluctable, explosive climax.

Critique: “Harold Hardscrabble” reveals author, essayist, and critic of contemporary literature, G. D. Dess as a novelist with a natural flair for engaging storytelling and an impressive ability to bring the reader into a fictional world with real world identifications. Unfailingly entertaining from cover to cover, “Harold Hardscrabble” is unreservedly recommended,

Amazon Link –

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How culinary school and gaming helped former teacher Mannah Kallon land a career in coding

It was Mannah Kallons love for food and gaming that ignitedthe former chefs career in coding.

During culinary school and on atour of the South (which hell discuss in our latest episode of breaking into startups),the longtime gamer played A LOT of video games and even taught himself how to make an onethat could potentially get kids excited about learning Math.

The onetime culinary school attendee, became excited about prospects in education and embarked on a career teachingin New Yorks famous Harlem neighborhood. Other educators at the school wanted to learn his secrets for getting students excited about math.

Their interest sparked his own passion for coding and gave him the insight that his Philosophy major and passion for symbolic logic, could be put to a differentuse in the technology industry.

So Kallon left education behind, became the coder he wanted to be by taking classes at DevBootcamp and took a job at the personal shopping and style service, Stitch Fix.

Part of the reason why we started the Breaking Into Startups Podcast was not just to share these stories, but also to provide you with an unbiased page of resources that we recommend for you to use at your own discretion and you can go get discounts when you apply to bootcamps like Dev Bootcamp and similar programs.<

Ifyou want to prepare yourself before you apply, make sure you sign up to our 5 step challenge

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Elmina’s Fire by Linda Carleton

Story Summary:

What happens when a troubled young woman dares to follow the stirrings of her soul in turbulent times? Elmina begins life with a troubled childhood in a medieval French town-a childhood that turns her into a spiritually seeking young woman who dares to follow the stirrings of her soul. Her idealism and love lead her to leave a Cathar school and follow the man who will become Saint Dominic. As the world around her erupts into the Albigensian Crusade, Elmina finds herself complicit in its horror, and her spiritual and emotional life begins to unravel. With the aid of the counsel of her wise prior, Brother Noel, Elmina learns to paint her experiences within a sacred circle- a practice that helps her discover the origins of her lifelong fears and wrestle with questions that are as divisive today as they were eight centuries ago: the nature of God, the purpose of creation, the nature of evil, and the possibility of reincarnation.

Amazon Link:


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YouTube Embed – <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″src=”;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

5 Star Good Reads Review-

Read this book if you wrestle with questions about the nature of God, the purpose of creation, the nature of evil, and the possibility of reincarnation.

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Rage and Mercy: Part One by Scott Dresden

Story Summary
“This thrilling book delivers a violent tale that is ultimately as surprising as it is gruesome.” Kirkus Review Sayer didn’t expect his life to go any further than wherever his wealthy clients told him to drive to, until he worked for Diana Westcherry. The young, beautiful, epileptic woman stubbornly imposes her kindness on Sayer, exposing a life that could’ve been, if she’d been his mother. Through Diana, Sayer learns that nothing determines a man’s life more than the mother he was born from. And when drug fiends murder her for purse change, Sayer will slaughter all of them to immortalize her, the mother he was denied. But knowing now that the greatest gift a father could give his child is choosing the mother of his child, he abducts Amanda to create the child he was supposed to be. Rage and Mercy is the story of Amanda and Sayer. Amanda is a born again Christian on a mission to shepherd lost souls to God. Sayer is her black kidnapper, determined to give his future child the white, Christian mother he never had. While there is nothing Sayer wouldn’t do for his future child, Amanda must discover if she can endure impossible horrors to prove that no child of God is beyond redemption.

4.5 Stars San Francisco Book Review

Scott Dresden’s Rage and Mercy: Part One is an intricate fictional work that will engross a reader’s attention start to finish. The murder of Diana, a young, virtuous woman, triggers Sayer, her former driver to embark on the systematic extermination of an unwanted population of drug addicts, referred to as “fiends.” The novel follows Sayer, Diana, Norris, and Adams, the detectives investigating the murders, Margot, a photographer who stumbles across the story, and Amanda, an entwined acquaintance of Diana. Reflective one-liners pop up throughout the narrative, offering thought-provoking concepts, such as “’Catch the devil before you cuff the suspect’” and “’…the most consequential decision a father can ever make for his child is to choose the mother who bears it, and the best fathers do not ask permission or apologize for what they do for their children. I became wealthier than nearly everyone by yielding to no one but my family.’”

