A Dangerous Discovery by Zachary Brock is a thrilling book about two men, Ace and Zeke. Ace had rough beginnings as he grew up on the streets of Latin America and had to do things as a child that no one should have to do. However, there was a chance encounter that completely changed his life and he is now reaping the rewards.
Together with his best friend and mentor Zeke, they run an international corporation, constantly enjoying the perks of wealth, social standing and luxurious travel. A new buyout of a company in Peru should run as normal, except this specific company has a secret that the Vatican will kill to protect.
Sounds awesome, hey! It sucked me right in. I love conspiracy theories about things like this and reading this book just feeds my obsession even more. It was a page turner simply because I was hooked on the Vatican stopping at nothing to protect this secret from coming out. You eventually discover why they stop at nothing and oh boy, is it a big secret.
There are two stories going on throughout the entire book but they eventually come together in the end, so it all works out. It was initially hard for me to keep track of at some stages, but that’s probably because I was reading it so quickly. I would have appreciated a clearer break between the two storylines. I think it would have been better if one chapter focused on one storyline and then switched in the next chapter. Which would help me keep track of the story while I was furiously tearing through pages.
I enjoyed the banter between Zeke and Ace. I found it funny, especially considering that the first chapter immediately throws you into a conversation where Zeke is anxious about ‘doing a sixty-nine’ with a girl he’s on a date with. He doesn’t even know what it means but that doesn’t stop Ace from being in hysterics. Reading the banter between the two of them was like hanging out with my own friends, it was easy to read and funny most of the time. You could clearly read the bond between them, which is a sign of great writing by Brock.
The story gets dark at points, which gives the book a good contrast to the comedic banter. I really enjoyed reading this book. I hope there’s a second one. I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 stars for the clever banter and conspiracy theory that the Vatican runs the world and will stop at nothing to protect itself.
Pages: 280 | ASIN: B06XQ4ZB83
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Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth KS 150th Birthday, written by S. Jackson and A. Raymond, is a tale of animal friends who are preparing for a very special birthday- the 150th celebration of their town. The animals gather round whilst Big Whitey takes a trip down history lane where he tells his friends about the importance of Ellsworth and how the town was first established. Prepare to be thrown into a wild world of cowboys, railroaders, and sheriffs as you learn the fortunes and misfortunes the town has endured to finally reach its 150th birthday. After the history lesson, the animals then begin the celebrations and re-enactments, songs, and poems will entertain them all.
Shadow and Friends Celebrate Ellsworth KS 150th Birthday is a very special children’s book that delves into the history of Fort Ellsworth in an exciting celebration with animals, cowboys, and Indians.
Legendary historical characters of Ellsworth come together in lessons on cattle pens, dusty trails and important landmarks. Authors S. Jackson and A.Raymond are able to beautifully paint a picture of the wild west through incorporating animals and history in a playful and engaging story. The storytellers are dogs and squirrels which give the book an animal twist- something which will be sure to spark the imagination of all children. The animals towards the end of the story throw a fabulous re-enactment of history and will encourage children to consider their own town’s history and how they too could get involved with historical celebrations of their town.
Travel through time as Big Whitey takes you on a history lesson that begins in the 1800’s and finishes in the present day. The once wild cow town starts with Indians and Cowboys that made homes out of bluffs and built their town through supplying to the military. I loved reading the small excerpts of cowboy slang which gave the story more authenticity and character.
I enjoyed how the story had a taste of the old and the new twisted together for a fun-loving plot line. One moment you were in the wild wild west and the next you were taking selfies with animals which are sure to delight both children and adults alike. Even though it is a children’s story, the plot line contains depth and interesting information about life in the old west that will entertain both children and adults. It’s a fun and light-hearted way to explore history and has the perfect mix of education and entertainment.
The illustrations throughout the story were bright and colorful and will be sure to grab the attention of all children as they eagerly learn about the town’s history. I particularly enjoyed the animals dressed up in cowboy outfits and old saloon style dresses and how they rode the buggy. The illustrations will only serve to ignite the imagination of the children reading the story and compliment the history lesson perfectly.
