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Cruel, Ironic and Hilarious

Jason Phillips Author Interview

Jason Roger Phillips Author Interview

The Ice Factory follows hurricane victims as one struggles to get the only ice factory working again. The premise seems simple, but what ensues is a fun and engaging story. What was your inspiration for this story?

They say fact is stranger than fiction, the book is actually inspired by a true story, which was cruel, ironic and hilarious. I started writing after watching a documentary about a caribbean hurricane, which seemed a perfect metaphor for personal upheaval and survival.

I loved reading the differences and similarities between the way Joy and Audrey viewed the world. What were some themes you wanted to capture when writing their characters?

Joy represented old fashioned decency & dignity (values which i remember from the caribbean, especially of my grandparent’s generation).
Audrey shared the same values at heart, but surrendered her heart to a husband who slowly eroded those values over thirty years. just when all seems lost, with a little encouragement from those who saw the best in her, in rebuilding the ice factory audrey was able to rebuild herself.

The Ice Factory is your debut novel. What were some things you wanted to accomplish as a writer in this book, and what were some lessons learned?

I really had no expectations other than bringing out all the colourful eccentricity of caribbean characters, and seeing where that would lead. My characters became so vivid that I couldn’t wait to see what they would do next, and all I had to do was type what they revealed. The publishing experience, however, was a steep learning curve, the biggest lesson… never submit a final draft until you’re absolutely certain it’s FINAL, and confident enough to let go completely. There’s nothing worse than discovering a mistake after the book is published.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on an Australian epic set in the nullarbor desert, again inspired by a true story. The working title is ‘terra nulla’, which I hope to publish in 2018… fingers crossed!

Author Links: Website | Amazon

The Ice Factory by [Phillips, Jason Roger]When Audrey woke up on the kitchen floor, she didn’t expect to find herself in the news. But there she was, for all the wrong reasons, and now it seemed all of Trinidad & Tobago was laughing at her. By divine intervention, her path leads to the neighbouring island of Grenada – once a jewel of the Caribbean, the tiny nation faces its darkest hour in the aftermath of Hurricane Edna. The natives are restless: having no electricity, no homes, plenty of heat and no ice for their grog. Audrey is about to face the biggest challenge of her life, as the new owner of the Ice Factory.

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The Real Outback Country

Lesley Mooney Author Interview

Lesley J. Mooney Author Interview

Beyond Sun and Shadows is a sweeping tale set on an Australian cattle station in 1948 and follows the lives of a small community as their lives are thrown into turmoil by unforeseen circumstances. The setup to this novel is unique and vivid. What were some influences that motivated you to write this story?

This novel is about my own experiences as I have explained in the note in first pages.

My father took me and my brother with him away from boarding colleges out to Roy Hill Station, south of Nullagine in the outback of Western Aust. to Roy Hill station (named Row hill station in the story). That place now belongs to Gina Reinhardt with her copper mines all around. I mentioned that I altered the names in the story. We stayed there and worked for some years until I went To Ethel Creek station down the track to help the Managers wife and children; and my Dad and Brother were moved north to Waterloo Station, near the Northern Territory border. Later on I joined them there. When finding a Lump on my back I was flown to Wyndham on the coast to have it removed. After being there for some weeks, as in my biography, I flew to Darwin and started work there as a clerk
with the Government for over two years.

Everything I wrote included myself (as Lea) and my family. All the story of the station and helping the shearers, mustering, The wet season, and animals are true, as were the staff of aboriginal workers and us going to their camp. We watched them dance and joined in with them clicking sticks in time. One old man Bindi the gardener, used to press his trousers under his mattress.

Some of the characters are from stations I went to during those few years. The main parts of fiction was the two young men who were murdered and the escaped prisoners who turned up there. A few of the events were fiction, but the characters I met there and at other stations were as I found them , except the head shearer who wrote poetry, but all the poetry written in there is mine. The local dialogue is true as it’s written. Many of the things the young daughter and her friend did and felt were my experiences.

This book has a diverse cast of characters. What character was your favorite to write for?

