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Fore Play

Linda Sheehan’s Fore Play is a book that explores the beauty of golf and the intricate lives of those who play it. Set in a fictional Los Angeles sports club called Bellstone, the book’s storyline revolves around three main characters – Jody, Mandy, and Newt. It particularly focuses on the life of Jody – the granddaughter of the club’s founder – Forrest Wheeler.

Traumatized after the death of her grandfather, Jody stops playing golf. But her husband convinces her to try out the sport by joining the Bellstone club. Here, they cross paths with Mandy, Newt, and a host of other characters that significantly affect the couple’s life trajectory.

As Jody gets more involved in golfing and her work as a scientist, she becomes closer and closer to Jackson – a reserved caddy. Moreover, she begins to notice some of her husband’s unpleasant qualities. Ultimately, she, like the reader, comes to realize that all that glitters is not gold.

If there’s one thing that this book does well it’s that it highlights how far some people will go to gain social acceptance and praise. Using the lives of characters like Mandy, the author highlights how important it is for some people to appear rich, beautiful, and successful, regardless of who they hurt to achieve that. On the other hand, characters like Jackson remind us of how society overlooks anyone who seems different, poor, and unwilling to participate in posturing.

Another theme that is deeply explored in this book is the propensity of victims to become oppressors down the road. For instance, Mandy is bullied as a child and grows up to be a bully herself. On the other hand, Father Norm is abused as a child and grows up to manipulate people and the system to do his bidding. Ultimately, their stories parallel so many real-life ones, making them believable and relatable.

The author creates characters that are layered and interesting, making it easy to believe that this book could be inspired by real events. Even the way that the different golf games are described seems so real. It also helps that the book is written in simple language and even includes verses to popular songs that the characters listen to in different scenes.

Fore Play provides a unique and captivating look at life through some intriguing characters. This is a riveting and easy to read sports fiction novel that uses humor to assuage the darker moments of the human drama unfolding in this absorbing story.

Pages: 273 | ASIN: B09WCT3VHV

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SCHLOCK Featuring Russia Cop

SCHLOCK Featuring Russia Cop by author David R. Low is a collection of four short stories that start in Japan and quickly move to Russia. These intriguing stories are very different in structure and style but share themes of obsession, disorder, and finding the so-called ‘Russian Soul’ through dark satire that isn’t afraid to descend into the bizarre. Low’s Russia is a chaotic society where culture has been consumed by a never-ending stream of filthy, overcrowded bars and a juvenile obsession with violence, drinking, and sex.

Whether it’s the ridiculous “Waiting for Deacon,” in which two Americans pointlessly pretend to be Australian, or the disturbing world that’s ruled by “Russia Cop” and an army of apes, the threat of violence is never far from the surface in these stories.

“English Teacher” starts as a traditional short story but soon transforms into a surreal drama in which everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong. Unfortunately, the ending here leaves you with more questions than answers.

The best story of the collection is “Tsoi Lives,” in which a group of acquaintances travels to Russia in search of a one-time rock star. Exploring infatuation and identity, this is an emotionally gripping tale offering profound commentary on culture and obsession.

I found the metaphors commenting on Russia’s hatred of the U.S. to be transparent. That aside, the satire is dark and haunting. The characters are well-drawn and complex, giving readers a variety of personalities to follow. Low’s ability to create realistic dialogue even when the subjects are not is noteworthy.

SCHLOCK Featuring Russia Cop is a collection of dark and satirical short stories. These inventive stories are incredibly well-written and memorable, and fans of the absurd will find them funny. If you know Russia from the inside, this collection is a must-read.

Pages: 262 | ASIN : B09VGB2TZN

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Pigs In Paradise

Pigs in Paradise is in the author’s own words, an absurd portrayal of reality. In author Roger Maxson’s satirical imaginary world, there are talking animals, and these animals are very serious about their religion. From the very beginning of the novel, the reader will find the influence of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a fact that the author acknowledges in the preface. The entire work is an exercise in favor of freedom of expression. The author heavily criticizes the tenets of American evangelicalism, as well as the actions of religious leaders who are deeply embroiled in corruption and politics. 

The story begins with the birth of Lizzy, a red calf, who is proclaimed by both Jews and Christians as their Messiah. After a series of incidents the talking animals are brought to America, where their ultimate destination is a Christian farm. 

Steeped in political and religious symbolism, the story utilizes the trope of talking animals to depict harsh truths about how religion operates in the modern world. It goes on to pose valid questions about the involvement of politics in religion.

Initially, readers may be intimidated by the length of this thought-provoking novel, however, they will be captivated by the dramatic plotline and the seamless flow of language. The author writes at a good pace, keeping the action moving without being overwhelming. The dialogue is presented in a conversational manner, without any ornamentations or pretensions, allowing the reader to feel as if they are there listening to the character’s interactions.

Pigs in Paradise is a riveting political satire colored with magical realism elements. Readers that enjoy this kind of humor will find this novel entertaining.