I would recommend this for children who enjoy stories about cowboys and animals.
Pages: 39 | ASIN: B072TPMDRH
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Bitter Awakenings is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, paranormal, and urban as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I think starting out, I had a concept in mind. I wanted supernatural elements in full swing and within a small town setting. As I wrote, however, the characters started demanding more elements be added as their individual personalities, backgrounds, and even locations dictated the overall direction and feel of the book. In the end, it made sense to combine a few genres based on the characters and the locations used in the book. The world of magic, as I found out through writing this book, tends to blur the lines between what we know, what we expect, and what is possible.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I liked them all, but I absolutely loved writing for Dusty. The mix of blood that flows through her veins makes for interesting interactions with her fellow Keepers. There are times when she’s sweet, then sour, bossy, yet vulnerable. You can sense her wanting to take charge and lead, but there’s a disconnect with her emotionally that shows up in the work, some funny, some not so much. She’s the perfect blend of “I know what I’m doing” and “What the hell just happened?” with the slightest dusting of, “Told ya so.”
The most enjoyable interaction between characters came from the conversations and situations Gordy and Niles had throughout the book. The back and forth banter of two men in love makes for some comedic moments between the more perilous scenes throughout the book. You just can’t help but smile and giggle whenever they get on lobbing one liners and can’t help but think they sound like an old married couple.
The world you’ve created is very detailed and creative. What was your inspiration for the background of your story?
Growing up I was an avid fan of comics and cartoons. Most of my favorites centered around “team” mechanics, like the Avengers, X-Men, JLA, Bionic Six, Dungeons and Dragons and many others. I enjoyed how everyone worked together to combat evil, but at times ran the show from a single perspective.
I also loved the aspect of witchcraft, the supernatural, and the unseen world. I quickly became fascinated by the massive amounts of information available on the subjects while supplying myself a healthy dose of horror cinema and books to quench my thirst. I switched between books and movies through my teen years when I learned, all too well, that ginger haired and fair skinned people do not fare well in Florida’s, almost constant, stream of burning sunlight.
I grew up in the South and among the cow pastures, orange groves, and lazy summer days of sweet tea and mosquito bites, I listened and watched. Most of the things I remembered, the people, the talks, the places all became inspiration for parts of my book coupled with my love of the supernatural and superhero worlds I so fondly remembered from my youth.
Bitter Awakenings is book 1 in the Keeper Chronicles. Where does book 2 take readers?
Book 1 set the stage when it came to uncovering secrets, opening the door for more drama, and introducing the world of the Keepers, but Book 2 will basically throw the curious head first into the magical rabbit hole.
Readers will get a chance to check in on Leesa amid the Utah landscape and how she’s been handling life with Lee and Myrna. An uncovering of a “friend” involvement that builds on the revelations in Book 1 will put Truddie Mae and Niles in the line of fire way out in the swampland of Louisiana. A ghost from the Keepers’ past makes a return visit that could spell the end for them all while a new Keeper joins their ranks in the most unforeseen way.
Expect more drama, more supernatural mischief, and more revelations as the Keepers struggle to maintain the veil while dodging a conspiracy to finish them off. Can they uncover the secret agenda meant to end them before it finally does?
It had been a quiet three years for Truddie Mae Watts, an almost immortal woman sharing the body of an eleven-year-old girl alongside an injured demon. As a Keeper, those chosen by the fates and granted supernatural powers to protect the veil between our world and the astral planes, she has grown accustomed to the tranquility of her home magically hidden away within the swampy wilderness along the outskirts of Dade City, Florida. That is until the veil calls out for her assistance urging her back into action and into the path of a sinister new enemy.
Something has breached the veil into our world. An entity that marks her and those she loves, for death. Driven by a ravenous appetite for energy, a craving for the occult, and a desire to end all of Keeper kind, it will stop at nothing until this world, her reality, is erased.
