Sombristic, written by S.A. Sebastian follows a close group of culturally diverse friends who are all at different points in their lives and relationships – some are married and some are just trying to figure things out. But, they are joined by the bonds of friendship that keep them grounded in their search for the right person. The title, a word seemingly coined by the author, means to be optimistic in the face of romantic sadness. This being said at the beginning gives the text a positive opening tone – it makes you think that the characters are going to try and be optimistic even when the going gets tough, and hopefully things will work out for all of them.
There’s also a brief but helpful character list at the beginning of the text as the story dives into the deep end in an active scene between a father, son, and friends – so it helps to know who’s who. The list was particularly useful as there is little introductory context, which was initially a little difficult, but the characters come into focus as you continue reading.
This book is written in the form of a play, or a conversation-based work, the text is mostly dialogue and is written in a relaxed style, reflective of each character’s accent with each one being subtly different. The ‘acts’ are usually short, and they jump between different situations and have time lapses throughout, so it can be hard to keep up with all of the different goings on. However, the easy to read style helps the reader stay immersed when they come back around to a previously mentioned character.
The conversations between the characters, when split into male and female groups are very typical of the gender ideals. The men discuss sports and their level of sexual activity and the women discuss clothes and relationship gossip. Although this might be reflective of the groups general stereotypes, I though it made them one dimensional. I wanted to see the characters interested in things other than the overall theme of the book.
I thought that the story was a little hard to follow, as it moved from scene to scene so quickly, despite the relaxed and attractive writing style that kept me engaged with interesting writing. The book incorporates long descriptive passages that are interesting and well written, suggesting that the script would perhaps be more engaging if rewritten as a novel rather than a play.
What the text does do very well is highlight the varied types of relationships and dating that exist in modern society, and explores how hard these can be to navigate. There is also some pretty funny references in this book that made me laugh!
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Cara Reinard’s novel is an engaging story that gives readers a literary take on the popular genre of shows called the ‘The Real Housewives Of (enter your city of choice here)’ It tells the story of Cece and her family – her cheating rat of a husband and their children Camdyn and Josie. Very much modeled on the idea of the ‘American dream’, it lets the reader in on what goes on behind the closed doors of a family suffering from mental illness, infidelity, and financial issues.
Written from the first-person perspective of Cece, we see the female point of view in a neighborhood characterized by gossiping housewives who shame their friends at times they should be supportive. The women in the book are judgmental but are bound by the unspoken constraints of their society – lead by their successful husbands. This shows very clearly that the grass is not always greener on the more affluent side of town.
For Cece who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, believed to be inherited from her mother, this environment is toxic and leads to her becoming unwell because she cannot conform to the rigid expectations set by those around her. At a time when she should be surrounded by friends and family, she has nobody to turn to. It highlights important issues in the affluent community as to why the women are not there for each other and the pressure of maintaining a perfect home life and family. This is something we all know to be impossible, yet people still strive for it anyway. It also raises the question as to why Cece cannot speak to anyone about her mental health. In the book, she does not once have a therapeutic conversation about it, and her condition is only seen as a bother to her family. Her friends seem unaware of her mental health problem and just think that she has migraines.
A theme that runs throughout the book is the importance of parental influence on their children. Cece grew up witnessing her mother’s erratic and unusual actions and her children now have similar behaviour. They also see her love for expensive material possessions and become spoiled – so much so that she even indulges their unhealthy habits which lead to danger and illness. They won’t even get the bus, which Cece and her husband admit with a tone of regret. Her children are spoiled but her and her husband are no better.
The book follows Cece as she tries to get her own back on her husband who has shacked up with his young assistant. At times it’s uncomfortable reading and really unsettles the reader as you question just who’s fault this all is. There are moments of danger, humor, and emotional turmoil which keep the reader engaged and invested in the book all the way through.
