Ain’t No Messiah by Mark Tullius is a dark and intriguing novel about the life of Joshua Campbell. Set in the United States, it’s a tale of his life, from birth to adulthood. Significant family members such as his mother, father and brother walk some of his journey with him as well as childhood friends that reappear in early adulthood. Estranged family members are in his mind all the while and readers meet them briefly as he tries to connect with them.
Having almost died at birth, Joshua’s father labelled him the messiah. His father continues to use this label throughout Joshua’s unusual life; citing near death experiences as miracles. His father publishes books about him and fashions a new church and business on the miracles of the messiah. Despite calling him the messiah, he verbally and emotionally abuses and neglects him on a regular basis. Joshua consistently refuses to believe he is the messiah and begins to rebel against his father’s rules. Eventually, at 17 he decides to run away, and experiences the world in a new light, but finds he still can’t shake the title of Messiah.
As the story progresses it is unclear whether he seeks out trouble, or trouble seeks him out, and this grey area is what kept me engaged throughout the story. Joshua is dragged into a world of sex and drugs, but he still has to run from his label as the messiah and his tyrannical father. As Joshua is pulled deeper into this world it becomes unclear who he can trust and things turn into a life and death situation. This reminded me of how Stephen King sets up his stories to deliver poignant ideas through simple prose.
Ain’t No Messiah kept me engrossed until the very end. As I read I kept questioning whether Joshua would break free forever from his father, or if he would be tempted by the life of fame and comparative comfort? At times I questioned his life choices and whether he could trust the people he aligned with. The main characters were well developed and believable. However, I felt there were far too many minor characters in the story that kept entering and disappearing. At times it became difficult to keep track of who was who. This detracted from the overall story as I had to pause and try to remember who the character was and why they were important to the story. The transition between flashbacks to past events and present day were clear at the start of the book, however near the end they became less clear which also distracted from the overall continuity. Overall this is an interesting and well written book that delivers a thought provoking message by putting a fascinating character in evocative situations that beg one to reflect on the choices we all make in life.
Pages: 326 | ASIN: B07KCQ8P17
Tags: Ain’t No Messiah, alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, contemporary, ebook, emotional, faith, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, Mark Tulliu, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, religion, satire, shelfari, smashwords, story, urban fantasy, writer, writer community, writing
Stockboy follows Phillip as he struggles to achieve things beyond his mundane life. What were some driving ideals behind this story and how did it change while writing?
The book was essentially written based on my professional and personal experiences. I originally wanted it to be an honest autobiography but I couldn’t resist some key changes in the plot about a quarter through and made it a work of fiction instead. I wanted the story to show some key components of the problematic quest to achieve the American Dream. If you’ve ever seen the 1999 Albert Brooks comedy movie, The Muse, I took a lot of inspiration from that film in finding the comedy in the disappointment found in everyday life.
You’re able to capture the emotions of life as an average person and have them resonate with readers. What is your writing process like?
My writing process consists of starting off with something real and taking it and spinning it in a fictional direction. I’ll start writing about a real life experience and transform it after a few sentences into something fictional. This was originally a serious book but I took my cue from Albert Brooks’ film that people like to laugh too, and mixed some comedy in for good measure. I think there are some great moments of original humor in Stockboy. I like all the film and literary references I put in the book.
This story is ‘for anyone who has ever worked retail’. I feel that working retail gives one a general sense of people and society (good and bad). Have you worked in retail before?
Yes. For many years I worked in retail. Only these past few years have I been out of the industry. Working in the industry with people from all walks of life is a great experience but it comes with its fair share of drawbacks. People don’t want to see you succeed, sometimes, for whatever reason. Especially when you start at the bottom. When I was working in Times Square in retail, there was a supervisor who just wouldn’t let me advance, again for whatever reason. I had the credentials I needed to move up. Again, I don’t like to be negative but in certain jobs, people only like to see others get but so far. I think this book is positive though, overall, and a fun and serious read at the same time. What do I know about everyone else’s experiences in retail? Not much. This story is just drawn from my own personal experiences.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
It’s something completely different! A “truly moving book” but like some famous writers and directors, I like to keep the plot top secret until it’s released or about to be released. It will be out early next year at this point. I want to enjoy the holiday season.
