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An Opportunity to Humanize

Skyler Worley Author Interview

Skyler Worley Author Interview

Because It Was Raining tells a story of Louis who is a complex man dealing with death, loss, and mourning while trying to find his place in the world. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Well, Louis is in many ways a reflection on myself and my own experiences. Initially, I wrote this story as a therapeutic exercise, but as I progressed I began to see an opportunity to help other people with similar experiences and emotions. I wanted to reach through the pages, hold the readers hand, and tell them that they aren’t alone. From the reviews and feedback that I have received, I believe that I have managed to do that. I feel very fortunate to have been given a five-star review from Literary Titan and to have the opportunity to share my own experiences with others. If I had not written this story I probably would not have published anything ever.

Because It Was Raining is a novel about grief and how we can be trapped within the constraints of our own minds. What experiences from your own life did you put into this novel?

I actually used a significant portion of my own life in the telling of this story. The story depicts a trip to Kansas City, then to another town. I actually did get in a car with two women and drove with them to KC, saw the depicted meth house, picked up a man, then headed back to a house in Aurora Mo. where I stayed for two weeks. I also described situations that were very real to me such as the death of a friend as well as my grandfather, whom I was very close to.

I enjoyed watching the character progression of Boobe who was a complex multilayered character. What was your inspiration for this character?

Believe it or not, Boobe is based on a woman whom we actually called Boobe. In reality, she was a recovering meth addict who fell on hard times and relapsed. I wanted to show her as she was through my eyes over the years that I had known her. I wanted to use her as a means of saying that even meth addicts are people who feel and need love and compassion. I loved Boobe, and I felt that she was an opportunity to humanize those people who we routinely depict as less than human.

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

Currently I have several projects in the works, but the main focus is on a story which I have tentatively entitled “Eden”. This story will be set in the future and will follow more of a science fiction theme. Writing “Because It Was Raining” was draining enough on my mind that I felt a somewhat more playful story was in order. “Eden” will hopefully show up sometime in the next year.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Because It Was RainingA young man, tormented by his past, descends into a world filled with drugs, sex, and violence in an attempt to find salvation and meaning in life, knowing full well that the cost of failure could be his very soul…

It is a story that touches on depression, addiction, grief, shame, and the power of hope. Truly a must-read for anyone. 

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Away From Home

Away From Home

Away from Home by Joanne Clairmont is a very real and heartbreaking look into the troubled thoughts and insecure feelings many children and teens experience when part of the foster care system. As an experienced foster mom, Clairmont has dealt with a number of heart-breaking cases of fostered teens feeling lonely, isolated, and abandoned upon entering her home. She writes vividly about the struggles and emotions those in her care have faced, and the unseen turmoil brewing within them as they are placed into yet another new environment. Oftentimes sorrowful, Away from Home is an important read in understanding the ups and downs of the foster care system by those directly experiencing it.

A short book broken up into six sections, Away from Home shares Clairmont’s foster care experiences in poem form. Each section contains several poems related to a specific type of foster child, such as The Unsettled Teenager and The Challenging Teenager. Most of the six sections share the pain and loss of security many fostered teenagers can relate to when thrust into a foster situation. The last section, titled The Independent Teenager, completes the journey of emotional growth of the foster care teenager and consists of more uplifting and positive poems.

I appreciated that the author could interpret the actions of her fostered teenagers from the first night they arrived at her house until they had grown and moved on with their lives. I found the poems in The Unaccompanied Minor and The Unsettled Teenager especially easy to connect with due to their complete realization and understanding of how a teenager would feel upon entering a new foster placement. They presented a personal psychology into the effects of the instability and adaption foster children must cope with through no fault of their own.

I especially liked how the author construed the emotions of a new placement in “Don’t know if I am coming or going.” It was a simple and realistic take on how a newly placed teenager may feel upon arriving in a new place after enduring several former placements. It captures the frustration and identifies the protective wall that has been built up to shield the fostered teenager from experiencing any more emotional loss.

While there were many poems that hit the mark in eliciting a feeling or emotion when read, there were also a few that didn’t do it for me. “It is not cool” and “No school today” seemed like unfinished thoughts or small snippets that could have been better fleshed out. I think the book would greatly benefit from some additional structuring and the addition of more personalized images.  The images in the book are generic and vary in artistic design. More simplified, original artwork would do wonders to visually present the ideas and feelings of the poems.