Now, forced to work alongside the tri-blooded Dusty, her adopted son and nature mage Niles, and Valda the snobby ice enchantress, they must race to stop this new evil that is hell-bent to destroy them and ultimately cause two worlds to collide that would unravel the universe.
Against all odds and against a ticking monstrosity of devouring evil, the Keepers must rally and protect not only their reality but also themselves before time runs out for them all.
Posted in Interviews
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H.A.L.F.: The Makers follows two groups of protagonists under the threat of an alien race. What direction did you want to take this novel that was different from the first book in the series?
The first book deals mainly with the idea that the aliens known as the Roswell Greys (those ubiquitous big-eyed, bulbous-headed aliens) are the alien threat. Book one brings the reader in with familiar imagery and ideas such as the Roswell crash, the Greys and government conspiracy reminiscent of the X-Files.
In The Makers (book two), my goal was to expand on the familiar alien mythology. I introduced my own alien species as well as my own ideas about the Roswell Greys. This expanded the story significantly. Books two (The Makers) and three (ORIGINS) are more epic in scope than in book one (The Deep Beneath).
The characters in this novel are once again intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Thank you for that compliment! 🙂 I enjoy writing all of the characters and especially had fun creating the sexual tension between Jack and Anna and also between Erika and Tex (though their tension really amps up in book three ;-).
But overall, I most enjoy writing in Tex’s perspective. Given that he’s only half-human, it’s fun spending time in his head! I like seeing our world through his eyes. Tex has strange, other-worldly experiences with the Regina and the Conexus in The Makers. Those scenes were creepy and fun to write! And his story grows and gets even better, I think, in book 3 (ORIGINS – releasing 8/24/17).
I thoroughly enjoyed the well crafted mystery and the detailed characters. What is your writing process like?
Thank you, again, for your kind words. My writing process is messy! When I first began writing fiction, I outlined extensively. I was an attorney for 20 years, so planning was in my nature!
But after writing two or three novels, I found that I no longer followed outlines I created. The more experience I get as a writer, the more I focus on character development in my pre-write planning. I write back story, flesh out motivation and details about the characters. For both The Makers (H.A.L.F. #2) and ORIGINS (H.A.L.F. #3), I did not outline the plot. I have a general idea—beginning point, middle point and end point. I focus, for each POV character, on what needs to happen for this character for the story to end.
For The Makers, because there are two separate plot lines, I wrote the Tex and Erika portions all at once, then the Jack and Anna portions, then the U’Vol chapters. I then had to thread them together. Phew!
Writing in this way takes quite a bit more time than following a detailed outline. I generally cut anywhere from 20,000-50,000 words and have to rewrite and revise for months. But I think that because I don’t pre-plan, the story has more surprises than if I planned it all out. When I’m in the flow, the story goes in unpredicted ways. I hope that readers enjoy the unpredictability and surprises in the plot.
What are some writers or books that you felt inspired you and this series?
I was inspired by George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I know that may sound odd given that the H.A.L.F. series is young adult Sci-Fi—no dragons! But I read all five of the GoT series while writing book one (The Deep Beneath) and I was inspired to make the H.A.L.F. series into a more complex story. Most young adult books follow a single protagonist, often told in first person, and generally in a fairly linear fashion. I wanted to push the boundaries a bit and write a YA book with multiple storylines and point-of-view characters. This idea was in direction reaction to my love of G.R.R.M’s writing style.
I was also heavily inspired by Chris Carter’s work in the X-Files. I tried to emulate the creepy vibe of the X-Files as well as drawing out the mystery the way the X-Files did. You think the “bad guy” is one person, but it may turn out to be someone else—or something else—entirely. Readers of the H.A.L.F. series won’t know all of the answers to the many questions raised until the very end of the series! And I think they’ll be surprised by how it all turns out!