Favourite characters were many – Chipper (not his name), that mailman was fiction, the funny Chinese cook, and the little boy Eric whom I looked after (his name was Micheal). Everything I wrote about Wyndham did happen and were true, even the song they sang. The young girl who lived with her father, the weatherman, was my actual friend there.

I felt that the books themes seem to be humankind’s connection to the land and the pioneering spirit of the Australian people. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

I really hope that people reading my story will understand and realize this is the real outback country, and how the people of the outback come across. Not false or artificial, but as I described them. Their life is is in this land and most of them become part of the free spirit of the country with it red plains and spinifex whirling into the sky as willy willy’s do. Even my poetry in the book symbolizes the land and it inhabitants. I have written many story poems about the outback, the trees, the animals, pioneers and ordinary bush people. Some are humorous, some sad.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads | Shashwords

Beyond Sun and Shadows by [Mooney, Lesley J]An epic adventure story set on the coast and inland, detailing life in Western Australia in 1948 on a sheep and cattle station. This is real outback living where dramatic events can occur and unforgotten shadows effect the everyday lives of others. When the meatworks were in Wyndham, escaped prisoners strike terror… a family and a stockman with unhappy pasts… the mailman finds a strange body on the road… an accident in windy weather… a shearer with talent… a tragic death daunts natives… a minister’s plane crashes… cattle rustlers cause a stampede… three girls lost in the mountain range discover the past… and even love alters lives…

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Beware of this Danger

Lesley Mooney Author Interview

Lesley Mooney Author Interview

The Three Lives of One follows an island girl named Patches after a tsunami sends her life spiraling into directions she never imagined. What was the inspiration for this heartfelt globe crossing story of one woman’s life?

This story was imagined completely, after seeing a scene on television about a tsunami. I put myself in a child’s place, wondering what would become of her, then I wrote the rest. This was the first story I ever wrote without doing a synopsis first. Once I began to write, ideas filled my head and I continued on to the end.

Patches, I felt, was a well -developed character that continued to develop layers as the story progressed. What were some obstacles you felt were important to her characters development?

As I went through her life with its many hardships, I portrayed some of many unusual events which occurred as a child, then added the scenes I imagined might be part of the life in some loving families; and when that changed and the worst happened, I included some drama and showed the effect on the girl as she grew older. Being kidnapped into prostitution is something I’ve heard of and which happens all over the world today. That is why I included that in the story. It shocked me and is a warning to young girls to beware of this danger.

Patches is faced with many hardships in her life, but I felt the book was about hope in the face of adversity. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this story?

From when she was rescued by the Missionaries, Patches retained an inner belief in God and the church , which was eventually returned by Nickolas Morakai, the orphaned missionary she met during the war. I guess I wanted her to really hope for and find a true love to share with, sustain and comfort her, after all she had endured in her life. I might mention that in the review it said that Japan was a country in the story, and that is not true. It was only in New Guinea that the Japanese entered the story, when they invaded Singapore and the islands there. The other places I did include were some of the Islands in the Pacific Ocean, where she was born and returned to later on. I like my stories to have some twists to make them more interesting. Please note that nothing in that story pertains in any way to my own life, as I had a quiet but interesting life, first in College and then in the outback in two states, as seen in my own biography at the end of every book.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next two books are completed, one published as I said, Fire in the Heart –a Scottish love drama; the other one flight from fear is not, and is a vastly different story to my other ones. My next full novel is well on the way but i have not yet found the right title for it. At the moment it is called Shades of Reality. Or can love endure reality (of life and death or whatever. Another smaller completed story is Cookin in a Teacup, a biographical true story of mine  which happened in the Queensland outback. I am still checking and editing this story.