Overall I thought Away From Home really presented the emotional psychology and depth of the foster care system and those who live it. It created a descriptive and realistic picture for those who may not be familiar with the tragedy and distress many teens experience while in foster care. Aside from the few issues I had in reading, this book was an intense, creatively written study of an important subject.

Pages: 52 | ASIN: B077QLBKSC

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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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Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity

Anam Cara is a Celtic term meaning, “soul friend”. In the days of the Druids, an Anam Cara served as a confidante, an advisor, and confessor. This book reintroduces the power of having a “soul friend”. Today, we can enjoy this spiritual benefit. A soul friend listens, understands, and is never judgmental. By clearing one’s conscience, learning to let go, forgive, and atone, we experience the magical power of our soul. We are reborn and begin to realize our potential. This book teaches us how we can transform our lives by following simple but powerful teachings. Ashby offers the listeners minor and major keys to unlock their fullest potential. Minor keys include meditation and journaling, while some of the major keys are atonement and forgiveness. Eric Ober, media consultant and former president of CBS News, said, “This is a truly inspirational book on overcoming inhibitions and roadblocks in order that we maximize our creativity and quality of life.” University lecturer Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh said, “This unique publication will benefit persons who seek to rid themselves of emotional baggage and attain a peaceful mind.”

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It Felt Devastating

Mari Reiza Author Interview

Mari Reiza Author Interview

Triple Bagger is the intricately woven story of one man’s experience in a company that takes him everywhere but leads him nowhere. Why did you want to write a novel that took a close look at the corporate world?

After twenty years of corporate career, I felt exactly how you describe: nowhere despite having had everything and been everywhere. It felt devastating, like I had lived inside a me that wasn’t me, and as such wasn’t worth very much to me at all. And I felt a powerful compulsion to write up about that life that had past, above all to try to make some sense of it, of why I had ended up going through with it, hoping perhaps that it would help me see a way forward.

With this novel you are able to once again capture everyday life and put an interesting twist on it. What is your writing process like?

This was in essence the first novel I wrote, fresh from abandoning the corporate world, although it was not the first I published, and I can confess that the writing process was chaos. There were certain difficult large themes I knew I had to treat in the book because they were at the core of what had deeply upset me for years and ultimately broken me. Firstly, I carried out ample research around these themes to convince myself these were rightful themes and that I wasn’t just being mad and imagining that they were. I needed to convince myself that my account was not to be a one sided rant, but that other people had and would care about the backbone behaviours I would discuss. This was the first phase. Yet after setting the grand map, I constantly battled with whether I should punish, absolve or laugh at the twenty years of past life I had drawn in front of me. So there was the tone to think of… Next, there was the problem of feeling in the detail without making it too dry, too boring or too close to the truth… I definitely didn’t want to take myself too seriously!

I felt that the story had a lot to say about the loss of oneself within the complexities of ladder-climbing and the desire to succeed. What were the morals you were trying to capture while writing your story?

There were a few. Firstly, to beware that in corporate elites we are often chosen not for the strength underlying our ambition but for its vulnerability, in that it inculcates a fear in us of not succeeding which can make us more pliable. Secondly, to resist corporate life when it looks to uniform us, shape us around a common fiction spelling our superiority and fuelling a fantasy around our limitless ability. To fight becoming dependent, to fight growing a fear of anything outside what they have taught us. Thirdly, to question the relentless drive and the virtuosity of endurance preached in corporate life. And finally, to never let work turn us into a robots. Whatever we do, never to let our emotions be turned off.

What is the next story that you are writing and when will it be available?

