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To Never Know

To Never Know

To Never Know depicts the story of Steven Lewis, and how he is affected by his life choices, his stalled inertia, and forces far beyond his control.

To Never Know, by Thomas Duffy, is a millennialist coming of age drama centered on the late adolescence and early adulthood of the main character, Steven Lewis.  The story starts in 1994 in Queens, New York. Steven is in his Senior year of High School. Steven has a crush on a girl in his class, Kelly Brennan. She seems to be interested in him, finding excuses to interact by asking for his notes and a stick of gum. But he never works up the courage to ask her to Prom.

The story skips past graduation and things have changed for Steven. His life continues a downward progression: his grades are not as good at college as they were in High School, he drops out, takes some time off. He tried calling Kelly again, but he could not bring himself to talk to her.

A family friend encourages him to send Kelly a letter, so he does, on September 10, 2001. Keeping in mind that Kelly lives in New York, you can make some good guesses about where the story goes after that, but this story packs a lot more into it, as Steven’s life events continue to unfold.

This story is an exploration of millennialist worries and fears in a post-9/11 life: adulthood with its ever-increasing responsibilities, how to live a good life, intimacy, isolation, establishing one’s self-identity, and the existential fear of death. The story is deeply emotional, with conflicting emotions. The quality of writing is strong enough to convey nuanced emotions and details. There were a few copy editing issues, but none bad enough to detract from the powerful meaning of the story.

The title, To Never Know, gives some insight into the central themes within the story. There is a strain of philosophical agnosticism (not in the religious sense) that there are unknown unknowns in our lives and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. There is also the theme that there are “bells that cannot be un-rung.”  Steven cannot go and have the relationship he wanted. We will never know what life would have been like if one thing would have been changed in the distant past, and we cannot know what tomorrow will bring.

This book is good, but really heavy at times. It is intended for adult audiences, and probably best understood by older millennials. There are depictions of sex, death, terrorism, and coarse language. The content of the story takes an odd twist at one point, and the end is unexpected.

Pages: 208 | ASIN: B01K7RYJB6

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Songs from Richmond Avenue

Songs from Richmond Avenue

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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Truth and the Serpent

Truth and The Serpent by [Rutledge, J.]

The Truth and The Serpent written by J. Rutledge is a fantastic work of fiction that explores an alternate creation story than what we’ve been told. Instead of focusing on the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden, this book focuses on the Serpent. The creature known as temptation and sin.

The book shows the Serpent’s side of the story as a present day man. I found this to be a very interesting concept for the book, as this was a story that I’ve known since childhood and had blindly accepted that the serpent was bad.

I really enjoyed the wit of the serpent. And the detail with which his character is developed is superb. If I had to think about what the serpent was like in the Bible, the description in this book would’ve nailed it. The journey that the serpent goes on is a thrilling adventure as well.

I really liked the language of the book although Sometimes The Capitals On Words Like Time took a bit of getting used to. Apart from that, the way the book was easy to read and the prose flowed naturally.

I knew going into this book that it would be heavy on the religion, but I didn’t expect it to be as heavy handed in it’s delivery. It was clear from the start that the author had done his research. Everything was thoroughly examined and fit it’s backstory nicely. I just felt that there was an overabundance of biblical references at times. 

This book is very well written. The first line had me melting into the sunset the author painted with his words. That’s why, despite the heavy biblical tones, I was able to finish it. The strength of his writing and the imagery surrounding his words and concepts got me through it.

I really related to all of the characters and what they went through. It was clear that this was done on purpose so I could get the lessons that I was being taught, which wasn’t something that I expected from a work of fiction, but it’s what happened anyway. My curiosity was piqued often and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I had to go back and re-read pages as I was going through and consuming the information so quickly. That’s how you know you’re onto a winner.

Pages: 499 | ASIN: B01N7SVJO6

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We Have Known Some Wild People

Roxanne Burkey & Charles Breakfield Author Interview

Roxanne Burkey & Charles Breakfield Author Interview

In The Enigma Rising R Group is hired to find a missing heiress. They must learn to work together to uncover intelligence in the underworld of cyber crime as they confront drug traffickers turned money launderers. This is a thrilling setup to a suspenseful novel. What was your inspiration for the setup to this book?

It’s not hard to be inspired when you have lived and loved throughout your life. We are fortunate to have a venue to crystallize those moments, with those people who have rotated through our lives, and make it a compelling story. We have known some wild people.