Each chapter incorporates another layer to titillate and enthrall readers. Dresden’s work requires a mature audience to appreciate and comprehend the graphic material woven throughout the novel. Dresden boldly engages the themes of rape and murder in a very candid, up-front manner, while avoiding the tendency of some authors to romanticize the acts. Moreover, he considers these themes through the lens of motherhood in a manner not typically utilized. Readers will have to decide for themselves the character, composition, and impact of a “good” mother. Situations like this arise throughout the narrative, encouraging readers to reconsider self-determined truths, like where the boundary between good and evil truly falls. Readers may find themselves sympathizing with, or even rooting for, the vigilante as he tries to avenge the honorable life stolen before its time.

Rage and Mercy: Part One will leave readers on the each of their seats anxiously awaiting the next installment of Dresden’s premier work. Clearly identified as Part One, the novel leaves many questions unanswered at the close of the first installment. How deep into the story will Margot probe? What will happen to Amanda after she escapes captivity? Will Sayer walk away before his vendetta consumes him? We can only hope Scott Dresden does not delay. Rage and Mercy: Part One weaves an elaborate narrative of deceit, desire, hope, and destruction that many readers will instantaneously begin again. Ideal for sunny days at the beach or stormy nights with some popcorn, this book will prove an excellent addition to any adult’s reading list.

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6 Weirdly Specific Tropes Movies Got Briefly Obsessed With

Hollywood is a constant savage battle between artistic vision and producers desperate not to be fired. Sometimes this means crowd-pleasing fun, but most times it means each new idea gets grabbed by every studio and wrung dry over the course of a few years before they move on to the next one.

Some of those ideas are weirdly specific. Like freakishly, pointlessly specific. For instance …


Five Out Of Six Movie Deaths Are Now Caused By Huge Blue Light Beams

There are an infinite number of ways for aliens to kill us. They can drop asteroids on us, grow replacements of us in pods, or carefully wait for every Earth government to elect an insecure idiot with nuclear capabilities. But somewhere along the way, all movie aliens agreed on a single method: a big stupid beam of blue light.

In the ’90s, beams of blue light came out of every alien ship and death satellite, but it wasn’t until the rise of the superhero movie that blue light beams became the deadliest killer in all of cinema. Beams of blue light are practically the main character in most Marvel movies. Here’s Iron Man waving to one:

To differentiate themselves from the Marvel movies, the DC superhero films decided to be shitty piles of unlikeable misery. However, they did end up using the same blue light beams. In Man Of Steel, all of Metropolis not smashed into rubble by Superman himself is vaporized by a giant blue beam.

No matter how many cool weapons the bad guys came up with, they kept coming back to the blue beams. They even showed up in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. Think about that for a minute: It’s a movie about robots that turn into fighter jets, Laserbeaks, and dinosaurs, and some asshole still suggested, “What if we blew everything up with just, like, some big blue beam?”

Paramount Pictures
Pictured: Not dinosaur robots or Laserbeaks.

Suicide Squad is a movie featuring 416 potentially interesting characters and one Jared Leto’s Joker, and even that monstrosity manages to squeeze in three giant blue beams.

Warner Bros.
They happened in Act Two, the seventh Act Three, and the 14th denouement.

At this point, blue beams of light have become so common that the poster for Fant4stic featured one as the main antagonist. That really happened. They actually marketed this movie as four bored people staring at a cliche, and it was the most honest advertising in the history of the world.

20th Century Fox
Audiences everywhere said, “Oh, sweet! Blue beam of light is in this one?! I hope they went with its original costume!”


’90s Femme Fatales Killed Everyone With Their Legs

In the 1990s, when Cobains freely roamed the Earth and Jolt Cola turned children into vibrating corn syrup, a new breed of deadly and mysterious creature emerged. Its habitat was the action movie and it hunted with a natural weapon as deadly as it was sexy. We’re speaking, of course, about the North American ’90s Femme Fatale who always killed her prey by wrapping her legs around its face.

It was a decade in which every woman owned seven to 15 ThighMasters, and it led to an epidemic of skull-crushing leg murder. Historians believe the trend started around 1993 when Lena Olin killed Gary Oldman by squeezing his brain into cubic zirconia in Romeo Is Bleeding.

