Slay the Dragon is an action-packed mystery about a man named Cesar Rosada. He is descended from a line of coffee farmers, a former professional athlete and now a rising politician with a single goal; to help the working class of his country. He is determined to fight for the rights of his people but there is one crisis he can not see a way out of, the opioid addiction. Working as the minister of finance he will stop at nothing to fight against corruption. This leaves him with a choice that will test his own morality.
This book was written by author Laura A. Zubulake who worked for years on Wall Street and is a frequent world traveler. She has written non-fiction before, but Slay the Dragon is her debut fiction novel. The prologue got my attention from the very beginning and is an engaging start to an intriguing novel that hits on a subject that is destroying families and individuals in America. Slay the Dragon does a fantastic job of using fiction to understand a complex problem, and helps you visualize the enormity of the opioid crisis today. I enjoyed how the world unfolds slowly, detail by detail, we get to piece together a seedy world reminiscent of the show Narcos. César’s character development reminds me of George R.R. Martin’s characters. They are characters changed, dramatically, by circumstances out of their control, and they’re just trying to adapt.
This story is exciting, dangerous, thrilling, and full of adventure. Cesar is the kind of character you can’t help but root for with his pure ideals and determination to help those around him. When his actions enter a moral gray area you can empathize. How do you find such entrenched corruption? Zubulake has written a world that feels real in its gritty depictions of South American politics.
From beginning to end this book held my attention and kept me guessing. This is definitely the book for you if you like political thrillers that leave you thinking long after you’ve closed the book.
Pages: 289 | ASIN: B07BH2VMNQ
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All Roads Destined is a collection of stories from fantasy to science fiction with links back to your first collection. What was the inspiration for this collection of stories?
As for the Outposts, I wanted to continue on since I’d left it as a cliffhanger in All Roads Home. I then felt I wanted to bring more loneliness and some addiction awareness into the equation as these subjects, real or imagined, can be sad and frightful.
I felt that this book was a bit darker than the last collection. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing this book?
I did want to go darker, bring more science fiction in but based off subjects that make people uncomfortable. Again the addiction issue, some odd poetry. As you said in your review, the short story The Crone was your favorite. It was also mine, too. And I love when something like that can just come upon me, the imagery and the way I want it to be read.
You also included a selection of poems in the section titled The Fragments. What was your favorite poem from the collection and how did you pick which poems made it into this collection?
The poems or fragments I write in between or even during a WIP. My favorites in this book were Clocks and The Water Globe, both having to do with the passage of time.
What is your process like for writing short stories? Does it differ from longer novels?
There’s a certain pace with short stories that I prefer. I may be inspired to write a longer novel one day, just not yet.
Destiny is what we bring to the world where the roads are stained with tears and blood, and paved in eternal stone. In Part One, the continuation of The Outpost Trilogy shifts from post apocalyptic to science fiction. Part Two, The Enduring contains five dark fiction short stories. Part Three, The Fragments include fifteen poems of urgent struggle and destination. New York author, Lisa Diaz Meyer relates to the odd, macabre & funereal. ALL ROADS DESTINED is the second of her ALL ROADS trilogy.
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The very personal story of The Ghost Years by Mutch Katsonga will give you a first class seat straight to the heart of hell. And you will thank Katsonga for it. This first-person narrative follows the life of a young man caught up in the life of drugs in detail that is rarely found in literature. Katsonga is pulling no punches in showing us the mind of a junkie in this satisfying novel. While sometimes getting very close to it, The Ghost Years is careful not to put its characters into situations just to prove a point. What it does is allow them, and the reader, to grow as people in this hard-hitting and memorable study of the seedy underbelly of society. Several action scenes and a couple of twists and turns keep the story going to its well-earned conclusion.
I felt that many events that the main character had to endure do often seemed to be laid out just to have him fail. The character of Buzz, for example, with his never-ending optimism and somewhat expected twist revelation does come off as a narrative tool more than a real person. But still, somehow it works, and the story is better for having him in it.