I have others to write and complete.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Beyond Sun and Shadows by [Mooney, Lesley J]An epic adventure story set on the coast and inland, detailing life in Western Australia in 1948 on a sheep and cattle station. This is real outback living where dramatic events can occur and unforgotten shadows effect the everyday lives of others. When the meatworks were in Wyndham, escaped prisoners strike terror… a family and a stockman with unhappy pasts… the mailman finds a strange body on the road… an accident in windy weather… a shearer with talent… a tragic death daunts natives… a minister’s plane crashes… cattle rustlers cause a stampede… three girls lost in the mountain range discover the past… and even love alters lives…

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Beyond Sun and Shadows

Beyond Sun and Shadows by [Mooney, Lesley J]

Lesley J. Mooney’s Beyond Sun and Shadows is another epic and sweeping tale from the author. Set in Western Australia on a sheep and cattle station in 1948, we follow the lives of a diverse set of characters who are faced with the harsh daily realities of living in the outback with all of its perils and wildness. After they learn of the escape of two dangerous prisoners and then a corpse is found by the local mailman, Ezrah, the community is thrown into turmoil. What ensues is a story of love, adventure and mystery in the Australian bush.

The books primary themes seem to be humankind’s connection to the land and the pioneering spirit of the Australian people, but there are also themes of love, ancestry and the masculine and the feminine. Although the story is set in the 1940’s/50’s, many of its concerns are modern so the book feels both historical and contemporary.

The thing that I loved most about this book was discovering some of the heritage of Australia, such as Aboriginal culture. Landscape plays an integral role in the story, and Mooney excels at writing environment and place–her prose is beautifully lyrical in these instances. Her descriptions of the vastness of the landscape and the tempestuous nature of the bush are particularly vivid and affecting. Not only does she invoke the wide open spaces of the outback, but she also conjures up the minutiae and ‘everyday’ aspects of life such as cooking, and working with the horses and cattle, in evocative detail.

Reading the book, I felt like I had been transported to a land completely foreign to me as the author writes with a very ‘Australian’ voice, but I felt immersed in the world in spite of being ignorant to it. Mooney’s dialogue feels natural. I really enjoyed her use of dialect and Australian phrases and idioms in the writing as well as the inclusion of songs and poetry. Writing dialect can be difficult to pull off, but I actually relished in the musical language of the characters, which added to the authenticity and overall tone of the narrative.

Mooney’s worlds are always fully formed and engaging throughout. She has created a troupe of memorable characters who stay etched in your memory; it is as though they have been living in the author’s mind forever ready to come alive on the page. Because the narrative encompasses so many characters and storylines, it can seem quite meandering at times, and I occasionally felt like I was reading a book of short stories rather than a novel. The book is quite lengthy, and I don’t think that it would have suffered for being a little shorter, but the yarn spun by the author kept me intrigued even whilst the pace was slightly lagging.

This is a rewarding read, full of intimate detail and stunning imagery which left me with a real yearning to visit the sprawling outback of Australia and experience it for myself.

Pages: 537 | ASIN: B072J3M6QV

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The Three Lives of One

The Three Lives of One by [Mooney, Lesley]

A massive tsunami destroys the island home of a little girl. Left without a family, she is rescued by missionaries who name her ‘Patchula’ or ‘Patches’ and take her to Darwin, Australia. What follows is a story of misfortune and tragedy; adoption, death, abuse, forced prostitution, but also of hope as Patches finds joy and meaning, especially in her talent for photography and singing, in spite of the pain. Spanning Australia, America and Japan The Three Lives of One by Lesley J. Mooney is a sweeping tale which carries us across time and continents in search of love and fulfillment.

The book is written in beautiful yet un-flowery prose which is at times poetic. Mooney conjures up place incredibly well, and I found the movement between different continents particularly fascinating –the depiction of the sights, sounds and geography of these places gave me total wanderlust! The description of the tsunami and the wreckage and devastation that follows is extremely affecting and pulled me into the narrative immediately. Mooney is also skilled at portraying her time periods, which begin in the 1920s and move to the 1980s, and the changing biases and turbulent politics of the times.

There are many themes running through the narrative including womanhood, nature and environment, religion, the importance of family, and the value of keeping faith and resilience in times when despair seems never-ending. Although many terrible events occur in Patchula’s life, the book is ultimately about hope in the face of the unknown and what we can achieve if we have the strength to carry on.

Mooney has written a large and diverse cast of characters, and the world she has developed seems utterly real. Patches in particular leaps off the page as a fully-formed individual. Some of the mistreatment she endures is quite harrowing and difficult to read, but it feels very honest. Her hardships elicit great empathy in the reader; I was constantly rooting for her to overcome all of the tragedy in her life and felt completely invested in her development. The more peripheral characters are also well-drawn and prove to be quite emotive, some invoking feelings of intense anger!