The trend continued in 1995’s Tank Girl, when Lori Petty snapped a guard’s neck after luring him in with the promise of a blowjob. Unfortunately, the trend of dressing Ice-T up as a kangaroo started and stopped with this film.

Later that same year, Famke Janssen played a Bond villain in GoldenEye who didn’t even have to get her legs around your fragile neck or brain. She killed her victims by just wrapping her legs around their body, a finishing move so unbelievable, she almost certainly discovered she could do it during a tragic sex accident.

Also in 1995, Sonya Blade leg-killed Kano during their match in Mortal Kombat. It was truly a glorious year for sexy thigh slayings. Every movie cop in 1995 had no idea if someone was murdered, or if they just really misunderstood the instructions in a Kama Sutra maneuver.

Eventually the ’90s ended, and women in movies put their legs away and switched back to guns and knives — with one notable exception: Mystique. Since the X-Franchise began in the year 2000, she has single-handedly reduced the face population with her legs. She may be one of the Children Of Tomorrow, but her murder weapon is Class Of ’95 Forever.


Liquid Nitrogen Instantly Turned Countless ’90s Villains Into Shatterable Ice

How do you kill an unkillable enemy? Wrap your legs around its head and squeeze? Sure, that works if you’re a lady with highly trained thighs, but what if you’re not so lucky? The answer is simple: liquid nitrogen. It’s fast-acting, effective, and in movies, you can find it everywhere.

The trend started in Terminator 2 when Arnold, as the outdated T-800, faced off against the totally sweet liquid-metal T-1000. For most of the movie it looked hopeless. He could make himself into floor, his arms were knives, and bullets only made him look radder. But look what happens when you douse him in liquid nitrogen, say something awesome, and shoot him:

Before we get into how overused this trope became, we should mention it’s mostly bullshit. Yes, super cold things make nearby things super cold, but nothing freezes anything as fast as movie liquid nitrogen freezes them. In real life, getting it on you doesn’t do more than burn your skin. It doesn’t, for example, snap your legs in half and turn you into a shrieking slushee pinata. Speaking of, please enjoy this scene from 2004’s Mindhunters.

In Demolition Man, Wesley Snipes is so impossible for the wussy future to defeat, they have to thaw out Sylvester Stallone to deal with him. Which seems strange because the future is well-stocked with liquid nitrogen and the moment any of it gets on Simon Phoenix he instantly becomes 100 percent Popsicle.

The ’90s were a great decade for bizarrely instantaneous liquid nitrogen deaths. In GoldenEye, Alan Cumming is frozen so quickly he doesn’t even have time to recoil in horror. Or maybe he learned from Han Solo to always strike a cool pose before being frozen so the statue of you doesn’t look like it’s crying.

When there was nothing original left for this trope to do on earth, 2001’s Jason X naturally took it to outer space. The movie is a combination of every tired idea ever brought up during a Hollywood story meeting, including the shattering of a frozen human. But how were the screenwriters going to create a believable way for a woman to freeze in outer space? When you hear the answer it’s going to seem obvious: By getting her head dunked in a conveniently placed sink full of pointless sequel-grade liquid nitrogen.


The 2000s Went Blimp-Crazy

When you picture the future or a more advanced alternate reality, what do you see? Robots? Silver bodysuits? Butt plugs that connect to your social media and calendar while cooking the perfect egg? Of course, but in the ’00s, filmmakers decided there was one technology that would definitely be there: blimps.

Yes, as CGI became advanced enough to render anything a filmmaker could imagine, they all imagined a world of blimps. They were the same technology that let our great-grandparents float over NFL games and let clowns turn inflatable tubes into puppies. They’re as fast as a bicycle but 400 times more flammable, and yet Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow was sure blimps would rule their oddly futuristic 1939:

This absurd idea seemed to start with Kurt Wimmer, the director of 2002’s Equilibrium. It was mainly a movie about gun dancing and the nature of art, but it started the trend of using blimps as a way to sell the “futureness” of a movie.

Afterwards, this uniquely insane idea was used in Sky Captain, The Golden Compass, Stardust, and Southland Tales. If it was a movie made in the 2000s but set in a futuristic or alternate-world fantasy, its skyline definitely included the most hopelessly inefficient method of travel ever invented.