Katsonga’s style of writing could be best described as “tell, don’t show”. I felt that exposition was overused to get us into the mind of the main character. Lines and lines of text are expended on questions about life, death and society. Because of this, I felt like the narrative and the view of the world appeared to be spoon-fed to me.
However, the advantage of this style quickly gets the reader up to speed. We are left with a great understanding of the motivation that drives the story line. The logic that his character follows is consistent and that was Katsonga’s goal all along. Some may not approve of the drug use in the story, just as in life, but we can give his character that one thing he was craving his whole life – understanding.
Previously moot and tired questions about the meaning of life get a whole new context when asked with an empty stomach and the craving for a new “hit”. The Ghost Years will have you asking about the reasons that make you get up in the morning – are you doing it because you are told to do so or because you choose to? How far do you have to drift aimlessly before you decide to take a direction for your life?
The Ghost Years by Mutch Katsonga gives us several clear and memorable lessons about the value of choice, life, drugs and society in this crude but honest and hard-hitting book.
Pages: 179 | ASIN: B079KSFGSS
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Dee Dee is a surfer, an aspiring tennis player, and a girl who is always up for a good party. One summer in particular stands out in her memory as she reflects upon her life. With her close band of friends around her, Dee Dee sets out to thoroughly enjoy her summer off and does not hesitate as she goes about seeking the company of friends new and old. Her “blow out summer,” as she calls it, teaches her some valuable lessons and gives her time to reflect on her own choices as she learns who is worthy of her affection and trust and who falls short.
Set in Huntington Beach, California, Blow Out Summer, by Denise Ann Stock, reads less like a novel and much more like a memoir. The conversational tone of the book makes it a quick and easy read. Dee Dee’s reflections on her experiences with the drug trade and her laid back approach to her participation in drug trafficking read shockingly smoothly. For as deeply involved as Dee Dee seems to be in buying and selling illegal substances, she seems much less concerned than she should be. I attributed her naivety and lack of real concern to the time period, the mid 70’s.
I found myself waiting for that one point in the story that would point to a gripping climax. Everything in Dee Dee’s eventful summer points to an action-packed high point. However, with all her close calls, second guesses regarding her associates, and her relationship woes, there never came that one moment where the entire book seemed to pull together. Reading much more like a diary of the summer, I was a little disappointed not to see a resolution to many of the dilemmas created by the main character and her friends. I believe I was more determined to find answers than Dee Dee herself.
The one scene providing the most harrowing visual comes when Dee Dee’s friend, Jaycee, makes a frantic call about a possible overdose. I felt, as a reader looking for answers, this was an ideal opportunity for the plot to tie neatly together with some life-changing decisions being made on the part of both Dee Dee and her friends. As in real life, however, secrets prevail, and not much changed for those most deeply entangled in drug use and trafficking.
As pleasant as Dee Dee seems throughout the story and as much as her remembrances of her eventful summer kept me interested, I felt the overall story was missing something. The memoir style of writing Stock uses is appealing and will suit readers seeking a fairly light read without highly stressful rising action.
Pages: 360 | ASIN: B01C58JXJI
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The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down explores the lives of three “downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living” people as they battle with their demons while leaning on one another. What were some of the stand out moments for you when writing this story?
Stand out moments… I would have to say some of the quieter, more introspective scenes in which the three main characters collide with from time to time. These moments of theirs are aimed to define them or break them entirely, or both. Particularly, some scenarios in which a resolution is expected to eventually come to fruition, but never does, because many times in life that is what happens. Or a resolution won’t be surmised for an unfathomably long time, and during those long stretches we can either take it in stride with patience, or die.
Once again you are able to amaze me with some realistically gritty characters. Where does the seed for a character start and what is your process for developing them through the story?
In most cases, any character I write, whether he or she is a major character or just an ornament on a mantle in the background, I begin with myself… as I’m sure most writers do. But where the emotion comes from, generally when I’m alone at night after a really, truly bad day at work. The birth of a character’s emotions can also come from the moments immediately following a delicious meal I’ve just enjoyed. So I can’t really say there’s one single place it all comes from. Almost every character I write, they start out as one type, and by the end of the book they become something entirely unintended, and not just because of the story. But because somewhere during the months of which the writing takes place, I think that a part of me sometimes changes depending on what’s going on in my own life, and sometimes… not always- but sometimes that bleeds out onto the page.