One aspect of the book that bothered me slightly was the pacing. We are introduced to Patchula’s predicament, and the narrative subsequently moves very swiftly through the first part of her life and I would have liked this introduction to the story to be slightly more drawn out. Despite this, the rest of the book has a really good tempo, and because there are so many unexpected twists and turns I was always eager to find out what would happen next in Patches’ story.

This book moved me to tears, but it also gave me a great sense of hope. I finished it feeling as though I had been on a long journey–and an extremely rewarding one at that.

Pages: 361 | ASIN: B074M3LW12

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From the Heart

From the Heart: Stories of Love and Life by [Forest, Sally]

From the Heart, by Sally Forest, is a series of six short stories about human passions and emotions, and how they come to the fore when average people face challenging circumstances. The characters range from a young girl in a troubled household to a group of women dealing with the realities of old age, all from various parts of Australia, the author’s home. With a background in both teaching and psychology, it’s not hard to see her interest in the human condition and how she might have a greater insight into it than most.

The stories certainly feature a wide range of social backgrounds and issues, providing a delightful variation for the reader. The narratives are easy to follow, with focused attention on the plot and a small cast of characters – the author has avoided the unnecessary description that can artificially extend a short story and make for long, boring reading.

At the same time, the writing does come across as almost a “write by numbers”, as all of the stories essentially follow the same traditional dramatic structure, including a sort of moral lesson, or insight, at their conclusion. However, there is a freshness provided by the solid inclusion of multiple female protagonists, who I consider more well-written than the few male ones. They are given realistic passions and thought processes, with their inner strengths shown as much as their perceived outer weaknesses. Sympathetic female characters are sadly hard to come by in fiction, even now, and I have to applaud any attempt to do so.

The choice of language is on the simple side, reflecting the characters’ ordinariness and making it accessible to read. There has been a clear effort to match language use to particular characters as well, such as the descriptions in Mouse Mat; situations are compared to the toys and balloons that would be familiar to the young protagonist narrating it. For non-Australian readers, it’s worth noting the odd piece of dialect included in the collection, although it generally doesn’t distract from the work – skerrick was a new word for me at least!

Mouse Mat was probably my favourite of the stories; my least favourite was Heart Buddies. It is very dialogue-heavy, which is hard to get through, but the paragraphing could also be improved to clarify who is talking and when. This story also includes errors, although not related to the quality of the narrative, still detracts from the work for me – some missed words and punctuation.

From the Heart is a pleasant read. It provides a window into human emotion and how people deal with difficulties in their lives. There are plenty of situations to sympathise with and think about long after reading – the stories are memorable for all of the right reasons.

Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07797S3ZV

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Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Mitty Bedford is a young woman who has spent her life under the rule of a god-fearing sect, including the indomitable and vindictive Aunt Charity. Escaping to the city to become a typist, she meets the kind and loving Col. But she is conflicted; her sexuality has been repressed and she is laden with feelings of shame and fear. As she sets out on her journey to self-discovery and independence in 1950’s Australia, she comes up against the sexism and classism of the day. To truly be free, she must challenge others’ prejudices and fight her own inner demons.

Choose Snakes or Ladders by Sally Forest is a book of many themes; love and loss, religion, shame, trauma, memory, gender, sexuality and the questionable nature of truth. Forest deals with these complex and universal topics with sensitivity and skill. Through her writing, she asks us to question our own biases and consider how relevant these issues are today.

Forest excels at writing place and her prose conjures up the setting of New South Wales incredibly well. Her descriptions of the seasons are particularly beautiful; the dirt, pollution and heat of summer mirror Mitty’s feelings of oppression and add to an atmosphere of heaviness, whilst the freshness of autumn coincides with Mitty’s new found confidence. Forest also invokes the time period expertly, and I enjoyed the references to old films and magazines which gave some historical context and showed how influential the invention of advertising and the media was on thoughts and behaviour at the time.