And that’s not even getting into the realm of video games, where airships dominate the skies of the Final Fantasy and Fallout franchises. There’s something about a fictional zeppelin that just captures the imagination in the way that a real one never, ever could.


In the ’80s, Giant Barrels Of Toxic Waste Were Everywhere Ready To Deform You

Today, our greatest political thinkers are using the environment as a place to dump coal waste until it fixes the economy, but during the ’80s we considered the environment an important thing. One of the main concerns we had was toxic waste, and this was reflected in the art of our cinema. People in movies were leaving uncovered vats of hazardous materials under every catwalk and dumping leaky barrels of it into every pond they could find.

“So what?” you might be saying. “Not worrying about where to put radioactive waste helped them create more jobs!” And you’re not wrong, but the only jobs they created were face-half-melted monster and CHUD.

Obviously, hazardous waste in the ’80s did more than make monsters. It also made Ninja Turtles and Toxic Avengers. Getting dipped in carcinogens was probably the origin story of a disturbing number of the super-powered characters from your childhood.

Of course, no discussion of a toxic waste backstory is complete without mentioning The Joker. In the 1989 Batman, Joker falls into a hilariously lethal vat of chemicals and all it does is give him a skin condition and an enthusiasm for childish jokes. Like everyone that decade, the only thing deadly chemicals did was make him crazy powerful at the cost of looking a bit more ugly.

Obviously, this is ’80s movie nonsense. Exposure to toxic waste in the real world mostly melts you into a puddle of imminent, certain death. And one might argue that a movie where that happens would be the furthest thing from entertaining. And to that we have three words and one hyphen:

Fuck you -RoboCop.


Desert Sandworms Went from One Distant Planet To Everywhere

The idea of a titanic worm terrorizing the desert was popularized in the ’60s by Frank Herbert when he wrote Dune. It was a unique threat to the spice farmers of that particular universe, and quickly became a genre of monster infesting every single science-fiction desert to ever exist. If you’re a nerd and the movie you’re watching, the book you’re reading, or the video game you’re playing has a desert, there is a 100 percent chance it’s infested with giant worms. And you owe all that to Frank Herbert.

Maybe sandworms became popular because of their toothy, inhuman mouths or their simple-minded drive to devour. Maybe it was because they’re easy to draw, but for whatever reason, they became the go-to desert monster for every genre.

Boba Fett fell into one, Beetlejuice was eaten by one, and they even tried to kill Kevin Bacon.

Usually sandworms just pop out of the ground and stupidly gnash their teeth. Tremors was the first movie to really explore their personality. It started as an idea that came to director Ron Underwood when he was hiking in the desert. While resting on a boulder he thought, “What if, like … sandworms?” That simple variation of “The Floor Is Lava” grew into a film series spanning two more movies than the Mannequin and Weekend At Bernie’s franchises combined.

Across the Tremors sequels, the Graboids evolved from a stale Dune rip-off into one of the most layered, realized creatures in all of science fiction. They became more than just menacing tubes undone by simple rocks and floors. They developed legs and eventually the most lethal of all nature’s adaptations: the rocket fart.

You can find Tiagosvn on Twitter. Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. Jordan Breeding has a blog, a twitter, and a blimp that makes your car look like a covered wagon.

Also check out 6 Absurd Action Tropes You Never Noticed And Can’t Unsee and 18 Baffling Tropes Hollywood Can’t Stop Using.

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The Hunter: Awakening by Nicholas Arriaza

Story Summary:

The Hunter: Awakening, is the first of a series of novels that will explore the nature of good and evil and the question of redemption: Is it available to those who have perpetrated great evil? Not long after the theft of a leather-bound book from a hidden hillside tomb in LA, a young hiker inadvertently awakens something fearsome that has been laid to rest some two hundred years ago. Soon after an emaciated, amnesiac man falls from a cliffside trail into the backyard of young, pregnant, neurosurgeon Melisa Castro. The young doctor feels compelled to help the “John Doe” regain his memory. Meanwhile a vampire who no longer has a hunger for blood comes seeking to rectify the awakening only to find himself in the middle of a power struggle within the family Melisa’s fiancé Chris leads. Chris has yet to tell Melisa of his true nature and the fact, she is carrying a werewolf’s baby.