I found the novel to be a clever thriller story. How did you balance quick action with intelligent story telling to give the book a quick tempo?

Practice! We want to be known as great story tellers and so you must be able to “wordsmith” not only the dialog and the characters but the story line itself. We spent a lot of time polishing the dialog, the story, and the characters to get the proper flavor for our goal of a good techno-thriller. Our beta readers and editor helped challenge us to make a better product at every opportunity.

Again, there is a host of intriguing characters in this novel. What was your favorite character to write for this time around?

We really got into our “bad boy” characters Juan and Carlos. These are the Bad Boys, mom’s warn their daughters about. And as the phrase goes “their characters grew legs and took off”.

How do you see the Enigma series evolving in the future?

Actually we have built a character universe of over 150 characters for use throughout the series. By the time the reader hits the 9th book (just getting ready to release) you will be able to answer that question for yourself. But as a comment to be a teaser, readers can expect the series to have different theme’s per book that include, identity theft and dark net (#1), high tech battlefield communications using nano-technology & Drones (#3), a virulent Ghost Code launched by two nefarious types code named Mephisto and Callisto (#4), predicting the future using supercomputers linked together (#5), genetic engineering of humans to live 1,000 years (#6), gamification and smart cities being held hostage (first CATS book) (#7), world commodity manipulations to crush corporations and countries (#8), and a team of analog information mules that drive shady corporate profits across the Dark Net (2nd CATS books (#9). We don’t think you’ll be disappointed in these grown up stories.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The R-Group is the single most advanced information-gathering organization on the planet, providing services to the intelligence community on a contract basis. Their cutting-edge application of technology keeps their ability to gather, analyze, and use information well ahead of most major governments.

Carlos and Juan are entrepreneurs, although even the most generous observer would question the legality of their business model. The two brothers have discovered a way to covertly access satellite communications. Mostly, they’re putting their skills to work relocating drug lords targeted by the authorities, along with their cash, gold, artwork, and other assets—for a modest fee, of course.

When a valued private client hires the R-Group to track down a missing heiress, chance circumstance brings the technology leaders into contact with Carlos and Juan’s fly-by-night operation. The two brothers have skills the R-Group can use, so they offer them a chance to go legit. Presuming, of course, the brothers can rein in their contempt for societal rules.

A sequel to Breakfield and Burkey’s The Enigma Factor, The Enigma Rising continues their exploration of the high-stakes and high-tech world of information brokering as an engaging thriller of lost and found, loving and growing, and despicable greed.

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The Story Grew Darker

Zachary Brock Author Interview

Zachary Brock Author Interview

I really enjoyed the bond that Ace and Zeke had in your book A Dangerous Discovery. What was the inspiration for their relationship?

Actually, it is the banter and relationship I have with my father. That is what really inspired me to make these two characters more than just friends.

There are some thrilling twists in this novel. Did these happen organically while writing or were they mapped out?

I outline each chapter with how I want it to proceed and set up a story board with notes, but so many times the story takes on a life of its own and that is what happened here. I had the concept and the secret, but as I investigated and researched a lot of the incidents that occurred in South America, the story grew darker and darker. I actually let some things out because I thought it may be too dark.

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

I am working on Book 2 of this series, as well as another fiction novel. Book 2 is tentatively set to be on the shelves in August of 2018. Book 2 is another Vatican conspiracy that I discovered when I was researching Book 1 and I think people will enjoy it.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook

A Dangerous Discovery

Can Ace and Zeke survive the discovery of a lifetime: a secret the Vatican will stop at nothing to protect?

Marion (Ace) Acevedo grew up on the streets as a Latin American. The things he had to do to survive as a child, no one should have to do, but a chance encounter changed his life.

Now he is the face of an international corporation. Wealth, social standing and travel is what his life is all about. He loves what he does, and with the guiding hand of Ezekiel (Zeke) Smith, his mentor and friend, his life cannot get much better.

Unbeknownst to Ace and Zeke, the acquisition of a new company in Peru holds a secret the Vatican does not want discovered. Special agents from the Holy See will do anything to stop this secret from being released.

As Ace gets closer to uncovering this dangerous secret, he must use every skill he was taught from the streets and from his mentor. But, even with an unknown stranger looking out for him, Ace may lose it all, including his life.