Mitty is an utterly believable and well-realised character. Much of the book consists of her internal dialogue, which gives us insight into her feelings of guilt and shame and makes her very relatable. She wants to be attractive to men and enjoys their gaze but she is also afraid of it and fears repercussions. Forest illustrates that female beauty and sexuality can be a poisoned chalice in a society where only women are castigated for the outcome of these things (this clearly has modern resonance too). The prejudice and ignorance of certain characters are well-drawn and had me seething with anger!

The dialogue is predominately realistic and natural. Forest uses dialect for some of her characters- possibly to infuse more authenticity into the narrative- but I would have liked a little less of this as it came off as contrived at times and distracted me from the flow of the narrative. Although there is quite a steady pace to the book, I occasionally felt that Mitty’s day to day life was rather repetitive and that the plot could have done with a little more substance. There was definitely enough suspense to keep me intrigued though, and I think that any plot issues were reconciled by Forest’s use of prose and by her complex and likeable characters.

Ultimately, this is a book about redemption. It is a moving and beautifully written story, which although full of challenging themes, eventually filled me with hope.

Pages: 213 | ASIN: B075PXBHTZ

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Out of the Shadows

Out of the Shadows (Shadowlands #1)

I recently read Out of the Shadows by Ashlee Nicole Bye and was immediately hooked by the first chapter. The prologue to the book, which I admittedly skip over, caught my eye and sets the scene for what is a very interesting concept and well written novel. We meet Julian, who we learn is not from this world as he uses ‘humans’ and as you read on, you learn that he is way older than he appears to be. Although his age isn’t described until later, you know he’s old because his eyesight has been bestowed to him almost a century and a half ago. Clearly, he’s seen some things.

I really enjoyed this book. Maybe it’s because I’m Australian as well and we rarely get treated to books that are supernatural AND also mention state capitals that we know (such as Melbourne), but it was immediately easy to immerse myself into this world that Ashlee has so lovingly created. The characters, such as Sachi, are so well written that you can feel their pain, anguish and confusion as Sachi is thrown into a world she’s not entirely sure about. Sachi’s best friend was killed by the ‘Melbourne Slasher’, but it’s not until she ventures out after months of solitude that she sees things that were definitely not there before.

As the book goes on, Sachi and Julian’s worlds become intertwined as we learn that Julian and his friend Moss are a part of a secret society of reapers (which explains why he’s over a century and a half old) called the Order of Light and Dark, who are tasked with finding out what the Melbourne Slasher is and how they plan on stopping it.

This book also brings into play a very interesting idea that you can play with. The Order of the Light and Dark, and their jobs as reapers, means that they control who dies, when they are supposed to die and what manner they are supposed to die in. This ‘melbourne slasher’ is throwing everything out of balance and is throwing the reapers off schedule. It brings a concept forward that can make you feel at peace; your death has been scheduled and you are going to die when you are supposed to. For a control freak like myself, I really liked this concept.

I really ejoyed Sachi and her strong banter with the other characters within the book. I love that strong female leads are becoming the norm (thanks, Gone Girl!). I feel like without the banter and the wit of Sachi, this book would have been a bit difficult to read. She definitely made me laugh a fair bit.

Another thing I enjoyed were the chapter names. The first one had me snorting with ‘It’s too damn hot for a monster to just be walking around’. Ashlee really nails how Australians tend to describe things and this definitely comes forth in the chapter titles. They were descriptive and funny and accurate.

Pages: 338 | ASIN: B06W58K67L

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Kiss Billie For Me

Kiss Billie for Me Xxx: A True Story5 Stars

Kiss Billie for Me, written by Jeanette Gray is a true story based on the trials and tribulations of William Edward Pedder “Billie”,  and a secret that he took to his grave. The story begins in 1929 where his mother, Betty Trainer is embarking on a journey of a lifetime. Headed to Australia, Betty soon finds herself quickly embracing a new life with a husband and new family. However, Betty’s new life full of sunshine is soon hit with a terrible storm as she begins to deal with an alcoholic husband and postnatal depression which ultimately leads to decisions that will affect generations to come.