“The Makers” is the follow-up to Natalie Wright’s multiple award-winning debut science fiction novel “H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath.” “We’ve seen grey aliens on T.V. and in movies. We may think we know all about them. But what if everything we think we know is wrong?” Erika Holt dodged death and departed Earth in an alien ship. It wasn’t how she’d planned to spend her senior year. Is Erika on her way to paradise? Or to a hell worse than the underground lab she escaped? The greys rescued Tex from A.H.D.N.A. and promised him a life he could never have imagined. But what will he have to give up to become one with The Conexus? Jack Wilson is still Commander Sturgis’ prisoner, but a promise of freedom comes from an unlikely source. Will his liberation cost more than he’s willing to pay? Caught up in their personal battles and focused on our war with the grey aliens, will any of them realize the true threat that looms over us all before it’s too late?
Posted in Interviews
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Two Polluted Black-Heart Romances follows the lives of a vampire, fairy and mummy as they try to escape the wrath of a paranormal group bent on revenge. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
This was a follow up to One Smoking Hot Fairy Tail. In that story, the main character is hunted for her wings. The otherworldly world I created, opens up and you get a glimpse inside. In this new novel, I wanted to show a much deeper look insider. And I wanted to show how complicated, strange, and fun, some of the lives of these otherworldly creatures can be. My initial idea was to have something very large for all of them to be afraid of. But then I wanted something even larger to be out there to make the original big thing look small. Imagine if you were afraid of Godzilla and then an alien that could swallow the planet showed up. Yeah, something like that. J
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I always enjoy writing Sabrina London, the female lead. She is constantly growing and learning from her mistakes….her many…many mistakes. I also enjoyed writing for Joe, the new guy. The sentient slime character. He’s fun and funny. He also provides good contrast to the other characters and otherworldly races.
What draws you to the fantasy genre? When you start writing is this where your stories go naturally, or do you have the intention of writing fantasy?
I am drawn to the fantasy world. Totally. I prefer writing in a realm where anything and everything is possible. But I think my writing is secretly fueled by things more…steamy. When I watch a fantasy show on TV and it is devoid of sex or sexuality, I tend to feel empty. But when you give me something like Game of Thrones or Spartacus, which are filled with all sorts of naughtiness…then I feel like the story is complete.
If Hollywood came knocking, who would you cast to play your characters?
I love to cast my books. I do so on all my blogs and on my FB pages. For Sabrina, I think of Joanna Krupa as being exactly what she looks like. But as an actor I would cast Beth Behrs from Two Broke Girls or Jessica Sipos from Ascension. I would pick Beth because she is pretty and statuesque and funny. AND she pretty much already knows how to play a spoiled rich girl who had a fall from grace. So it makes total sense. I would pick Jessica because she has the sex appeal to play Sabrina.
For Moselle there is only one choice: Priyanka Chopa, from the TV show Quantico. When writing the books, I imagined a Sofia Vergara type of woman. But I think Priyanka is an even better fit now, and could pull off looking like an ancient Egyptian in flashbacks.
Cade…well, I have a image of him in my head. Slight built. Looks out of time. Like one of those classic Hollywood guys; James Dean at his peak. I always say it would be hard not to pick Ian Somerhalder, but he has already done this role. Still, I like him as an actor and he is the right body type and look.
Hollywood rang my doorbell once. But I was not dressed, and by the time I got to the door they were gone…
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am writing book three in this series. THREE BURNING RED RUNAWAY BRIDES. It will be released in late 2018.
Welcome to Los Angeles—but not the LA you know. Here, humans coexist with vampires, mummies, fairies, and other nonhuman entities. Everyone’s just trying to get by for the most part—but some are having more difficulty than others.
A vampire named Cade, a fairy named Sabrina, and a mummy named Moselle are on the lam after exposing the existence of the Otherworldly Assembly, a shadowy organization of paranormal beings. The assembly has sent terrifying assassins called wraiths to exact revenge. The nonhuman trio is in for a real horror show, and they don’t know the half of it—another threat looms, and its destructive ambitions are vast.