Caro M, is a short novel exploring the hurricane-like devastation unwavering love is capable of. In it: a woman, alone but for her dog, shares memories with her old tesoro; a wife trusts her sweetheart psychiatrist blindly through her divorce; and a young girl lands a fairy tale wedding soon to turn into a nightmare her cousin yearns to fix. I guarantee you it’s immersive, witty, tender… It will be available October 2017.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsiteInstagram

A book about identity and… management consultancy! ‘Epic, a wonderfully interesting reading experience, ‘ DeAndra Lupu @unbounders. Meet Vittal. He is a self-and-dad-made man carrying his family’s expectations on his shoulders. He has landed a vocation to work for the most renowned, most secretive, highest-priced, most entrusted, most detested organisation of all times. Vittal should be happy, or maybe frightened, after he is told that he will work with people with an unusual quality of character and, with time, he will become those people. When he meets Peter who reeks of success like a true world shaper, Vittal clings to the saving idea that he wants to become him. But as he climbs through stages at Enterprise over the next decade, life loses its meaning and he grows into a swinging smudge of mortality that advances and retreats with his employer’s tides. He is lonely, surrounded by emotionless, manipulative schemers, under a haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy and it will never be him. And by the time Lucy arrives to discombobulate this sorry state of affairs, Vittal has become like the others, numbed, out to reach something he does not understand anymore. Lucy won’t be able to save him nor him her from Peter, from Enterprise. He won’t be able to save Peter or Enterprise either. And five years later, Vittal thinks that writing his story for Nuria can rescue him. It might, but not in the way he had thought! Triple Bagger is a story about being enslaved in a world of emotional unavailability and whether vanity, fear and control could be a shortcut to happiness; a tale of shredded life in three acts: Desire, Discipleship and Demise. It treats themes around collective faith and individual identity, stability and disintegration, the sane, the insane and who decides. Parallel to the main narrative there are reflective letters between Vittal and his editor Nuria discussing why we write, to leave a trace, out of revenge, or for redemption. There are as well as visual short passages of hotel encounters between two unknown lovers. The novel is ultimately about whether one person can make the difference when they live up to being that person.

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Inspired by Real People

Joseph D'Antoni Author Interview

Joseph D’Antoni Author Interview

Captive Threat is a genre-crossing novel with elements of espionage, mystery, and crime as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?

I began the novel with the basic plot and ending in mind but the plot got more complex and took unanticipated turns as the issues and characters developed. As a writer my view is you have to know where you’re going but keep an open mind as your characters and plot take on a life of their own.

The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. What was your inspiration for Wade’s character?

The Wade Hanna character as with most of my characters was inspired by real people I have known or worked with over a 40 year career as a forensic expert and having grown up in New Orleans. Each character takes on traits of different people I have known in the past.

What I enjoyed most in this story was the portrayal of complicated human emotions. What themes did you try to capture while creating your characters?

Much of the emotion in my characters comes from their unique personalities and how they interact under different levels of threat. The two main characters throughout the series are Wade Hanna and his co-agent and lover, Megan Winslow. Their relationship as agents often tests their personal relationship as lovers. In each novel I try to bring out the best or worst of their professional relationship and how that affects their personal relationship. Always ups and downs but in the end they are there for each other although not in the ways obvious to the reader. In many instances, Megan, for example takes the lead and can be stronger than Wade. She brings to bare a unique, tough feminine prospective to a clever, instinctive approach under the devious watchful eye of, Leo, the Black Ops commander.

This is the fifth installment in the Wade Hannah series and it leaves me wondering, where will Wade end up now?

Wade and Megan continue as a team in the sixth novel. Currently, I have two more novels planned for the couple as they continue their heart throbbing assignments while maintaining their personal relationship. The novels will venture on different types of assignments in different countries as they engage political espionage and mystery as they face an uncertain enemy and each other. Each novel will test character flaws of team members. Novel 6 has the added burden of Megan’s physical recovery from wounds suffered of her near-death experience in Captive Threat. Beyond the next two novels is unplanned and anybody’s guess. It may be another episode with these characters or an entirely new set of characters and plot. Stay tuned.

Author Links: GoodReads Twitter Facebook Website

Captive Threat (The Wade Hanna Series Book 5)Award-winning author Joseph D’Antoni continues his Wade Hanna pulse-pounding, black-ops mystery series. 

As the Vietnam War concludes an MIT professor, contracted to the NSA, leaks U.S. military secrets to the world. He is now America’s #1 traitor. Abducted by Soviet agents, he and his family are traded to North Vietnam. 

Wade Hanna’s partner and lover, Megan Winslow, is forced into a witness protection program run by Army Intelligence. Haunted by PTSD flashbacks of her last mission Megan discovers she is being used as “bait” for another covert operation. 