Kiss Billie for Me is a novel that will touch the hearts and soul of every reader. Based on a true story, Kiss Billie for Me focuses on topics such as mental health, family and the importance of understanding the stigma surrounding postnatal depression. The reader will be able to easily imagine life back in 1929 right up until the present day as the storyteller describes scenes from rickety boats to dancing in bars.

Kiss Billie for Me begins in 1929 with a beautiful young woman. Betty Trainer. Betty embarks on an adventure to seek an exciting new life in Australia and after meeting a charming young man, she begins her own little family. However, the lack of family support and loneliness soon creates a recipe for tragedy as Betty develops postnatal depression after having her first son. The story is an emotional roller coaster but provokes conversations around postnatal depression and the reader will find themselves empathizing with people they least expect.

Even though this story is true, it still has surprise twists and turns that will leave the reader breathless and in shock. The unexpected events that occur will leave your mind reeling and you will have to continually remind yourself that this is a true story. I enjoyed the progression of the character “Billie” as you learn about his life and the people within his family circle. Tragedy seems to be a common denominator within this family however their ability to soldier on and find the beautiful side of life is commendable.

I appreciate Jeanette Gray’s ability to be respectful and honest in the recounts of her family’s history. Postnatal depression affects many women and Kiss Billie for Me shows the importance of providing the right type of care and assistance- as the dire consequences can affect generations to come. At times the themes were quite intense and emotive- especially knowing that this was a true story that someone had personally lived.

I can honestly say I feel like a better person for reading this story. It has made me appreciate my life and put in perspective how important relationships and support is within a family unit.  I highly commend Jeanette Gray for sharing her story. As I was reading this novel I began to consider my own family history and the impact of people’s decisions and because of this I would recommend this novel to absolutely everyone!

Pages: 228 | ASIN: B01N7TFFDF

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High-Functioning Alcoholism: Live It Sober

High-Functioning Alcoholism: Live It Sober4 Stars

High Functioning Alcoholism: Live it Sober by Gray Nomad is a non-fiction book on how to recognize high-functioning alcoholism in yourself or someone else. There is also a short fiction piece with the purpose of illustrating how widespread high-functioning alcoholism is within people. The piece shows anyone, of any status, can be a high-functioning alcoholic. The book also contains some tips on managing high-functioning alcoholism. Nomad stresses the importance of seeking professional help if you suspect an alcohol issue and the importance of education. Furthermore, the book provides concrete examples of high-profile people who had issues with high-functioning alcoholism.

This book is an informational introspective work. The short story produced by Nomad unquestionably opens your eyes on who could have a high-functioning alcoholism issue. The book is short, about 40 pages, and it’s all focused on education and awareness regarding the safety and hazards of consuming alcohol. What I enjoyed most about this work is that it gives examples of how to safely enjoy alcohol.

One of the more important aspects I got out of the book was the author’s mention of talking with children and teaching them about alcoholism at a young age. Teaching is a type of intervention, which is an essential part of preventing future issues. Conversations about sensitive and taboo topics like this one are crucial, which is why a book like this is great. Nomad uses their knowledge of the health science field and their personal experience to bring you in.

There are a few grammatical issues that could use some polishing. However, it does not take away from the overall message or enjoyment of the book. The book is well written and informative which left me wanting more after 40 short pages. It’s informative and interesting. However, I think more information and a more in-depth look at the case study could increase awareness on the topic. I believe it would give more potency if there were more details, especially with high profile cases and the case study.

Overall, this book was enjoyable. It is a quick, compelling read. The purpose is to “wake up” someone to the dangers of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and it does just that. There is good, solid advice on not only how to recognize the dangers of alcohol consumption but also tips on managing high-functioning alcohol issues, the importance of educating others and talking about this subject, and the importance of talking to professionals.

After reading this book I had to reflect on my own life to see if I was a high functioning alcoholic! I did have a glass of wine last night. Oh no! (You’ll be happy to know that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not. Thanks Gray Nomad!)

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to know more about alcoholism. As a person who is concerned with people’s health, this is a good read. It gives you a glance into the world of alcohol abuse and how it is more pervasive than one might think. Nomad makes a significant contribution to health services and humanity.

Pages: 39 | ASIN: B01N95RT4E

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