Meanwhile, a human named Jackson is recovering from a near-death experience. Old memories and new loves flood his brain, and he’s having trouble finding an outlet for all these feelings—that’s when Sabrina the fairy catches his eye.
Two Polluted Black-Heart Romances, a fast-paced adventure filled with high stakes and unexpected twists, continues the action-packed saga that began with One Smoking Hot Fairy Tail. When unimaginable dangers threaten the planet they all share, humans and nonhumans find a common cause and must work together to prevent disaster.
Posted in Interviews
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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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Pamela Schloesser Canepa’s novel, Detours in Time, is anything but your run of the mill science fiction novel. It follows Professor Milton Braddock, who has conveniently developed a time-traveling car, and his assistant turned traveling companion, Tabitha (cutely nicknamed “Pinky” by the professor). The pairing of the older and more experienced Milt with young, spunky Tabitha will feel comfortably familiar to Doctor Who fans, as the two travel through time, encountering futuristic adventures as they begin to feel a bit closer than just friends. Though their time travels begin as scientific examinations into both the past and the future, Milt and Pinky’s present and future lives begin to unravel when they break their golden rule of not disturbing the future.
Canepa’s novel excels by creating three distinct time periods that each feel relatable to readers: 1997 (the “present” for Milt and Pinky), 2018, and 2047 (where most of the novel occurs). By creating a recent past setting, a practically present setting, and a not too distant future setting, Canepa creates a science fiction novel that relies on her well-developed plot and inter-character relationships rather than the spaceships, aliens, and high-tech gadgets of many science fiction works.
Detours in Time begins mid-adventure in 2047, without skipping a beat. Though 2047 is certainly more futuristic than what readers in 2017 experience in their daily lives, it is not so high-tech as to be completely beyond belief. But perhaps most shocking to readers will be how the citizens of 2047 describe the war that tore apart the United States in 2019, with reasons for division painfully realistic: “how tax money was spent, which citizen’s rights could or could not be limited and for what reason, the role of the military, who was allowed to immigrate into the country…” Milt and Pinky are aghast at the country’s divide, but readers’ hearts in 2017 will ache at the accuracy of what Canepa describes.
But, thankfully for readers, Canepa does not spend too much time dwelling on the demise of the United States, but rather takes a closer look at the questions that time travel inevitably brings: What happens when you interfere? Could a single action reroute history entirely? Are you better off not knowing? The last question is one that Pinky and Milt find themselves asking after they look into their own futures and decide to take a bite of the forbidden fruit: trying to change the future.
A truly five-star novel, Detours in Time is a well-written and interesting story with characters who are developed independently and whose relationships are carefully crafted, not flung together as if forced. Detours never stalls or bores readers, but it invests enough time in explanations and detail that it feels thought out. Readers will find Milt and Pinky’s 90s naïveté charming (What’s a text? What does it mean to swipe? Why would anyone eat food out of a truck?) but also eye-opening: how long ago were we asking those same questions ourselves? Milt and Pinky’s present is just twenty years in our past, which begs the question, what wonders or terrors does twenty years in our future hold? Canepa brings Detours In Time to a natural close, but leaves the door wide open for a second novel in the series, hopefully one that readers will not have to travel too far into the future to experience.
Pages: 305 | ASIN: B0711ZW6XF
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Douglas Wells’, debut novel, The Secrets of all Secrets begins with a mysterious stranger, who issues a fateful quest. The reader follows Zane, a graduate school and seminary drop-out, who receives a USB from the stranger. The USB contains a message that promises the Secret of All Secrets and he is pressed to go find out how far the rabbit hole goes. He soon meets a waitress at a diner, named Dali, who received a similar USB. They initially butt heads, but they soon come together to figure out the mystery. They are dogged at every step by four conflicted government agents, who pursue them to the very end.
