At Horizon’s End by Chris Sarantopoulos

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The reason that this is posted on Sunday is the fact that the story has just been released! If you do not feel like reading the review, it is a 5/5 and I strongly recommend that you buy it. You will not regret it. 

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Kindle: $1.21

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The Man Who Fed On Tears always knows whose time it is to pluck from the world of the living. His existence is one of a symbiosis between his need for the tears and woe he causes to those closest to the deceased, and the natural order of life and death to which he is bound. He never questions himself or his actions and has never made a mistake. Until now.

Stella is a four-year-old girl who misses her mommy and wants to see her again. She doesn’t yet understand the concept of loss, so when she sees close family members crying, she tries to stay cheerful and optimistic. After all, Mommy said they’d see each other again when the time comes At Horizon’s End. So if they’ll meet again, why is everyone crying?

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Chris Sarantopoulos once again shows us that he is an absolute master of short stories. I will try my best to keep it spoiler free, as I really do not want to ruin it for anyone.

We are placed in the story right when everyone is gathering at Stella’s house, due to her mother passing away. Stella, being only 4 years old, is already a hint that this story will explore the darkest places in our hearts and minds. And it does. There is sadness that Stella does not understand, she is too young to grasp the fact that her mother will not return, and although she was told by her mother that they will meet again, she does not fully understand that either. She takes it for granted, but does not know that she too would have to die, for that to happen. She tries to explain to her father that they will see her again, At Horizon’s End (an expression her mother used), but as you would imagine, he is way too sad and way too disconnected and, just like everyone else, only manages a smile and a hug for Stella.

The story actually switches between Stella and The Man Who Fed On Tears. Let us talk about him, as he is the main reason for the story that is unfolding. The author gave him that name because, I believe, he did not want to influence your thoughts, and did not want to put religion into the story. I will do it, however, as I will be able to present him better with something you are all very familiar with. The Man Who Fed On Tears in religious sense would be described as a demon. Everyone knows that demons are known to feed on one’s negative thoughts and preferably get them stuck in a loop of negative emotions. That gives them the energy to “exist”, and that is exactly the reason that he is described as the man who feeds on tears, or rather, negative emotions, which sadness definitely is. There is a catch. If you do not let them feed on your negative emotions, as you only display positive ones, then there is no reason for them to exist. And this is when Stella comes into action. Everyone in the house is feeding The Man, but not Stella. She does not have any negativity around her, as she is, in her pure child’s mind, completely sure that she will be able to see her mother again one day. This leaves The Man dumbfounded, as he is not used to that kind of energy, especially on such occasion. Now let me just say this, The Man also plays the role of a Grim Reaper, but not the cartoonish idea or whatever. He is the reason for her mother’s death, he is the one that took her away, so he could feed himself. Now, again, if we follow it through spiritual explanation, we know that evil entities are not dumb. We know that they show great capabilities of thought. And this is also what happens in the story. The Man, amazed that Stella is handling the situation like she is, gets into a moral struggle, whether he did the right thing by taking her mother away from her or not.

And this is the point where I stop. What arrives after this point is the conclusion to the story that would spoil it for everyone, so I will not go any further.

As you can see, you cannot explain this story or take anything from it word for word, because it is not meant to be read like that. It is meant to make you think and incorporate your own knowledge and your own beliefs into the story, and the story suddenly becomes unique to you. I could go on and on, and explain every single paragraph, but I do not want to write an essay and bore you guys to death. With that said…

Book recommendation: 5/5

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The Man Behind The Bar by Chris Sarantopoulos

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Kindle: $1.21

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The past never really stays hidden or forgotten. Ben Stingler left his past for a quiet life, until a young man steps in his bar, and brings with him all the things Ben tried to put behind him five years ago. An overdue debt is back on the table.

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Since this is a short story, I will use the material from the book to write my review. So I will write *SPOILER ALERT* before and after the sentence(s) that spoil(s) the book, so you can skip it.

Short stories are overflowing the market today. And you know what they say about quality over quantity. But I will not go into this today, I will save it for next week. A short story is supposed to be a story that delivers with a bang. That means that it has to reach the climax in a matter of pages, and very few, believe it or not, actually manage that. This one does.

We are put in a bar and follow the first-person story of Phil Harrisson, also known as Ben Stingler. When a strange, dangerous man enters the bar, Phil’s story starts to unravel. We learn, that a few years back, he was a professional hitman, who now want to live a normal, happy life and has managed so for the past few years. Apart from the fact that he stole a couple million dollars in some job this is all that we know about our main character. But then again, we do not need to know much more. The point here is that it is written in a way, that you could only guess what else this character has done before, and that leaves us with a taste of mystery that we will never solve.

