Songs from Richmond Avenue by Michael Reed is a dark novel about characters that could be found in any town. The main character is a journalist that seems to know all the questionable characters that hang out on Richmond Avenue in Houston. He meets a beautiful woman named Michelle that he becomes infatuated with from the start. Michelle could change things for the journalist, but not before he gets caught up in some seriously crazy shenanigans that include kidnapping, booze and roommates. Among everything else, you get to know some barflies who have very interesting stories and a love for alcohol and bets.
This story isn’t long, but packs quite a bit into such a small package. I can imagine this story set in any small local dive bar. There would be those regulars that have extremely colorful stories that are darkly humorous. The writing is unique and paints a descriptive image of all the characters in the book. Each one has personality and detail that many authors gloss over. His descriptions made it easy to visualize and even smell each and every one.
There will be a number of readers who will identify with the different characters and most likely sympathize with them as well. I felt as though I was getting a glimpse into someone’s real life experiences, not the work of fiction. The journalist doesn’t even have a name, yet throughout the story I didn’t even notice. I made it pretty far in before thinking, “Hey, what the heck is this guys name?”
“Songs from Richmond Avenue” could almost be called a drunks love story, as the journalist finds himself wishing for a future with Michelle. He may not exactly be a romantic character, it’s love just the same. Throw in some depressing thoughts while mixing in some humorous parts and that sums up this story.
It took me some time to really get into the story. Michael Reed has a unique way of developing his characters that takes a bit of adjusting to. Once I got farther into the story and got use to the craziness, I was in for the long haul and wasn’t bothered in the slightest. This is definitely not a light and airy read, but I think that is part of the appeal. I had to read slower than I usually would have with any other book which made me connect with the locations and situations. I honestly don’t want to tell you too much, so that you can have the same experience as I did. The antics that take place are so off the wall I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for the next reader!
While it did pick up later, it was a bit hard to get into at first. Many readers I know would put down a book they weren’t drawn into from the beginning. While I know that a slow beginning doesn’t mean anything, that doesn’t make you not feel a bit frustrated. I would suggest anyone who enjoys dark humor and crazy drunken stories to give this book a shot.
Pages: 185 | ASIN: B01N039ZM7
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Dave Matthes’s irreverent, profanity-laced, often hilarious novel, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard, is a fascinating work of writing. It’s half sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, and half a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at suicide and how it affects family and friends around the incident. Sleepeth Not, the Bastard follows two separate but surprisingly intertwined characters: Lew Ferranna, a deadbeat dad, drunkard, and generally unsavory character, and Sarah Fox, a famous drummer and rockstar from the all-female rock band, The Bastards. Matthes reveals in the opening pages of the story that Lew’s son committed suicide at the age of seventeen, and spends the rest of the novel’s tumultuous pages examining how that incident affected not only Lew and his family, but also how Sarah’s hardcore band, The Bastards, and their wild, rough-living producer, Wolfgang Stephanopolis fits into the mysterious puzzle of life.
I have had the privilege of reading several of Matthes’s works, and he has a skill that I have only seen before in Kurt Vonnegut. He is able to create completely unlikable, frustrating, and obnoxious characters, and turn them into protagonists that, for some unknown reason, you find yourself pulling for. The two stars of Sleepeth Not, the Bastard are superficially very unlikable: Lew has abandoned his daughter and wife after their son’s suicide; Sarah is standoffish, erratic, and crude. But perhaps what’s appealing about Matthes’s characters is the fact that they are so relatable. Though hopefully few of us know people who would commit some of the frankly horrible acts that Matthes’s characters perform, it’s a fact of life that everyone has flaws. It is refreshing to see characters dealing with problems that we, as readers, have likely seen or experienced ourselves: the demise of relationships, parental-child fights, addiction, depression, and death.
Fortunately, though, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard is not all doom and gloom. In his solid novel, Matthes manages to create humor (albeit dark) in the absurd situations he places his characters in. Whether it’s a tiger outside of Vegas, a minivan driving through the garage door, or the insanely gaudy (and proud of it) producer Wolfgang Stephanopolis, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard manages to bring a smile to readers’ faces in the most surprising moments. The story lacks only in a few small facets that irritated me personally, specifically the lack of double L’s in all of Lew’s parts of the story (meaning “walls” would be written as “wal s”).
Though it covers potentially disheartening topics, Sleepeth Not, the Bastard will not dishearten readers. Similar to Matthes’s other works, it manages to address the most unpleasant topics of life while also instilling a positive and motivating force in readers. It often feels as if Matthes’s charactesr are saying to readers what we all know but sometimes want to forget: Life can be ugly, hard, and miserable; but life can also be beautiful, surprising, and wonderful. As a reader whose family has experienced the pain and loss of unexpected death by suicide, I found this novel to be painful, at times, but overall uplifting and a reminder to appreciate the beautiful moments in life.