The title for this book is interesting. What was the inspiration for the title, and why did you choose a blank cover?
The cover was once full of color and pretty chaotic. But once I finished the first draft and really took a step back to look at everything, I felt a certain pull towards The Beatles’ White Album. And the theme of purity. In the book, the purity of the human soul is constantly at stake, whether it was lost long ago and there might be a chance to regain a sliver of it, or it’s literally on the brink of total collapse. How that theme is encompassed by all of the characters and where it steers them through their adventures, which can take them in very random directions, or keep them on a steady “forward” path, was a big part of why I chose the cover to be what it was. In a way, it serves as a figurative blank slate, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. The title, on the other hand, went through probably the most changes I’ve ever shifted through while writing a book. The title began as something very simple, I can’t remember exactly but it was very one or two-worded. Boring. And didn’t at all convey anything. The title that I landed on at the very end, I feel, paints a picture of emotion. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with any physical scene of the book, and for everyone I think it will be different. But for me, when I read the title, I picture a very, incredible quiet night. Like taking a deep breath, and being engulfed by absolute relief that the day is over with.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book I’m currently working on is another story involving Arlo Smith, of The Mire Man Trilogy. The book takes place between the events of Book II and Book III, during his mid-twenties, where he meets a person who introduces him to really good jazz, and a very particular kind of nightlife away from home, when “home” starts to sometimes feel like a prison. It’s a sort of a love-letter to Kerouac’s “On the Road”. It’s tentatively titled “Electric Gypsies Beneath the Whiskey Tree”, and I hope to have it finished by next year some time.
Boots and Bonnets Inn, an isolated motel of questionable quality positioned just outside Moab, Utah, is home and haven to a handful of self-proclaimed societal outcasts who for better, worse, or much worse, have found their way here just in time to live out the rest of their lives. Among these longstayers is Wendel Trope, a slightly overweight almost-nihilist who survives within this little realm of “contentedness” by exercising his right to medicinal and alcoholic experimentation, while battling ruthless anxiety attacks and the “you owe me for last week’s stay” death stares of Jerry, the hotel owner. Holding his proverbial hand in an off-kilter, symbiotic friendship through this chapter of his life is Fag Bush Betty, the motel’s infamous “anything goes” prostitute, who may have more to her history than simply a catalytic reason to defile her own spirituality. And anchoring Betty, is Lotus, a young girl who harbors a shattered past and an as-of-yet untainted future that will inevitably bring her to the doorstep of Moab’s most unforgiving roadside motel. “THE SOUNDS FROM THE HILLS GO AWAY WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN” is a story without direction, without hope, and most importantly without a beginning or an end. It is simply an examination of the present moment during a fragment of time in the lives of several of what society considers downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living, and expendable, taking place in a corner of the world most only have fleeting nightmares about.
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A benevolent woman of quiet mystery who smiles in welcome greeting each time one visits her; whose distinct perfume is remembered long after one’s departure:
Author Myrtle Brooks’ love affair with the Big Apple served in ten allegorical slices depicting everyday people experiencing miraculous events throughout the five boroughs. “The Sanctity of the Mails:” observed in Heaven via the Brooklyn Post Office. A Staten Island-raised engineer who escapes city living, only to find the city within himself. A mysterious floor in a Queens apartment building reachable through attainment alone.
Songs to New York crosses the threshold between impossible and occurrence: “Only in New York.”
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“Ya know, it’s my understanding that the success rate of funerals is impeccably high.”