*SPOILER ALERT. The next passage will spoil the story, so do not read it if you want to read the story first. Before you skip, I have covered a single point about why the book is worth buying. I am telling you this, so you do not ruin it for yourself, but still know that IT IS worth buying* 

The man who entered the bar was sent there to kill him, which our character guessed from the minute the guy walked in. They have a conversation in which our character reveals what he did and how he stole the money and so on and so forth. At this time, we also have an insight inside his head, where he is thinking about how to kill the man sitting at his bar, with the shotgun that is under the bar. He manages to do that, as we would expect, but the description of the kill that the author provides is something I believe I have never read before. He does not say: “I took the gun and boom, he was gone.” like 90% of the stories nowadays do. He… No, I will not go into detail, this description alone is worth of buying the kindle edition, so do it. For comparison, those of you who are familiar with Harry Potter books. Remember the death of Sirius Black? How it was described? Well that right there is similar here, but not the same, of course. 

*SPOILER FREE ZONE. Go ahead, continue your reading.*

I spoke about climax before, but this story actually does not reach the climax until the last page. It reaches it there and leaves us hanging, thinking about what happened next. At the same time only giving us just the right amount of information in which the story could unfold in both ways and that right there is absolutely perfect for a short story.

I think the author should write more short stories like this and compile them into a book and release that.

Since this is the first short story that I reviewed on its own, I will grade it from 1 to 5, as with all the other short stories that I may review in the future. This is because of the fact, that you really do not need that much space to maneuver. A short story is either great, good or bad. There is no philosophy here.

With that said, my short story recommendation is: 5 out of 5, absolutely spot on. This short story is what every short story hopes to be.

High School Dance (How to Raise a Good Kid #2) – Starbuck O’Dwyer

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Kindle: $3.65
Paperback: $11.99

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This book is the culmination of a project that began shortly after my wife and I welcomed our son to the world. Like most first-time fathers, I felt a new and profound sense of responsibility and immediately became determined to pass along every lesson I believed was important… First, I made a list of the events of my childhood that taught me the most, the ones that made the biggest impressions, both good and bad. This exercise forced me to revisit many harrowing experiences such as batting zero in little league baseball, my chronic addiction to a blanket, my disastrously unsuccessful try-out for the role of Winthrop in The Music Man, and the time I mooned the entire sixth grade. I wanted to let my son know whatever hardship he might face; his father had already been there, learned something of value and survived.

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So, you have read the first book? Well if you have not yet, then be sure to check out the first part – How to Raise a Good Kid. Is the second one worth the read? Let us cover a few points and we will see where it stands.
To start off, in its core, it is nowhere near the first book. While the first book was filled with humor right off the first page, this one is not. It has occasional funny moments, but is not nearly as humorous as the first book. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows author’s mental growth and development between writing the first and the second book. And the pick of the stories shows that too.
Stories are basically as good as before, only a bit more serious and a bit more “grown up”. They still bring up values with which each individual should grow, so that is still present and still as good as before. You can find yourself in some of the stories and the book reaches to you in an improved way compared to the first one. In that sense, author nailed it and this is definitely a book for every child to read.
I am giving it 7 out of 10, just because of the lack of humor. I know it is hard to keep writing book after book and make it funny each and every time, but I have met this author through the first book in a comedian way, so to lose that feeling in the second book is kind of a let down.

Book recommendation: 7/10

How to Raise a Good Kid – Starbuck O’Dwyer (OLD REVIEW)

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When I first got this book I was expecting it to be some sort of a guide on how to raise your child, but it proved to be much more than that.
The book is filled by short stories told by the author about his childhood and how he was raised. Now that may seem like a boring thing to read, but it is far from that. Most of the short stories are filled with humor that had me giggling like a little girl at the first (!) page. Not every story is told in a humorous way tho, some are quite serious. It all depends on what the topic or the main point of the story is and what the author is trying to tell and the issues he is trying to portray (racism for example). The stories are not your average “read one time and never again” type of stories. You will definitely find yourself returning to the book and reading that one story, that managed to sink in, again and again.
This book has it all, the good and the bad, and while it is not your typical guide on how to raise your children, you will see that every single story is basically the advice on how to do it. You will see that the values portrayed are something that you need to teach not only your children but also yourself. If we would all read and learn from stories like these, the world would be a much happier and friendlier place.
I must thank the author for sending me a review copy of this book. Thank you for this amazing book. The humor and the topic choices are excellent. This is one book that I will definitely hold on to because I feel like I am going to need it in the future.

Book recommendation: 9/10

Panorama – Shilpi Chaklanobis (OLD REVIEW)

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Poverty is like a leech. It doesn’t kill you, but sucks your blood to the extent that you stop living.

I do not know where exactly to start or even what to say without spoiling the book. The book consists of short stories, each of them awaking a different emotion. But in the midst of the different emotions there is also an important life lesson that you will learn, story after story. This book will teach you about poverty, depression, loss of a loved one or even a friend. It will tell you the story, it will get your feelings into the mix, but it will not cleanse you from them. If you are feeling sad at the end of one story, you will be feeling dread after another. This makes the book quite hard to read if you are not ready for the harsh reality. I highly recommend it if you are looking to find more about the aspect of life that you have never been through before.
I have rated the book 7 out of 10 only because a story or two did not hit as hard as the others and it ruined the momentum.
I must also thank the author, Shilpi Chaklanobis, for providing me with a review book. Thank you for showing me that a simple book can give you such a flurry of emotions.

Book recommendation: 7/10