Escaping the witness protection program Megan finds sanctuary with Wade in the deep swamps of Louisiana. Wade is selected to head the mission to capture or terminate the #1 American traitor. To avoid being left behind in the swamp Megan must convince Wade she is fit for the new mission. 

Wade’s covert intelligence team infiltrates the guarded jungle monastery where the professor is being held only to find their team is vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the opposition. Planned extraction of the target becomes impossible as Wade’s team faces imminent termination of the entire squad. 

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Feel All The Feelings

Elizabeth Antonucci Author Interview

Elizabeth Antonucci Author Interview

Fractured details your revelations and strides toward bettering yourself both mentally and physically. What was the inspiration that made you want to capture your experiences in a book?

I originally started writing the book as a form of therapy, a way to help get the trauma, events and details of the accident out of my body and mind. Then around my 30th birthday, I had a breakdown. I felt like a failure, I thought I should have been at a different place in my life, I thought I should have accomplished more. After many therapy sessions and allowing myself to cry, be mad, and feel all the feelings – I realized I had so much more to share than just the details of the accident. I took a step back and saw how hard I had fought to be healthy and have a successful life. I knew at that point that my book was supposed to be about that. I wanted to share my struggles and adversity in hopes of helping others going through something similar.

I greatly appreciated your candor in detailing the obstacles you faced and I could truly feel the tragedies as well as the victories. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

The hardest thing, hands down, to write about was the rape when I was a freshman in college. It was something only my therapist really knew about. I hadn’t even told my parents at the time I was writing it in the book. It brought back all sorts of memories, feelings, and shame. As I was writing it I had to take many breaks, remember that I was not the same person nor in the same place, and keep telling myself I was enough. THEN came the hard part of having to tell my parents about the event. I had hid it from them for 12 years but I knew I needed to tell them before the book came out. Again, all the fears, shame, embarrassment, and emotions came rushing in. But I knew it was something I had to do before I let them read the book – that was probably the only thing they didn’t know about that was in the book. I also knew it was something that I absolutely needed to include in the book since the book is all about finding my voice and sharing my truth. This was a huge part of losing both of those things. I am so thankful to have such supportive, encouraging and loving parents. It was extremely hard for them to hear, but I know it ultimately brought us closer and deepened our relationship.

In Fractured you reveal a past with issues like body dysmorphia and a struggle to find your own voice. What is the message you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope readers can take away the lesson I learned after my 14+ year struggle with diet pills, anorexia, and body dysmorphia… YOU ARE ENOUGH. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. The image society portrays that you have to be skin and bones to be beautiful is so distorted. I hope readers, especially young girls can read this and have an “aha moment” before they enter into a self-destructive path. It also my hope that men and women learn that it is ok to be vulnerable, to speak, share, and use your authentic voice, live in their authentic skin, and follow their own rules. Don’t shrink yourself to make others like you. It is not worth it. It is so much more fun to live life celebrating your bigness.

You are the founding director of the nonprofit company Step Up Chicago Playwrights. How did that start and where do you see it going in the future?

I founded what was then Step Up Productions in 2009 with the mission to share truth onstage and inspire the audience to embrace their own personal truths (haha see a pattern?) We had 3 successful seasons of shows in which we chose a social service organization – whose mission matched the theme of the show we were producing- in Chicago to partner with and donate a portion of our proceeds to. In 2015, funding was low and we were struggling to be able to fund our next production. I took a step back and cancelled the remainder of our season. I talked with a mentor, friend, and phenomenal artist in Chicago, Brad Akin, and together we came up with Step Up Chicago Playwrights as it is now. A company that pairs Chicago Communities with local playwrights who will write a play based off that community. Our hope is to make theater sound and look more like Chicago, All of Chicago! I have since taken on an advisory role since I moved to California with my fiancé who was relocated for work and Brad has taken on the Executive Director role. I know the model we have sets us up for success. We are in the process of choosing our first playwright and community to kick off the inaugural year with Step Up Chicago Playwrights.

Fractured is about your journey of self discovery, but it’s also about your family. Was there anything about your family that you only learned through this journey?