The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down is the latest book by author Dave Matthes. I very much enjoyed the style and tone of Dave Matthes’s writing. The story is about what Matthes describes as “an examination of the present moment during a fragment of time in the lives of several of what society considers downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living, and expendable, taking place in a corner of the world most only have fleeting nightmares about.” In the story, we follow several characters. Wendel Trope battles his anxiety attacks with alcohol, Jerry, the owner of the run-down hotel where the story takes place, Bush Betty, a prostitute, and Lotus, a young girl struggling with her past. This collection of characters creates a strange community that holds each other up. The relationships between the characters were one of my favorite parts of this story. The peculiar and subtle interaction of people who haven’t known each other long but are connected by struggles and traumas.
The morbid humor of the book fits perfectly with the setting and the characters. That being said the subjects of this book are pretty dark, including a suicide early on, so if you find yourself triggered by these kinds of subjects this might not be the book for you. The way Matthes deals with these emotional subjects throughout the book is done with a gritty artistic class. He is not afraid to talk death, addiction, and mental illness, subjects that are often considered taboo to speak about. Matthes deals with them in a relatable and real way. They are apart of peoples lives, even if society would prefer to ignore it. The matter of fact tone of the book allows life to stand on its own two feet, not shied away from or glorified. This story was a whirlwind to read as it took me on an emotional roller-coaster. The story itself really captures the moment in time aspect where there doesn’t need to be a grand arc because it is simply a fragment in the lives of people. I very much enjoyed reading this intense book and look forward to delving into more of Matthes’s extensive collection of works. I would definitely give this book five stars and would highly recommend it.
Pages: 350 | ISBN: 1975607597
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How We End Up is an intricate contemporary story that follows the lives of three strangers and shows how people can intersect at life changing moments. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
I used to walk the beach in a park near my house. The park gets numerous visitors, mostly families, and I would frequently walk by young children playing in the surf. This area is known for its rip currents, and there are always news stories about people being caught in one and having to be rescued. It occurred to me that one day I might have to jump in after someone, particularly a child. Fortunately, I never had to. It got me thinking about how these rescues are often called “miracles,” but the story stops there. It did not, of course, tell us the aftermath, so I began formulating a story that shows us how they were brought together and tells us what happens to these people over a long span of time.
I felt that this novel was about the characters and how people change over time. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
The central male character, Jackson, rescues nine-year-old twin girls. Although they they are twins, I saw them as being very distinct from each other, and I imagined they would lead dissimilar lives. Not only are their sexual orientations different, but one is worldly and self-destructive, while the other begins as a bit naïve, which leads them both to disastrous circumstances. Jackson, who achieves literary fame by writing about the rescue, suffers from a case of hubris, which results in his star falling. Their personas and their relationships, particularly their romantic entanglements, are affected, often negatively, by both the inner conflicts of the three characters and by chance. I see this as something we all endure. Some things we decide upon by choice, while others are left to happenstance and over which we have no control. All of these experiences lead to “how we end up.”
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the story develop as you were writing?
The “skeleton” of the story was apparent to me from the start, but as I continued writing, the details—specific events, relationships, and the consequences of the characters’ reckless behavior—appeared. This is pretty much my writing modus operandi in general. For me, writing is a discovery process.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
My next book is about a character who leads five different lives, each detached from the others. It is somewhat experimental, maybe, but this is all I presently can say about it. If fortune smiles upon me, I might finish it within 6-8 months; after that, I would think publication would follow in about the same amount of time.
BEING RESCUED IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING SAVED.
Jackson Levee, a professor and writer, plucks two drowning twin girls from the Gulf of Mexico. Their attractive single mother has her own ideas about how to thank the hero. Jackson and their family go from being complete strangers one day to intimate friends the next. Jackson soars to literary fame after writing about his rescue of the twins, while the girls mature into beautiful but troubled young women. Over the next twenty-five years, everyone’s recklessness in love, marriage, and life produces wild and devastating results, forcing the three of them to struggle as they try to realize their destinies and find balance in life.
Douglas Wells crafts an intoxicating story teeming with passion and exhilaration to danger, addiction, and despair.