Pages: 453 | ASIN: B00N53IMWW
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When Angels Fly is a gripping retelling of one woman’s personal and painful experience with life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write down the experiences from your life?
I became sick and I felt the need to take my journals and digitize them. I knew I would write a book eventually back in 1990. That year was a rough one for me and my family personally and I’ve kept journals most of my life. I had many stories to tell but I wasn’t quite ready mentally or emotionally in going headlong into a 300 plus page book. When 2013 rolled around, I knew then that I was going to put words and stories from my journals into digital format.
You do a wonderful job of capturing your emotions in every retelling. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The hardest and most difficult part initially was actually going into and reading my journals from 1989 – 1990 as my first book is a memoir. I knew my book had to be written and I knew the many messages in my book needed to be published, so that hopefully I could help others through difficult times in their lives or the lives of others they knew. The timing was right as I had left nursing in December 2012. My first book was extremely difficult since the stories were real. Some days I could write one sentence and then I was done for the day. Other days I could write more.
On really tough days I wanted to just stop and sometimes I did for a week or so. Yet I knew in my mind that I needed to finish my book and get it out to the public. I knew all along what the beginning, middle and end would be and I wondered about publishing my book as well. Now that my book is published, I feel a deep sense of peace within myself.
You touch on topics like abuse, suicide and domestic violence. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
My book reaches a wide group from teenage on up to geriatrics and many facets of humanity itself. I know that my book will help others in dealing with such a wide variety of life’s issues, and that no one needs to feel alone in their own situation. My aim isn’t to convey only sadness and family dysfunction but to convey to others who have been in my situation (or similar) that strength and courage can be attained, and that there are options available. Women and men, too, can get out of abusive situations and the cycle of violence can stop. Losing two boys to Heaven changed my life forever. I want to encourage others who have suffered the King of Loss that anger at God is normal, and that faith in God will come back to them. I want those parents to know they are not alone. If a parent loses a child to a horrid illness, I want those parents not to feel misguided gilt. I want to encourage parents on how to be an advocate for their child and how to reach out for help when the pain overcomes them.
This book is a carefully crafted retelling of some of the most private moments of your past. But what about your future? What do you look forward to and how has your outlook on life changed?
I have made peace with the wrongs in my past. This doesn’t mean that those things never happened, the hurt is still there, but one must forgive others in order to move on in their life on this beautiful blue sphere called Earth. With my health so poor, I just take things day by day, and I try to spend as much quality time with immediate family as I can.
We often find ourselves daydreaming about what our futures will be like. This may be especially true if one lives in an environment most would consider less than desirable. Some are lucky to find their futures much like their childhood dreams. Others find the paths to their dreams strewn with hurdles.
Growing up, Sarah dodged her mother’s blows. She often hid in her room crying about her life. Still, she believes in her future and the happiness it can bring. In their book When Angels Fly, authors S. Stevens and A. Raymond tell Sarah’s story–their stories. The authors use their journals to describe Sarah’s experiences of family dysfunction, strength, courage, faith, abuse, grief, and so much more. You’ll read how, like many, she attempts to escape from her mother’s abuse through marriage. And like many, she learns it is not a viable alternative. Then Sarah experiences a parent’s ultimate tragedy twice, the deaths of her sons, Joshua and Eli.
When Angels Fly is about much more than the telling of a family’s tragedy. It is also the story of finding faith after it has wavered. Most of all, it’s a story of love lost and found.
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Stygian is a collection of poems that are presented as a poetic autobiography. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Great question. As you know the biographical material in Stygian shows that I had a very disturbing childhood, and the things that happened to me then have weighed on my mind for many years. I had to write this book in order to get my feelings about this stuff off my chest before I could ever write about anything else. Since the release of Stygian, I have written poems about the gold rush, politics, war, the discovery of King’s tut’s tomb, and so much more. I’m really interested in historical stuff right now. Stygian opened up a doorway of creativity to me by releasing me from the past. In writing this book, I learned quite a bit about the craft as well as myself.
My personal favorites are “The Man in the Box” and the “Endless Tunnels of Darkness” which are beautifully descriptive. What was your favorite poem in this collection?
Wow, let’s see. I love to utilize nature and animals in my writing so a couple of my favorites are “A Forest Called Madness” and “The Elusive Bird,” as well as “Lies Kill,” which features a purple elephant.
What I like most about this book was that it was frank and dark and didn’t hold back. What do you hope readers take away from Stygian?