In talking with my therapist about different patterns I was trying to break and learn the history of where they started (me always being good, my need to please, not using my voice) I learned a lot about my family. I brought different topics up to my mom and asked her a lot of questions about my young childhood that helped me figure out why I embedded certain thoughts, behaviors and patterns into my system. I have to say, even though it was not always pleasant to learn and a lot of hard work, it was a lot of fun putting all the pieces together and learning why I did and thought certain things.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

FRACTURED: My Journey Back from Death and the Lessons I've Learned Along the Way by [Antonucci, Elizabeth]From the outside looking in, Elizabeth had the perfect life. She had a family who loved her, numerous friends, and a successful career. No one knew the hurt, pain, and angst she hid inside, struggling to keep herself small so that those around her would still like her. 

It all came to a head on October 23, 2007, when her parents received a call that she was lying lifeless in the ICU in a hospital in Utah — “You better get out here, your daughter is not going to make it.” Fractured: My Journey Back From Death and the Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way is the memoir of Elizabeth’s recovery, spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is about her deliberate decision to begin the hard work finding and using her voice and the struggle to break out of the box that society tried to keep her in. 

This is the story of what happens when one woman stared death in the face and decided to make a conscious choice not to go back to sleep, but to wake up and live the life she knew she was meant to live.

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Captive Threat

Captive Threat (The Wade Hanna Series Book 5)

You know a story is good when it makes it to the fifth installment. A story needs to be captivating, with intriguing characters and compelling action. Readers will find all of that and more in Joseph D’Antoni’s Captive Threat. This book is an addition to his ever-popular Wade Hanna series. It’s easy to see why these books have been able to sustain themselves for so long. The life that Wade leads is not typical at all. This includes his romances. Here we find a story steeped in action with heart-pounding risks and careful planning. Those who enjoy a great action-packed crime/military intelligence novel will definitely be entertained by what occurs within these pages. Where will Wade end up this time? Will he finally get to move forward in his relationship with Megan? Or will this task finally end up being too much for him?

While this is an installment in a series, it is not wholly necessary to read the previous four books. Yes, they will provide important backstory, but D’Antoni writes in such a way that a reader will not be lost. Even the complicated aspects of Wade and Megan’s relationship is not lost in this book. It is difficult to write in such a way that you can captivate newcomers without leaving them confused. A master of his craft, it is clear that D’Antoni knows what he’s doing. At first, the book doesn’t even feel like it’s about Wade at all, but about Megan. About what she is going through after her return to American soil. She has suffered an ordeal and D’Antoni takes the required time to have her move through these complicated feelings and post-traumatic experiences. This is how you capture readers.

The character development is very well planned and carefully laid out. When you have existing characters that have been carrying on for books upon books it’s easy to swap out romantic partners or close friends in favour of an exciting new character. It is clear that our author has spent the time energy required to foster and develop the relationships from existing installments. This is something not many serial authors can accomplish. Coupled with character development are the action scenes as Wade and company foray into their battlefields. Nothing feels out of place or too over the top. There is a pleasant balance between story development and a good old-fashioned fight.

If you are looking for a book that is exciting to read while giving you those complicated portrayals of human emotion then you have found what you are looking for in Captive Threat. It’s an excellent example of a crime/military novel married to dramatic elements done right. For the series to have gone on for as many installments as it has, it is clear that something is being done right here. There is even the potential for another installment into the Wade Hanna series based solely off how our adventure ends. Your heart will race for more than one reason as you devour the words in this tale. But still we are left wondering, where will Wade end up now?

Pages: 389 | ASIN: B01M3OAV36

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Day Moon

Day Moon (Tomorrow's Edge Book 1)

As the first book in the Tomorrow’s Edge trilogy, Day Moon is an outstanding contribution to the world of futuristic creation. The author, Brett Armstrong, provides a novel which allows any reader to question the “what ifs” of the world.

The story is set in 2039, where a seventeen-year-old boy, Elliott, is assigned to work on a project instigated by his deceased grandfather. After all forms of print are destroyed, Elliott must let go of his beloved book of the complete works of Shakespeare.

Elliott soon realises that in the complete works of Shakespeare, something unusual occurs. For some reason, an extra sonnet “Day Moon” had been inserted. This unusual event is the start of the unravelling journey of Project Alexandria; a journey which has no intentions of using the project for its original purpose. Can Elliott unravel the mystery and prevent Project Alexandria being launched?

A fantastic attempt to draw upon the unknown possibilities of the world. Armstrong creates a strong, imaginative plot line, with relatable characters and emotions; this is a remarkable read which creates a vibrant and thought-provoking storyline.