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Life is filled with challenges and for people with crippling anxiety it is worse. That anxiety feeds depression, and the two together can define and break a person down, or they can adapt, find ways to manage it and thrive in life. The BreakAway: Girl Secrets of a Tantric Yogi by Paulette Bodeman is Paulette’s memoir’s. Her story ranges from early in life to after her child is grown and an adult himself. This collection of her memories works like the human brain, it isn’t linier, rather the memories flow back and forth leaving imprints on the reader. Throughout the book Paulette slowly discovers yoga in a variety of forms before finding her place, at the end of this book she shares her knowledge with information on how to mediate, yoga poses, and how to embrace your own BreakAway moments in life, be them big or small.
Paulette Bodeman decided when she started writing this book that she was not going to just include all the good points or put a happy twist on her life moments. She promised herself to include all the ugly moments, all the hard memories, from addiction, divorce, depression and loss. They were not written with caveats that ‘oh this made me a better person for living through it’. Instead it is just raw emotions. It is real life and despite the jumping from one memory to another often not in chronological order, it is captivating to the reader. Some people will be frustrated by the lack of cohesion from one memory to the next; but I found it relatable and it gave me a better understanding of her. When I think back in time to my own memories it is a jumbled road, and those pieces all fit together in my own broken puzzle, that is what this book reminds me of. You don’t put a puzzle together left to right, you fit them together as you find them and once done you have a complete picture.
Much of the book focuses on her finding herself though her experiences and how they all led her to where she is now. But written in her style that path isn’t clear. In the last part of the book she explains her views on BreakAway moments, big and small. She talks about how they are the defining moments in your life that you may or may not even reorganize as being a defining moment. This last part pulls together everything she wrote. The inclusion of mediation suggestions, yoga poses, and spiritual healing ideas just completes the book. You start reading about her chaotic and disjointed life and end with a guide on how to find your own path through your own chaos.
This is not your traditional yoga book, it is not your traditional book on finding inspiration in life or how to better yourself. It is not a self-help book you pick up and read step by step to find your perfect balance. It is a book that will inspire you, give you bits and pieces you can relate to and give you suggestions on finding your own inner peace at your own pace and discovering your own BreakAway moments and how they have defined you.
Pages: 226 | ASIN: B079NCH83G
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In the year 2000, 12.4% of the deaths worldwide stemmed from drug and alcohol abuse. This problem is a global pandemic with prevalence higher than diabetes. It is estimated that about 5% of the global population suffers from this problem. In the 1700’s, addiction was declared a disease.
Bill McCausland has outlined every step in the recovery process. He has done a fantastic job of explaining every step in the recovery process, provides a solid understanding of the principles, and talks about the three types of recovery.
The book gives an important tip on the use of denial. It is never intentional. An addict rarely knows they are using denial as a tool for maintaining the relapse. The discusses the difference between a slip and a relapse and assures you that the key is in recognizing each for exactly what it is and taking the necessary steps to getting back on track.
The comforting part is that neither a slip nor a relapse should exclude you from trying to get and stay clean. These could act as motivators to work harder and more consistently. The book reiterates that being in recovery is not recovery. You have to work at it every day of your life. This book does a great job of dispelling myths that could easily discourage you from trying.
This book makes it clear that family and friends are an integral part in the recovery process and building a support system for the recovering addict. I really liked how this book explains and encourages the development of this support system. Motivation from the system is great but essentially, the decision to clean up lies with you. These grounded observations are the many gems in this book.
For a book about addiction and recovery, it’s very engaging. The information is clear, concise and to the point. It gives the reader questionnaires and real world examples that fit the lessons therein, and provide an overall path through the recovery process. There is frequent use of familiar AA sayings and quotes, but it never becomes overwhelming. It feels like having a an AA meeting ready and waiting for you on a bookshelf.
Successful Recovery and Relapse Prevention is not an instructional booklet but a guide. It helps you understand the recovery journey better. The author is not condescending or judgmental. He does not discourage or admonish. The tone is very friendly. Every word sounds like it comes from a place of concern for the recovering addict. The concepts of the recovery process though difficult, are made much easier and actionable by Bill McCausland.
This book is useful to all stakeholders in the journey of recovery and will increase the chances of success at staying clean.
Pages: 140 | ASIN: B01NALH57G
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