5 Stars San Francisco Book Review

In The Hunter: Awakening, we are introduced to Melisa Castro, a doctor who helps a man who falls onto her property and seems to have amnesia. As she is four months pregnant, she tries to be careful around him, but she finds herself needing to help this mysterious man. Even stranger, when she touches him, she sees visions of things that happened to him in the past, which he can’t even remember. Melisa is slowly drawn into a world of vampires and werewolves and those that hunt them. She discovers that the battle between the Hunter and his prey has been going on for centuries. Melisa begins to realize that the child she carries might not be normal at all and that she might possess some supernatural powers as well. Because of the child she’s carrying, she is in danger from the Hunter. But things aren’t always black and white. The Hunter has been awakened, but he wasn’t supposed to be, and now no one knows how the story will end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next in the series. The plot was great. Who doesn’t love a story about werewolves and vampires? If you don’t, you should. Even though Melisa was the main character, I actually liked Aaron, her future brother-in-law, and Ranald the best. Ranald, the sarcastic vampire, was an enjoyable character to read about. I hope that if I ever become one of the undead, I can still keep it light like he does. Aaron makes his brother, Chris, who is the father of Melisa’s child, just look bad. He’s willing to go as far as needed to protect her and her unborn child.

Amazon Link –

Author Website:

Author Bio
Nicholas Arriaza has worked as a pizza maker, an electrician, a carpenter, a luxury home electronics salesman, and an owner operator of a successful luxury custom home theater design company. He is now a stay at home dad and fantasy writer. He lives with his wife, their infant son, and Pit-Bull Basil in Los Angeles, CA. THE HUNTER: AWAKENING is his first published novel. He is currently working on the second novel of the saga.

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Gideon: The Sound and The Glory

Story Summary:

Unsung heroes and murderous villains, hidden forever in ancient shadows, now leap to life – blazing onto the pages of revelation. Gideon, a lowly woodcutter, is blessed by an angel to be the savior of all Israel. He does not know why or how and shrinks from this dangerous mission. The commandment to conquer the Midian Empire as one man seems all but impossible. But Gideon’s confidence grows as God guides his every step until he stands fearless and faithfully fulfills his destiny as, “A mighty man of valor.” The fierce warriors, burning towers and devastated cities contained in Gideon’s Journey, are but silver threads that weave into a sweeping tapestry of ancient intrigue. Running through and stitching together the entire saga is The Lord of the Covenant, or The Baal-Berith, also known as Gideon’s mysterious Ephod of Gold.

Manhattan Book Review – 4 Stars

Barak’s chances of winning the battle of Mount Tabor were slim, very slim. Back in the middle of the 12th century BCE, the Midian Empire with its far larger and stronger army would surely whip the Israelite forces. Then, divine intervention for the worshipers of Adonai, the one God: a mega-storm suddenly appears on the horizon, torrential rain churns up the dusty plain. The idol-worshiping Sisera’s horse-drawn chariots are stuck in the mud and vanquished.

Ganci’s retelling of the biblical Book of Judges is a page-turner. Generals and kings highlighted in the book’s five sections leap off the pages of the Old Testament, usually acknowledged as a collection of rules and extraordinarily long lists of names.

While the author’s forward suggests the realm of science-fiction, within a handful of pages the saga’s origin is revealed. After Barak’s demise, his successor, Gideon, the title’s namesake, takes on leadership of the Israelites. Gideon is a complex character. Physically almost a head and shoulders higher than the other “pesky Israelites,” (Joseph Ganci has a wonderful turn of phrase), he is humble and lacks self-confidence, characteristics which enhance his appeal. Hopefully it is not sacrilegious to compare him with Kirk Douglas in his heyday. He falls deeply in love with Drumah, despite being forbidden to consort with a daughter of the Canaanite enemy. After he “harvest[s] the fruit of her passion” and she spends time hidden in a cave, eventually the rules are bent and she becomes his concubine.

Gideon’s strength and reputation swell until, when he dies, he is mourned by his seventy sons. Abimelech takes the reins. He is emphatically not a chip off the old block, a thoroughly nasty bit of work who kills all but his youngest brother (who escapes) and tries to unite in one kingdom both the idol-worshipers and the Israelites, an absolute travesty.

This is ancient history from a twenty-first century perspective. And it works! Once Abimelech is decapitated, the story accelerates. Further intrigue culminates with the leadership of Eli, the young high priest, who takes the reader from the final pages of the Book of Judges to the first Book of Samuel.

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