Stockboy features the story of Phillip, a single 30-something retail employee, who is trying to rise above the job for which he was hired in a large Times Square theme store. While waiting for a big break, he works hard and, in the interim, falls in love with a woman who comes to believe he actually works as a teacher. While confronting different elements in his job and personal life, he finds himself struggling to stay afloat in his effort to find romance and financial success. This is a story for anyone who has ever worked in retail and yearned to rise up in order to achieve happiness.
Posted in Interviews
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Stockboy by Thomas Duffy is the story of Phillip, a man who is in his dead-end job. Stuck with no relationship. Stuck in his mundane life. Phillip is a good guy. He is smart. He has a degree. He has an excellent work ethic. However, he feels like he is only spinning his wheels and wasting his time on a life that is going nowhere. He feels his life ticking away while waiting for his love life to work out, his bosses to see his potential, and fulfillment to come his way.
Phillip is such a relatable character. He is sort of an “everyman” underdog. Everyone has felt unfulfilled at some point in his or her life. Readers will definitely identify with this character. He is the typical good guy who finishes last. He’s smart and capable and a great worker. He also gets passed over time and time again for promotions or wage increases at his bookstore job. When he does find a woman he loves, his life tailspins in that area as well. He can’t catch a break. As my grandfather would have said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s the same thing.” Phillip lives a “Groundhog Day” sort of life on his cyclical hamster wheel of a life.
The themes in the story fit right into our current social climate. Wages are stagnant. Growth is slow. College students owe student loans they can’t pay while working jobs below their qualifications. People can’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford insurance. When they do get insurance, they are still scared to go to the doctor for fear that the condition will be worse than they expect. People are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Opportunities for a better life are few and far between. People still manage to get up, put their torn sneakers on, and go back to the grind everyday. This is Phillip. He personifies a big chunk of the American workforce, and likely those abroad.
The writing is great. It is simple and direct without being boring. It doesn’t feel pompous or overbearing. Thomas Duffy is a good author that way. He reels you into his stories and his characters in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling he’s attempting to make up for content with flowery language. The content is there, so he doesn’t have to put on airs. I saw one or two simple typos. Beyond that, the spelling, sentence structure, etc. are great. This was an easy read. The book is easily digestible and could be knocked out in a weekend. Duffy books are always page-turners for me.
Other than a few minor errors the writing is solid, the characters are relatable and the situations they find themselves in will hit close to home for many readers. I like this writer’s style and have read his work before. He delivered again and didn’t disappoint. I’d love to read more of his work.
Pages: 200 | ASIN: B00CA517C8
Tags: alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, book store, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, contemporary, contemporary fiction, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, life, literature, love, love story, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, romance, shelfari, smashwords, Stockboy, story, thomas duffy, urban fantasy, writer, writer community, writing
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.
Posted in book trailer
Tags: african american fiction, alibris, amazon, american, arlington heights, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, book trailer, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, christian, contemporary, ebook, Erica lewis, fantasy, fashion, fiction, goodreads, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, model, new york, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, romance, runway, shelfari, smashwords, soul, story, suspense, thriller, trailer, urban, urban fantasy, urban soul, women, womens fantasy, womens fiction, write, writer, writer community, writing
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
Tags: alibris, anxiety, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, college, contemporary, death, drama, dying, ebook, emotional, family, goodreads, hannah goodman, high school, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, love, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, romance, shelfari, smashwords, story, teen, till it stops beating, writer, writer community, writing, YA, young adult
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
Tags: addiction, alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, choice, contemporary, depression, drug, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, life, literature, motivation, Mutch Katsonga, nook, novel, optimism, publishing, read, reader, reading, shelfari, smashwords, society, story, the ghost years, writer, writer community, writing
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.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: addiction, alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, contemporary, dave matthes, depression, downtrodden, drama, ebook, emotion, facebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, melancholy, nihilist, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, satire, shelfari, smashwords, society, soul, story, The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down, twitter, writer, writer community, writing