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The Bug Boys vs. Professor Blake Blackhart

The Bug Boys vs. Professor Blake Blackhart by [Hoffman, Stewart]

Alex and Ian return in the sequel to The Bug Boys, back to the town of Rossolington after the collapse of the mine. The boys still have the nanobots inside them and retain the ability to take on the different aspects of live bugs they swallow.  They are still working with the Secti to bring new insects back to the Nest planet, but the Secti are impatient and want a better selection of insects so they start to create their own portal outside the boys. Meanwhile, bugs start showing up from a forth portal that no one knew existed. Professor Blake Blackhart, has also ingested nanobots and tapped into their abilities, as well as improved upon them. Professor Blake however, does not have good intentions and becomes the book’s super villain to the boy’s superhero personas. Add into the story a new student Linda and her mom, the new PE teacher that takes an unhealthy interest in Alex and Ian and things get very interesting in the declining mining town of Rossolington.

The Bug Boys vs Professor Blake Blackhart is an engaging and fun novel for young adult readers and adults alike. You have your classic good vs evil theme, and kids’ vs adults. A group of four kids taking on the super villain and his sidekick kitten. Yes, a kitten. A kitten that is also infected by nanobots and has been surgically altered to be a weapon. Hoffman uses humor that draws kids in, lots of detailed descriptions about farts, the noise, the smell, the way it makes them feel. All humor that appeals to typical young adult boys. Eating bugs, but needing to keep them alive, entertaining and gross. The awkward time of puberty where boys suddenly discover girls and those awkward moments are brought out in the interactions with Linda.

Hoffman also manages to address some serious topics through this adolescent humor. Alex has to come to terms with the fact his dad is not infallible. This realization, that his father has fears, is not perfect and can make poor choices is one that hits him hard. Alex must learn to accept his father and his short comings if he can. After almost losing his father in the mine to be dealt another blow is difficult. This is relatable to young readers as they are hitting the age where they might start seeing the childhood hearos for who they really are and realizing they are not the perfect examples of humans they originally thought them to be. These can be hard times for a young teen to experience, seeing characters in a book they like can help them come to terms with reality, and give them a laugh along the way.

While Alex and Ian want to be superhero’s, they learn there is more to being a superhero than just putting on a costume and having super powers. They learn limits, asking for help, working as a team and reaching out to others when they realize they can’t do it all on their own. There are a lot of good lessons for young adults packed into this short novel. There is enough action to keep kids interested and wanting to read more. Hoffman even at the end gives readers a cryptic scene that leads us to believe we can expect more from the Bug Boys.

Pages: 154 | ASIN: B076737HRN

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Song

Song

Set in the world of Perilisc, Jesse Teller returns to this world with another series sure to captivate readers. The Manhunters series starts off with Song, and tells two story lines that intertwine. Rayph Ivoryfist is an immortal magician that has his own personal demons to fight, but is bound by honor to protect the land and the boy he believes to be the next great ruler. When the prison he built is destroyed and all the evil had brought to justice is released he knew he needed help. Rayph than builds his own army of powerful beings, with his old friend Smear at his side. Parallel to the story of Ivoryfist preparing for battle is the story of Konnon, the father that wants a cure for his daughter’s paralysis. To help his daughter Bree, Konnon must work with his partner Glyss. Together the two of them have a reputation for being unstoppable and deadly. They live up to this reputation, knowing each other inside and out. The two pair’s separate missions will unavoidably end them up together in the town of Song, the question is, who is alive in the end?

Jesse Teller has a way with describing the setting that really makes you feel like you are there. The swamps that Rayph visits, you can almost feel the mud clinging to you, smell the decaying woods and animals used for sacrifices, and feel the tension that the people around the main characters create. The level of detail that goes into settings, also goes into the action. While this is great for really getting into things, those with a weak stomach for gore might not be pleased. Teller describes in detail the torture of some characters, and details the death of many. This level of detail may not appeal to all, but Teller can also detail the compassion and love between two characters just as well. The example of Konnon and his daughter Bree. There is no question about the devotion and love he feels for his daughter, it is relatable and pulls at the heart strings. A father’s undying love and willingness to do whatever he must to save her, no matter what the cost is to himself.

