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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The story, I Will Always Love You, with its rhyming words and loving, non-descript characters appeals to the child in all of us. We should not be fooled by our aging bodies and experienced years; there still is a young and innocent version our former selves tucked away somewhere deep inside of us all. As you read the story, you are encouraged to allow your imagination to expand. Open your heart to the gentle reminders and hints that are around us each day.
What if? Why not? Give it a try. Give it some thought.
The intention of this book is to bring peace and comfort to those of us who have lost someone we dearly love. Whether it’s hope or a sense of ‘knowing’, the thought that our loved ones are somewhere happy, free and possibly around us can bring a sense of joy that lifts us to a higher place that feels good.
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When Angels Fly is a gripping retelling of one woman’s personal and painful experience with life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write down the experiences from your life?
I became sick and I felt the need to take my journals and digitize them. I knew I would write a book eventually back in 1990. That year was a rough one for me and my family personally and I’ve kept journals most of my life. I had many stories to tell but I wasn’t quite ready mentally or emotionally in going headlong into a 300 plus page book. When 2013 rolled around, I knew then that I was going to put words and stories from my journals into digital format.
You do a wonderful job of capturing your emotions in every retelling. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The hardest and most difficult part initially was actually going into and reading my journals from 1989 – 1990 as my first book is a memoir. I knew my book had to be written and I knew the many messages in my book needed to be published, so that hopefully I could help others through difficult times in their lives or the lives of others they knew. The timing was right as I had left nursing in December 2012. My first book was extremely difficult since the stories were real. Some days I could write one sentence and then I was done for the day. Other days I could write more.
On really tough days I wanted to just stop and sometimes I did for a week or so. Yet I knew in my mind that I needed to finish my book and get it out to the public. I knew all along what the beginning, middle and end would be and I wondered about publishing my book as well. Now that my book is published, I feel a deep sense of peace within myself.
You touch on topics like abuse, suicide and domestic violence. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
My book reaches a wide group from teenage on up to geriatrics and many facets of humanity itself. I know that my book will help others in dealing with such a wide variety of life’s issues, and that no one needs to feel alone in their own situation. My aim isn’t to convey only sadness and family dysfunction but to convey to others who have been in my situation (or similar) that strength and courage can be attained, and that there are options available. Women and men, too, can get out of abusive situations and the cycle of violence can stop. Losing two boys to Heaven changed my life forever. I want to encourage others who have suffered the King of Loss that anger at God is normal, and that faith in God will come back to them. I want those parents to know they are not alone. If a parent loses a child to a horrid illness, I want those parents not to feel misguided gilt. I want to encourage parents on how to be an advocate for their child and how to reach out for help when the pain overcomes them.
This book is a carefully crafted retelling of some of the most private moments of your past. But what about your future? What do you look forward to and how has your outlook on life changed?
I have made peace with the wrongs in my past. This doesn’t mean that those things never happened, the hurt is still there, but one must forgive others in order to move on in their life on this beautiful blue sphere called Earth. With my health so poor, I just take things day by day, and I try to spend as much quality time with immediate family as I can.
We often find ourselves daydreaming about what our futures will be like. This may be especially true if one lives in an environment most would consider less than desirable. Some are lucky to find their futures much like their childhood dreams. Others find the paths to their dreams strewn with hurdles.
Growing up, Sarah dodged her mother’s blows. She often hid in her room crying about her life. Still, she believes in her future and the happiness it can bring. In their book When Angels Fly, authors S. Stevens and A. Raymond tell Sarah’s story–their stories. The authors use their journals to describe Sarah’s experiences of family dysfunction, strength, courage, faith, abuse, grief, and so much more. You’ll read how, like many, she attempts to escape from her mother’s abuse through marriage. And like many, she learns it is not a viable alternative. Then Sarah experiences a parent’s ultimate tragedy twice, the deaths of her sons, Joshua and Eli.
When Angels Fly is about much more than the telling of a family’s tragedy. It is also the story of finding faith after it has wavered. Most of all, it’s a story of love lost and found.
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Dear Emma, written by Kwen Griffeth, is a touching novel that revolves around the life of a family in the hospital waiting for a crucial moment that will equate to life or death. Their story is discovered by a caring man, Roger, who is the chaplain at the Price Hospital.