Based on the originality of his ideas, and Brett’s noble attempt to write in a world of pure creation, I could look beyond our everyday lives, and recognise a possibility of how the world could look in years to come.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about Day Moon was a mixture of themes including passion, distrust, uncertainty and suspense. What also sets this book apart from others in this genre, is the small quotes inserted at the beginning of each chapter. Each quote has been taken from a work of Shakespeare; which ties in beautifully with the underlying concept of the narrative. In that respect, I think Brett Armstrong demonstrates a huge amount of commitment and passion in regards to his ideas for his trilogy in Tomorrow’s Edge.

Whilst reading through this book, I recognised that the author had put a tremendous amount of attention to detail in regards to his layout, consistency, flow in writing and grammar, which all adds to the book’s qualities. Not only does the book contain a strong narrative full of suspense, drive, and futurist qualities, but it also blends our world of reality with a world that could be.  

A fast-paced, diverse, intense piece of writing that falls under categories of Historical Fiction, Science Fiction and Futuristic genres. I highly recommend this book for anyone who shows an interest in the genres as mentioned. Although the narrative lagged at times, this does not detract from the quality of Brett Armstrong’s creative writing.

Packed full of inspiration, creation and innovation, this novel provides a great insight in to a world that is not real, but not impossible either. A fantastic read, and a great beginning to the Tomorrow’s Edge series.

Pages: 389 | ASIN: B06XWDM49Z

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Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels

Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels

Dave Matthes’ vision of the holiday season is a beautiful thing: estranged and dying (or already dead) relatives, a Baby Jesus/eggplant switcheroo, and alarm clocks blasting out “Feliz Navidad” at ungodly hours of the morning. Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels spans just a few weeks in the lives of the Ponce siblings, primarily focusing on the black sheep, oldest brother Edgar, but, in reality, it covers a lifetime. Brought together by their mother’s not-completely-unexpected and not-really-saddening death, Edgar, porn-star celebrity brother Jean, and foulmouthed but well-intentioned little sister Charlotte learn to embrace what it means to be a family. As Matthes himself puts it, family is just “[being] together, through the shit and the worse shit.”

A worthy five-star examination of a truly modern family (though the Ponces and Matthes would likely chime in that they are not a modern family in the ABC Family sense), Lockless Doors is both hilarious and heartbreaking, soul-searching and sarcastic. The plot summary could read as clichéd: alienated brother is forced to reunite with his estranged family and ends up enjoying it. But Lockless Doors is far subtler and more complicated in its examination of relationships. Matthes skillfully reveals insights into the siblings’ relationships with each other, their parents, and significant others gradually, enabling highly interesting and thoughtful character development of all the main characters. Though it spans just one eventful holiday season, Lockless Doors examines life in all its stages, from open-eyed youth to rebellious teens, from mid-life crises to acceptance of death.

In addition to its fascinating story line and characters, Lockless Doors is impeccably well-written. Matthes fills the novel to the brim with clever plays on words and puns that could be overlooked by some readers, but are greatly appreciated by attentive ones. Admittedly, he also fills the novel with a plethora of creative curse words that may offend some neophyte eyes, but the obscenities fit naturally within the world of the Ponces that Matthes has created, and once you get past the first few hundred F-bombs, you hardly notice them. In Lockless Doors, Matthes also takes the time to create intriguing and frequently hilarious supporting characters and events. From the smirking funeral director in his bright pink tie or the super fit and hyper healthy dad in his skin-tight bike shorts, Lockless Doors creates a rollercoaster of emotions for readers, being at one moment laugh-out-loud and in the next a tearjerker.

But what readers will enjoy the most about Lockless Doors is just how fun it is to read. As you explore the world that Matthes had created, it’s both easy and amusing to see your own friends and family in the characters he creates (though hopefully your family is not quite as dysfunctional as that of the Ponce’s). Taken at a first glance, none of the characters seems like anyone you’d want to spend your Christmas with; but by the end, you’re cheering for their success in the New Year. Self-aware and self-deprecating, Lockless Doors weaves a brutally honest and incredibly unique story of a family, in all its ugly and painful moments as well as beautiful and loving ones.

Pages: 169 | ASIN: B073MP2QJ8

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