I think that there is a stereotype attached to poetry that it is always lovey-dovey, flowery hillsides, and blue skies, but that certainly was not the case with Sylvia Plath or Edgar Allan Poe, nor is it with me. I hope that readers will see how powerful poetry can be and range of emotions, thoughts, and ideas that can be expressed in verse. Furthermore, I hope to inform the uninformed, but most of all I hope to touch a wounded soul, so that they know they are not alone, that no matter how broken one’s life seems there’s always the choice to build something beautiful from the ugly pain.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Since the release of Stygian, I have finished a complete autobiography, and compiled another collection of poems. I am also working on a full-length novel called Broken Homes. I’m usually working on a few projects at a time. Most recently, I had a short story called “A Murder of Crows” published in the British horror magazine, Morpheus Tales. I’ve had several other short stories and poems appear in on-line publications. Two of my poems have been accepted for a poetry anthology to come out sometime this year. I’m hoping to get a release date soon. My dear grandmother maintains a blog for me, where I post about my current life and opinions, give updates about my work, and talk about writing techniques.
Poverty, drugs, child abuse… The streets’ incarceration… Questions of life and contemplations of death, Stygian is the darker side of poetry collected from teen years into young adulthood and composed in homeless camps, churches and a jail cell. The emotion is raw, the poetry is real.
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Kiss Billie for Me is a true story based on the trials and tribulations of William Edward Pedder “Billie”, and a secret he took to his grave. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This book was very important for me to write because after my father passed away and I found a box full of letters, I had so many questions that would have stayed unanswered. I had to find out the truth about my grandmother and clear up all the questions and rumours. As it turns out, the book really took on a life of it’s own and is really a lesson about post natal depression and healing from the past.
Kiss Billie for Me focuses on topics such as mental health, family and the importance of understanding the stigma surrounding postnatal depression. What is something you hope readers take away from your story?
I hope that readers can take away the importance of getting treatment for any type of mental health. Not only that but also being aware of mental illness in ourselves and others is a step in the right direction. The past is the past but I think we can all learn and grow form it and become better people.
What kind of research did you do to ensure the story was as accurate as possible?
My research was extensive. In fact, this book took 14 years to write. Most of the information I gathered was from Ancestry, and Government files which I researched and purchased. I also received some of the information from my father before he died and my mother who is still living, not to mention my own memoirs. So everything in this book is either knowledge gained from printed material or straight from someone who knows.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book will be a self help book delving into the emotion – Grief. I have been through many different aspects of this human emotion and can speak or write about it with a degree of experience and from the heart. The plans for this book are in the first stages, I would say it should be available by next year – it won’t take 14 years anyway!
Author Links: Website
“In 1929, Betty Trainer, a beautiful, twenty-year-old woman immigrated to Australia from Scotland. Brave and ready for the unknown, she embarked on a new life, including getting married and having two children. But challenges developed, and soon she dealt with an abusive husband and postnatal depression, a tragic mix that led her to kill one of her sons and attempt to kill the other.”
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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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REN: Awakened follows Ren as she is learning to control a power she never knew she had while being hunted by evil. What was the inspiration for you to start writing this novel and the journey that Ren goes on?
Ren’s story is actually a spin on my own, personal life story. As a kid and young adult, I struggled with anxiety and depression, only to come into my own personal power, just as Ren does. Her story is a play on both my life and the world we live in presently where humans fight good and evil everyday; those “evils” can ultimately destroy the world as we know it. I always believed energy affects every one of us, and if it can affect us as humans, why can’t it affect the earth adversely or positively? I think as a society, many of us struggle with anxiety and depression, as well, and as someone who healed from anxiety and depression through understanding the same things Ren learns, why not help others who can relate to her heal the same way? These two ideas fused together and shaped Ren’s journey. Fun fact – the road trip Ren, Kiki, and Gage take from CT to WY is based on the road trip I took with my friend (the real-life version of Kiki), where I literally wrote the shell of REN.
Ren is a fantastic character. How did you set about creating a character with such depth?
Thank you so much! Ren is definitely a complex character. One of the reasons I love her so much is because she’s so realistic; not just as a teen, but for any person who struggles with who they are. But if you remember being a teen, you know the battle that can go down between the thoughts in your mind. Ren faces loss, feelings of displacement, never truly finding “home,” and a lifetime of being told she’s basically insane. When you’ve been told one thing your entire life, you grow to accept it. Then wham!, here’s an entirely new idea for you to accept that says you’re not crazy, but in fact extraordinarily gifted and the worlds survival rests on your shoulders. It should be a relief, to know you’ve got these abilities and aren’t crazy, but it’s quite a load to bear. Ren doesn’t just flip the switch to “oh ok, I’m a hero now!” Readers get to grow with Ren as she steps into this new reality and fights the old thoughts of being “nothing.” In all honesty, creating Ren was easy because I’ve lived through it. I’ve battled the thoughts, I’ve worked hard to recreate my life and move from the “I’m worthless” thoughts to empowering ones. Much of Ren’s experiences were very much my own.