Lost in his own thoughts about his own personal life, Roger stumbles across Ben Talbet, an architect about to become a grandfather. But instead of it being a joyous occasion, Ben is convinced that he is about to lose everything he cares about- all because of a mysterious letter found on a hospital bedside table. What could this letter say that has Ben convinced he is about to lose it all?
Dear Emma is a heartfelt novel based on the significance of letters written to a woman by the name of Emma. The beginning of the novel walks you through the hospital in the eyes of a chaplain. It is here you meet nurses, doctors, patients and families all experiencing the ins and outs of hospital life. One family, in particular, has several lives on the line, and this is where you meet Ben- a loving father about to become a grandfather.
The story ventures into the past where we learn about Ben and Emma and what lead them to this important moment of their lives. Their past tragedies and losses will be shared and you will find yourself feeling a connection to the characters and their story. As the story progresses, the doubt and questions that are posed by Roger, all assist in creating a strong belief and understanding of things we may not understand.
There is a religious sentiment throughout the story and you feel as though you are involved in a special moment with Ben as he shares a personal story between the Father in Heaven and the chaplain. This interaction provoked thought between life after death and how our lives change after we lose a loved one. Dear Emma respectfully shows how love can be everlasting, and how a love between a mother and daughter is an irreplaceable bond.
The descriptive language used throughout the novel easily paints a picture of the hospital setting, with images such as the chapel, cafeteria and maternity ward easily envisioned. Kwen Griffeth’s language, however, does not take away from the importance of the story and instead compliments the plot line and the characters as they progress through the story. This novel tugged at the heart strings and will feel the reader’s heart with warmth and love. The storyline is always fast paced, and even though it isn’t a typical action novel, it kept me on my toes, eager to learn what happens to the family and the letters.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a beautiful, feel good story with a little twist at the end! Dear Emma is a journey of love, life and grief and how love surpasses time, death and life.
Pages: 115 | ASIN: B00770I2HO
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In a gripping retelling of one woman’s painful experience with life, readers will come to question their own outlook on the world. When Angels Fly by S. Jackson and A. Raymond is a deeply personal tale of the journey our author took throughout the course of her life. The agony she relates to her readers is real and you cannot help but sympathize with the suffering she has endured. The course of her life has not gone easily and Jackson details exactly what she had to survive with the help of her journal entries and her memory. Everything she had ever known was tested: her faith in humanity, her faith in family and her faith in the divine. After learning her story, the fact that she can keep her faith in God is inspiring.
This story is an autobiography that chronicles not just Jackson’s life, but her experience with the things many people take for granted. The author touches on topics like abuse, suicide and domestic violence. Social acceptance and the confidence to leave an abusive partner have come a long way since the early 1980’s, although they still have a long way to go. If you’re looking for an emotional journey, you are sure to find one within the pages of this book.
The addition of photographs at the end of the book is a nice touch. It reminds the reader that the people discussed in the book are real. The fact that they existed makes the painful moments that much more painful. Jackson expresses her pain with passion in every word and evocative imagery at every turn. Even when she puts in the information from her journals, it is obvious that she transcribed the information with care. That could not have been an easy task, especially since the information was undoubtedly painful to recall. It takes a certain amount of strength to live the sort of life Jackson has and not only overcome that life, but write it down in detail to share with the world. That may be inspirational to some, but to me it’s heroic.
This book is a carefully crafted retelling of some of the most private and painful moments that a human being will ever have to experience. When Angels Fly by S. Jackson is an autobiographical tale that touches on very personal experiences of abuse, domestic violence and loss. This profound journey shook our author to her core and pushed her to question everything she had ever known. She has experienced more heartbreak in such a short time than most people experience in their entire lives. Yet she rises above the pain and misfortune to find her way in the world. This is a must-read for those who enjoy following a personal, passionate and ultimately uplifting journey.
Pages: 333 | ASIN: B017UNVWDI
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Charles Creath McCormack’s book Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale is quite a book: a frank autobiography centered around the theme of the pursuit of happiness and a meaningful life, from a man who has sat both on and beside the psychotherapy couch; or as the author himself describes it, “a story of the follies and wisdom’s of the human condition”. Mr. McCormack is fully aware of both the theories and the realities of mental health, although the book contains no technical language at all. It’s an accessible account covering every stage of his life, from his youngest years into his partial retirement. Not to give too much away, but as the imagery of the title implies, his tale starts in darkness, and concludes with a breakthrough, with all the usual human drama of a life lived fully.