One of Teller’s greatest skills is relationships. Not romantic quest love relationships, but bonds between people and spirits. These bonds draw the readers in sometimes more than the story lines do because they are so powerful and relatable. As I read Song, I felt the bonds that form between Rayph and his army. The magic that makes it so they can all be connected is just a piece of the puzzle, they genuinely build a brotherhood and work as one. Konnon and Glyss while not blood brothers move as one unit together, they are bound and know each other so well there is no need for words. It is a great read for the relationship factor alone. If you enjoy studying and reading about human (or in this case non human) relationship Teller will not disappoint. Through his use of many magical creatures from humans, to fairies, to demons, all working together for a common goal the passion for survival and willingness to put all differences aside for is apparent. Perhaps it is a good lesson for modern society, put our differences aside and work together to defeat the evil looking to rip our world apart.

Pages: 319 | ASIN: B074GP13JC

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Spinner

Spinner

Spinner is a refreshing addition to the science fiction and horror genres. The book gives readers a new perspective as the main characters are not your usual shiny protagonists, but rather a group of boys, all of whom have some form of disability or handicap. The main character, Alex, is both impaired mentally as well as physically, bound to a wheelchair. This is not the only thing that sets Alex apart, though. Alex is a spinner, capable of taking on others emotions, physical ailments, and pains before they disappear entirely. A trait that finds him unknowingly being watched by those with ulterior motives and a far more sinister entity as well.

Spinner definitely brings something new and refreshing to the table with its focal characters being those typically dismissed and often belittled in our society. Bring in the science -fiction/horror vibe and Michael J. Bowler definitely writes to catch your interest. The story is original and cut from a different cloth which is refreshing. Although sometimes sentences can run on or become focused on small details, almost Charles Dickens-esque. It leaves little to the imagination as each character and scene is described in detail.

The author does a wonderful job of presenting the main characters with disabilities as people, not just a subset of society to be catered to. Each character, though their disabilities are mentioned and made apparent through their interactions, are easily seen as teenagers with their own opinions, personalities, and mindsets. The fact that they’re disabled rarely comes to mind throughout unless the story itself points to it, giving a refreshing and normalized perspective. Bowler uses a lot of different aspects and mannerisms stereotypical of a screen-teen. There are many dramatizations and immature reactions that detract from the characters otherwise superb development and depth.

I found this contemporary story easy to relate to and understand. Spinner has a lot of interesting and refreshing concepts that I felt kept the story thrilling and suspenseful.

Pages: 445 | ASIN: B075VCQ5F9

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Sleepeth Not, the Bastard

Sleepeth Not, the Bastard by [Matthes, Dave]

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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Wrath of the Fallen

Wrath of the Fallen

Wrath of the Fallen by Kristopher Jerome is the first book in a series about the battle of good vs. evil with mankind stuck in the middle and suffering because of it. The war went on for thousands of years until one side seemed to beat the other into submission. It seems as though mankind gets a break as the demons and their minions seem to be disappearing. Trent, a Paladin of the Light thinks something’s not right and follows them with his friend Devin to discover what is truly happening in their world. What they find is more than they bargained for.

I personally find stories about battles against good and evil to be right up my alley. I’m a fan of shows like Supernatural that portray angels and demons in a different light than just wearing halos or poking people with pitchforks. The characters in this book are well written and easy to visualize. The battles were bloody, which didn’t bother me in the slightest. After all, this is a book about a war. If there wasn’t violence I would have been disappointed!

Trent has some issues that make him a realistic character, in my book. In reality, people are a bit twisted from their past and current situations. He was very lucky to have his friend Devin with him on the journey to keep from losing himself. I won’t say how, sorry. Read for yourself if you want to know!

The twists and turns of Wrath of the Fallen kept me reading when I should have been sleeping. I don’t often stay up to read a book, but I had problems finding a place to really stop at so that I could get some rest. For some reason, I had thoughts of Frodo taking the ring to Mordor with Sam. I am not quite sure why, since it was a bit of a different situation, but what can I say? Perhaps it was the adventure itself with two friends.

While the ending was abrupt, I get it. There are other books to the series and a cliffhanger was needed to keep you wanting more. I don’t mind this at all. If anything, this shows the art of a true storyteller. They can suck you into this new and magical world and leave you wanting more, not ready for it to end just yet. While I had not read a fantasy novel in quite a while, this book put me in the mood to go back to this genre for the next few books.

Overall there was lots of intrigue and drama to keep me reading, and the characters were very well written. I tend to get put off by things like paladins and things like that, but that is just me and one of my many quirks. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy stories about good v. evil.

Pages: 322 | ASIN: B01COENGR8

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