Ren is an Implement, which are beings from a different plane of existence that have ties to Earth’s time line. How did this idea develop as you were writing and were you able to cover everything you wanted?
It’s fun to look back at all of my notes and see how the story started out and what ended up unfolding. It was like watching a movie that played in my head and I just wrote it as it played, so much of the surprise twists and turns were a surprise to me; including the Implements. The Implements started out based on the idea of “Indigo Kids,” a spiritual notion that a group of humans exist today with heightened intuition and gifts meant to change the world. As I wrote, their gifts were tweaked and I wanted them to have more defined characteristics (i.e. Implements of Conception being able to manipulate energy in different ways), rather than just “heightened gifts in a group of people.” That seemed too broad for me. I don’t think, as a writer, you ever cover everything you want to. Ideas forever come to you after your manuscript is complete, so in a way, it’s never complete. But I’m a firm believer in everything happens as it’s supposed to, so the book went out the way it needed to. Much is expanded upon in the following books, though, so readers will learn a great deal more about the Implements and the individual characters lives.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be available?
REN: Reposed, the second in the series, is still undergoing some final touches. I’m also working on the third in the series. REN: Reposed is set to come out in Spring 2017. I’m so excited for that to be released, it’s my favorite!
Book Cover Reveal
Check out the new book cover!
Seventeen-year-old Ren Nagel knows that the strange things she’s seen are real–even if no one else believes her. But, when she’s locked up in a psychiatric hospital; she loses hope that anyone will ever truly be on her side.
Then everything changes. With the help of a new friend, Ren breaks out. It’s when she’s on the run that she learns who she really is.
Hunted by evil, Ren must learn to control a power she never knew she had, organize a coalition of people she never knew existed, and remind humanity why fighting the darkness is a big part of being human.
Sometimes, feeling different is much more than just a feeling. For Ren, it means the fate of the world.
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Bar Nights by Dave Matthes is the first book of the Mire Man Trilogy, a chronicle of the life of Arlo Smith. Arlo comes home from work to find his wife and another man in the throes of passion on the kitchen counter. He decides that’s as good as a divorce decree, packs a bag, and walks out. In the driveway, his daughter and her boyfriend spark his rage, and he trashes the young man’s car with a baseball bat before he leaves. Arlo drives until his car breaks down, walks to a roadside bar, and stays. The owner, Vance, hires him as the janitor and gives him a tiny apartment above the bar.
Arlo doesn’t want to start over. His soul is already crushed by his former life and marriage, and in this bar, ironically named Purgatory, he has the freedom to be as drunk and indolent as he cares to. His only pleasure is in music. While he gets drunk in his apartment, the piano player downstairs fills his room with music. almost every night. He clings to the music but doesn’t want to meet her. When they do meet, she becomes the catalyst that forces him to face his life, his lies, and the hell he created along the way.
The plot of the story is simple, but there are so many nuances that I’d compare it more to Jazz than literature. Some of the barflies that come and go are character studies of people on the edge, or close to it, and reflect Arlo and Vance’s personal demons. The flow of the chapters adds texture and rhythm. The language is lyrical, sometimes pulling me out of the narrative just to appreciate the prose. Finding these gems was something I enjoyed while reading the novel.
Outside my window, the snow fell like the ash from a volcano…. I remembered looking out my window on Christmas morning as a child, and seeing the snow…. Little moments like that stole me from time to time. Burps and hiccups of nostalgia. A staple of regret temporarily sewing the rips and tears shut.
The author uses chapters in an unorthodox way, some as short as two words. Sometimes this works beautifully, but on occasion, a chapter seems more like a side note, or stray thought. I felt that the novel was repetitive in places, revisiting events and even phrases a few too many times, but in retrospect, some of that was clearly intentional. Addicts can be stuck on emotions or trauma, and that broken-record effect gave more realism to the characters.
Arlo is locked in a vicious cycle of self-hate, addiction, and depression that is reflected in the people he meets. Through Arlo’s eyes, we meet the patrons at the bar, his interactions with them colored by his personal misery. He’s afraid to meet Constance, the piano player, for fear that his illusions will crumble. Of course, fate intervenes, and he finally meets her by accident. They’re not in love, but they need each other to get through the desperation of their lives. Constance shoves him toward rehab, trying to save his life before he kills himself or becomes just like all the other drunks at the bar called Purgatory. Even that irony isn’t lost on Arlo.
This is a book for adults, as the language and situations are not for readers who are easily offended. It’s an examination of addiction and desperation that doesn’t sugar-coat anything. The author doesn’t spare any of the senses on this dive into skid row, and I could see, feel, and smell every detail. If you like Bar Nights, also pick up Paradise City, the next book in the trilogy.
Pages: 209 | ISBN: 1506198961
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