Wells combines smart, informed prose with fun, engaging dialogue to create an interesting story that hails the modern quest narrative, but also the old-fashioned road narrative calling to mind Jack Kerouac and others of that generation. There are plenty of moments where Zane calls back to his graduate school education with references to Pascal and Tolstoy, which do become a bit pandering to a point, but soon get lost in the action that ensues.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters, where Wells’ skill shines through and even shows up among the government agents who serve as the bulk of antagonism in the novel. The decent character portrayal also smoothes over the often-sparse description and scene setting that would normally keep the reader engaged, but the characters are able to do this on their own. The ideological lines that all the characters have seem to be commentary on our day to day lives, from government drones to Zane’s cynicism.
The setting of Northern Florida was an interesting choice and provides a unique setting rich in regional idiosyncrasies as well as clashing rural and coastal tendencies. Zane and Dali adventures are increasingly crazy and fit in with this setting choice. They venture into an armadillo festival, nudist resort and even find a presumed dead 60’s rocker. All of this combines to be a sort of satire of American politics and greed.
All in all, The Secrets of all Secrets will keep the reader’s attention until the very end with its light-hearted prose and topical social commentary. Wells blends the ironic with wry humor and never misses a point to push the absurdity of his tale a little farther, as if encouraging the reader to do the same.
Pages: 224 | ASIN: B07147R17F
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With an intriguingly unique title, Gravity Games, “A Nathan Sherlock Foodie Thriller,” by John Matsui certainly piques readers’ interests right from the start. The crossover of foodie and thriller novel is not one that is commonly found on bookshelves, and Matsui cooks up a plot that is decidedly more interesting than any book reviewer’s lukewarm cooking puns. The novel follows the title character, Nathan Sherlock, and his sidekick, Bonnie Nakagowa, as they venture through an international conspiracy full of modern-day super-humans and, of course, a few supervillains.
Gravity Games starts off at a quick pace with a plotline that immediately pulls readers in. Nathan Sherlock, famously known around the world as “Nate the Nose” for his otherworldly sense of smell that renders him capable of creating literally orgasmic food and wine pairings, also dabbles in crime-solving. Thanks to his heightened sense of smell, Nate can conveniently detect the smell of murder, as well as other useful emotions, like fear, lying, and attraction. The novel seems to relish the fun and lightheartedness of being a foodie thriller novel: the last name Sherlock, the food puns, and the clichéd beautiful FBI agent. But the superficial fun can only sustain readers for so long, and unfortunately most of Matsui’s novel falls somewhat short of expectations.
Matsui’s thriller deserves a well-earned four stars for creating a completely unique plot and fascinating set of characters. The international mystery that dabbles in physics, finance, and genetics is certainly full of enough intrigue to keep readers motivated, and Matsui also weaves in modern issues like the Occupy Movement, sex trafficking, and the energy sector to keep the thriller somewhat grounded in reality. That perhaps, though, is Matsui’s downfall: by creating so many captivating characters and throwing in a myriad of plot twists, it is hard to follow the novel’s true focus. There are several competing story lines, and each is mesmerizing but feels squeezed for time in Matsui’s concise thriller. Matsui also packs his fast-paced novel full of one-of-a-kind characters, from mad scientists to vicious oil tycoons to mysterious ladies of the night. But apart from Nathan and Bonnie, most of the characters lack the development that their interesting backstories deserve, and it feels as if Matsui could have dedicated entire other novels to some of his supporting stars.
Matsui writes in clever and well-written turns of the tongue, keeping a quick stride to accompany Nate and Bonnie on their adventures. Gravity Games weaves an unbelievable, eye-popping series of events into one cohesive tale that culminates in a delicious finale, leaving readers drooling for the second installment of the Nate Sherlock Foodie Thriller Series. Part of the joy in reading about super-humans and fantastic events is simply how unrealistically fun they are, and Matsui embraces that. Though readers may be craving Aunt Lucy’s famous cabbage rolls by the end, readers will be craving a more thorough and in-depth novel by Matsui even more.
Pages: 266 | ASIN: B01755YLN4
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Howie Tootalot in Yellowstone: The Legend in Lake Isa is a fun children’s book that talks about conservation and respecting the wilderness. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this children’s book?