I found the style of writing very interesting; it perhaps relates to his experience as a psychotherapist. He makes use of imagery, not frequently, but when he does it’s usually a long, in-depth passage. Thankfully they don’t feel convoluted, because they exemplify his points well.
The imagery adds well to the overall narrative, which is compelling. If I’d had more time, I’d probably have read it in one sitting. Although the author references forward and back to events distant by dozens of years and pages, I was never left feeling confused or lost, so it was neatly accomplished. There was a clear sense of reflection as to what the reader may be thinking, and at points it almost felt like I was part of a conversation. However, I thought that near the end the narrative became a little unfocused, with some unnecessary repetition and description of his family that doesn’t always feel directly related to his main subject – his state of mind.
I want to describe it as a generous story, because I was given extremely honest details about Mr. McCormack’s life that many would have found embarrassing to tell. But he hides no faults or uncomfortable thoughts, and constantly admits when he was wrong. In one chapter the author relates the unfortunate stories of some of his patients. In this way, the book truly covers the full gamut of human experience – warmth, love, friendship, loneliness, unhappiness, violence, despair: life and death.
Despite the author’s wishes that we might take responsibility for our happiness, his book is not a manual for how to obtain it. Observant readers might pluck helpful wisdom from its pages, but this isn’t written as advice – just as he says he does with his patients, he places no obligation on us to try it.
Overall, I would recommend this to any adult reader who is willing to confront life’s uncomfortable truths and those who enjoy a fly-on-the-wall tale of other’s joys and sorrows. I enjoyed trip.
Pages: 373 | ASIN: B06XFG5G3M
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Kiss Billie for Me is a true story based on the trials and tribulations of William Edward Pedder “Billie”, and a secret he took to his grave. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This book was very important for me to write because after my father passed away and I found a box full of letters, I had so many questions that would have stayed unanswered. I had to find out the truth about my grandmother and clear up all the questions and rumours. As it turns out, the book really took on a life of it’s own and is really a lesson about post natal depression and healing from the past.
Kiss Billie for Me focuses on topics such as mental health, family and the importance of understanding the stigma surrounding postnatal depression. What is something you hope readers take away from your story?
I hope that readers can take away the importance of getting treatment for any type of mental health. Not only that but also being aware of mental illness in ourselves and others is a step in the right direction. The past is the past but I think we can all learn and grow form it and become better people.
What kind of research did you do to ensure the story was as accurate as possible?
My research was extensive. In fact, this book took 14 years to write. Most of the information I gathered was from Ancestry, and Government files which I researched and purchased. I also received some of the information from my father before he died and my mother who is still living, not to mention my own memoirs. So everything in this book is either knowledge gained from printed material or straight from someone who knows.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book will be a self help book delving into the emotion – Grief. I have been through many different aspects of this human emotion and can speak or write about it with a degree of experience and from the heart. The plans for this book are in the first stages, I would say it should be available by next year – it won’t take 14 years anyway!
Author Links: Website
“In 1929, Betty Trainer, a beautiful, twenty-year-old woman immigrated to Australia from Scotland. Brave and ready for the unknown, she embarked on a new life, including getting married and having two children. But challenges developed, and soon she dealt with an abusive husband and postnatal depression, a tragic mix that led her to kill one of her sons and attempt to kill the other.”
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching follows LaTrell Wiggins, a caring young girl who loses her mother to cancer and is left to raise her family. What was the inspiration to write this heartfelt novel of love and strength?
It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the second book I’ve published, but the first of the Dear Grief Series. I lost my mother to cancer when I was nineteen. I was a sophomore in college. I was on the cusp of adulthood. Yet, I felt like a small child lost at a mall. Instead of verbally communicating, I wrote my thought and feelings in a journal. Years later during my stint as a classroom teacher in urban city schools, I encountered students who struggled with emotional and social issues. After delving a little deeper into those situations, I found that they all shared one thing in common, grief. They either lost their loved one to death or through absence. Having gone through a life changing experience of losing my mother I could relate to the different characteristics displayed by these students. This prompted me to turn my journal into my first children’s book entitled, “Mama, Did You Mean To Leave So Soon?” It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the sequel. It goes into more detail with describing the family dynamics and the perspective of parenting as a single father.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. What is one thing that you hope readers take away from your novel?