Pages: 265 | ASIN: B01B0XMC24
Arlington Heights follows the course of a gifted and beautiful black woman who overcomes the stigmata of a youth of mistakes to become one of the more powerful forces in New York’s fashion and business scene. Arlington Cavanaugh has past her prime as a model and has committed her life to the building of the highly regarded fashion magazine, HEIGHTS. Through the novel she takes a journey that speaks not only to the incredible climb up the ladder of success, but also details all of the consequences of decisions made along the way by a woman so focused on escape from her past that she nearly loses her soul.
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At fifty-five, Nate Evans is a washed-up Hollywood screenwriter whose life has gone to hell in a handbasket he climbed in to by dumping his high school sweetheart 40 years ago. The girl who got away, Julie Cooper, was widowed at a young age and left to raise her two kids alone after her husband was whapped to death in a tragic carwash accident. Nate has always been obsessed with his high school days, and when he learns Julie is single and working at their alma mater in his hometown, he writes a script and follows it to recreate their teen years in hopes of starting his life over. It’s the ultimate mulligan… Except that Julie is afraid of growing old alone, with a life where the only men she’s intimate with are Ben & Jerry and their Chunky Monkey ice cream, so she settles for security by deciding to marry her boss at the school. Even though Nate’s return and his Peter Pan view of life, draws her out to rediscover the spirited girl she used to be, she rejects his attempts at a relationship because he burned her once and she doesn’t trust him. You can hardly blame her, except that she doesn’t see her rat fink fiancé is in serious need of finking and Nate needs to torpedo the relationship before she gets hurt, without becoming collateral damage himself. He writes a script for “Happily ever after” and puts it into action knowing that if he gets caught it will be Déjà vu all over again.
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“If your heart has ever hurt from beating wildly, whether from anxiety or love, this book is the one to read.”
This quote at the end of the book summary perfectly describes the book. This is one of those stories that is relatable and heartwarming. When I first started reading this book, I found myself swept away with the story. It is about Maddie Hickman, a girl who suffers from extreme anxiety who has found herself on a downward spiral when life becomes too much. This takes the 17-year-old on a crazy adventure in the shape of a road trip.
I immediately related to Maddie in this story because I realized I was suffering from anxiety when I was her age. I loved seeing this kind of representation in a story, dealing with both the hardships and the hope. Maddie is a strong character that must balance her anxiety with being a normal teenage girl which for her means college applications, family drama, and boys. I loved reading Maddie’s voice as she s both charming and funny. Her attention to doughnuts, in the beginning, kept me cracking smiles and added to the characters unique voice.
Author Hannah Goodman did an incredible job of capturing the voice of a teenager, which is unsurprising when I found out she is referred to as “the teenage whisperer,” due to her 20 years long career working with teenagers as a teacher, tutor, and coach. I was impressed with how she was able to tackle a difficult issue like anxiety and make a story that was funny and sweet without making light of the issue. She also treats Maddie’s problems, whether big or small, as real, not belittling them as silly teenage issues. These things come together to make an amazing story that holds an important message for teenagers and adults.
On top of the masterful rendering of a teenager with anxiety, this story also delves into the sweet world of first love. Goodman has played with the complicated and often heart-wrenching experience of love that is oh so beautiful. I very much enjoyed getting to see Maddie deal with the ups and downs of love and found her story to be heartening and sweet.
I found this to be a great summertime read and would highly recommend it, definitely 5 stars from me.
Pages: 216 | ASIN: 1684330807
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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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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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Seventeen-year-old Maddie Hickman’s senior year begins with the good (the reemergence of The One That Got Away), the bad (a cancer diagnosis, not hers, but it might as well be) and the WTF (an anxiety attack that renders her writhing on the floor like an upside down crab).
Adding to her spiraling anxiety is Senior Project, in the form of I’ve Decided To Write A Book about The Other One That Got Away (And Crushed My Heart). Compounding it all is applying to college and keeping up with her friends. The ever-mounting stress eventually rips her tight grip on all that she holds dear.
Her break down leads to an unexpected road trip where she is forced to listen to her wildly beating heart. It is only in the back of a convertible with pop music blasting, that she discovers she must risk everything in order to really live.
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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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