I’ve written somewhat serious books and articles about nature and science previously, but when I’m with the family– we are often goofy. We visited Yellowstone and my son asked me about Lake Isa, which sits atop the continental divide and therefore drains in two different directions. I began crafting and telling the story during our visit there. Our son enjoyed the story and laughed at the character names.
We also had several bear encounters on the trip. I had lived in Alaska, so I was weary of Grizzly bears, but less careful with the black bears. Once I even got out of the car in Yellowstone to get a better look at a bear and cub in the woods. That was not a smart move.
So our story about Howie Tootalot deals with the intoxicating grandeur of wild places like Yellowstone and the care we must use in how we love and appreciate them. I finally suppressed my MFA-serious ego enough to have fun with the story in print. I did publish under the name Lou Jenkins, which I now use for all my children’s work.
This story takes place in Yellowstone National Park and portrays the natural beauty of the land. What draws you to Yellowstone and why do you think it’s perfect for a kids story?
Kids feel the connection to wilderness. I’d written about the connections possible in Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting under my name Amy Lou Jenkins. We all need to foster a connection to natural spaces, because there are so few opportunities to escape the pressures of consumerism. We and our children are bombarded with the notion that we need to buy something new. We are told that we need to consume because we and our possessions are somehow flawed. Instead of purchasing something to fix our problems, nature allows us to experience source. We are natural beings. We can have independent thought while not bombarded with proprietary messages. Studies say that the number one way to build a love for wild places is to take kids to wild places. That’s a strong promise and scientific finding: take kids to wild places and they will build a connection to something real and unadulterated. While a book is second best to visiting Yellowstone, it is another way to make and support that connection.
The art in this book I felt was very creative. What was the art direction like and how did you make the decision on what went into the pictures?
Thank you for noticing that the artwork was not standard. We wanted to support the connection to Yellowstone, so we had actual photographs of the National Park cartoonized. Children who are lucky enough to visit Yellowstone will recognize actual landmarks, animals and plants from the book. Since the main portion of the book took place before the park existed, some of our illustrations came from national archives in the public domain. Children who never visit Yellowstone, will still recognize landmarks in images that are iconic in our culture. Children can begin to build a connection to National treasures such as Old Faithful, Mammoth Springs, The Grand Prismatic Spring, and Lake Isa. We hope that connection is based in fun, awe, and the sense of original identity that is nurtured in wild places.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Thank you for asking. We have just finished the artwork for more paper puppet characters in the Tootalot series. As you know, we include links in the books that allow readers to download and assemble articulated paper puppets. Many children enjoy a hands on experience as a part of play. Children who are not drawn to books, might be able to access the fun and play of reading with a character from the book in their hand. Yet even voracious readers, might extend their own imagination from reading to other play time.
I’m also a Registered Nurse and have worked in community health. I used to tell my children a story about the “magic mark” based on my experience in school nursing. My daughter used to ask me to tell her this story over and over. Many children have differences, and this story is about a girl with a port-wine stain. We include a student in a wheel chair, and work to represent a wide-range of children in this tale with a magical element. At its core, is a cheer for all who learn how to love each other and accept differences. Look for this new book, the third in theTootalot series, by the end of the year.
Why does the water of Isa Lake drain in two different directions? Follow Howie Tootalot to the wild land we now call Yellowstone as he and his new bear friend explore the wild geysers, waterfalls, lakes, rivers and more. Danger surrounds them, yet lessons from the wild and the wilderness itself will save them. Learn the Tootalot family legend. Children may download and assemble their own free puppets—just like the ones in the story. Great fun for reading and play at home or in the car. Howie Tootalot in Yellowstoneis the second in The Tootalots series. Award-winning parenting author, dons a pen name and introduces Howie Tootalot in this fun legend that offers giggles and some important ways to deal with respecting the danger and wildness of natural wonders such as Yellowstone National Park.
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