Wow! I wish there was only one take away. In fact, there are three. I want readers to know you don’t have to grieve alone, you can express your emotions without doing harm to yourself and others, and the importance of communicating feelings to trusted adults.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. What were the driving themes behind your characters as you were creating them?
I wanted to take realistic situations and based them off of real-life friends. There’s a lot of single parent homes and kids who have one or both parent’s enlisted in the service. I wanted this book to educate the reader on what Grief is. Grief doesn’t only relate to death. It’s simply a big reaction to a loss.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching is the first book in the Dear Grief series. In which direction does book 2 go in and when will that be available?
Book 2 will highlight LaTrell in her seventh grade year. She wants to test the waters a little bit with her self-image. She is trying to figure out how to fit in and be comfortable within her own skin. The readers will also get a chance to see the different issues Daryl and Luis (LaTrell’s brother & father) experience and how they are coping since the loss of Paulina. Communication will still be the highlight and the one thing that keeps the family bond intact. Book 2 will be released in September 2017.
Growing up in Scott Park, Florida, ten-year-old LaTrell Wiggins lives a normal life. She has it all—two loving parents Luis and Paulina, her humorous younger brother Daryl, and ride-or-die childhood friends, Chandler and Shajuan. But this all changes when cancer takes LaTrell’s mother. The Wiggins are left to pick up the pieces and figure things out emotionally. If this isn’t enough, puberty introduces itself to LaTrell, causing her to reluctantly accept that her body is changing. During this adjustment period the Wiggins quickly learn that communicating is key. Can Luis handle the pressure of raising LaTrell and Daryl alone? Will LaTrell be expected to fulfill her mother’s shoes? It’s Okay, I’m Watching is a story of love, loss, and expected discovery of the strengths in each of us and our loved ones, whether they are with us or not.
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching, written by Chenee Gilbert, is a novel based around LaTrell Wiggins- a caring young girl who lives with her younger brother Daryl and her parents, Luis and Paulini. Tragedy strikes the family as Paulini’s life is taken by cancer. Grief-stricken, the family begins to process death in their own ways and learns that grief can appear in all shapes and forms. Meanwhile, LaTrell is beginning middle school which comes with the inevitable stage of life- puberty. During this confusing time, Luis, Daryl and LaTrell must come to terms with life without Paulini and the changing dynamics of their family environment.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. LaTrell Wiggins, the main character, loses her mother to cancer whilst entering a vulnerable stage of her life- middle school and puberty. An easily relatable character, LaTrell’s journey shows how families can show strength in the face of terrible adversity.
It’s Okay I’m Watching discusses how our lives are enriched in traditions and questions the reader’s thoughts on what traditions they would pass on to others. It reminds the reader that time waits for no-one and unfortunately, circumstances are out of our control. Personally, it reminded me of the importance of holidays and the unique nuances that make my family my own and what traditions would be present in a memorial for my loved ones.
If you are looking for a companion after experiencing loss, look no further. It’s Okay, I’m Watching will help begin the healing processes and start the pathway to acceptance. This is done through discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader to reflect on their own circumstances. It explores how grief is a reaction and a release of an array of emotions. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time and you will be able to empathize with the characters and their journey.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. LaTrell discusses with her friends her grief counselling sessions and they begin to identify whether it is something they could benefit from. LaTrell’s other friend, Chandler, begins to acknowledge his own grief that he had been trying to mask. Her two friends shine a humorous side to LaTrell’s darkest days.
Teenagers experience loss and grief through death, break-ups and even loss of pets. Exposure to novels such as this will help them begin to understand the grieving process in an already confusing time of their life. It allowed me to normalize my own grieving processes and the impact these times had during my youth.
What I loved most about this novel is that it opens up the idea that grief isn’t restricted to those experiencing death and instead can be felt by those who are feeling alone, sad or missing someone. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to understand their own journey in regards to grief and loss.
Pages: 110 | ASIN: B01MXKCY8R
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