Pages: 456 | ASIN : B09HN4VHF8

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Non-human Species Deserve To Live Their Lives Free of Exploit

Chuck Augello Author Interview

A Better Heart follows a filmmaker that reconnects with his father in an unusual way and causes him to question what matters in life. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I’ve had an interest in animal rights for most of my adult life and wanted to write about it in an engaging way that would entertain readers, but also inform them and perhaps challenge them to explore their own beliefs.  After my first novel, The Revolving Heart, was published, I started writing the opening chapters of a new novel, with an animal rights theme, that was nothing at all like A Better Heart.  After three chapters that novel stalled, and I put it aside for several months.  I then began hearing the first-person voice of Kevin, the novel’s narrator, and a character took shape.  I didn’t know that Henry, the capuchin monkey, and Kevin’s estranged father Brian would be critical characters until they literally walked into the opening scene.  Once that happened, the story fell into place, and I wrote the first draft in ten months, which for me is quite fast.   

Kevin thought his life was going great till he encounters Henry and reconnects with his father, causing him to rethink his personal values. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?  

Kevin feels responsible for the death of his mother and that guilt drives him toward a feeling of responsibility for Henry.  He’s someone who has always been self-focused.  As a filmmaker, he’s constantly drawing in his friends to help him with his projects.  He’s never really thought about the world beyond movies and his own ambitions, but as he learns about Henry’s experiences, he knows that he has a choice to help Henry reach freedom or to let him return to what can only be described as a primate prison.  

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Primarily, the idea that non-human species deserve to live their lives free of exploitation and pain. The way that most animals are treated is unforgivable, and a stain on the human character.   Another theme is one of forgiveness.  Kevin struggles to forgive his father for what he perceives as abandonment, and he struggles to forgive himself for his unintended role in his mother’s death.   

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

I’m currently under contract for a book about the author Kurt Vonnegut.  It’s a mix of essays and interviews that I’ve done over the years with scholars and artists about their Vonnegut-themed works.  That should be available in 2023.  I’m also working on a novel set in the Bicentennial year of 1976.  The main characters are a college student and her uncle, who has returned home after living in Canada for ten years to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.   

Author Links: Twitter | Website

For aspiring indie filmmaker Kevin Stacey, it’s another day on the set of his first film, but when his estranged father, a failed Hollywood actor, arrives unexpectedly with a bundle of cash, a gun, and a stolen capuchin monkey, he’s propelled toward the journey that will change his life.
The monkey, Henry, has been liberated from a research lab by animal rights activists. Inspired by his friend Veronica to reevaluate his relationship with other species, Kevin learns about the pain and suffering inflicted on lab animals as he forges a bond with the capuchin. When father and son embark on a road trip with Henry, Kevin is caught between the egocentric father who abandoned him and the temperamental monkey whose fate is in his hands. With both the FBI and his mother’s ghost watching, will Kevin risk his career and his father’s freedom to bring the stolen monkey to safety? Meanwhile, Veronica’s encounter with an eccentric Catholic priest triggers her own journey toward change.
A heartbreaking yet comic family drama, A Better Heart examines the human-animal bond and the bonds between fathers and sons, challenging readers to explore their beliefs about the treatment of non-human species.

My Students Absolutely Love This Tradition

Maria Cedolini Thompson Author Interview

Lucky the Leprechaun on the Loose follows a leprechaun that shows up in March to play pranks and create magic for children. What was the inspiration for your story?

Lucky the Leprechaun on the Loose was written with the inspiration in mind of a long-held tradition in my classroom. It all started when I began making the first part of the month of March similar to The Elf on the Shelf where I put a little figurine of a leprechaun out and intermittently move it around the classroom. “Lucky”, surprisingly, gets himself into some crazy predicaments, moving about when the kids are out to lunch or recess. The anticipation they feel, filled with excitement to get back to the classroom to see what has happened while they were gone, is beyond joyous.

Then, on the morning of March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, the students arrive at school, finding the classroom a “mess” (chairs tilted and confetti on the floor), with personalized messages and treats on their desks from Lucky. They find green footprints around the class, a green toilet bowl, gold coins, and a “see you next year” letter. My students absolutely love this tradition and talk about it fondly for years to come, including many of my former students who are now parents.

What comes first for you, the plot or the characters, and why?

I would have to say the plot usually comes first for me. It is important to me that I have a good plot and the characters are secondary unless I do a series of books with common characters.

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing or inspired you?

I love pets! We have a golden retriever named Paisley who is a Covid puppy. Paisley definitely attempts to get my attention while writing and constantly wants to be loved and pet. She has inspired me to write a book about her because she is so playful and always gets into mischief! She is an expert sock finder, hider, and eater!!

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

My next two books are going to deal with social-emotional learning and the importance of trying hard and believing in yourself.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Lucky the Leprechaun on the Loose is the legendary St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun. Each year during the month of March up until the famous Irish holiday, Lucky comes to visit children at school and at home. But he isn’t here just for a visit! Lucky wants to create some March magic by hiding toys, leaving messages and surprises, and even making messes while the children aren’t looking.

In the spirit of The Elf on the Shelf, enjoy Lucky’s escapades year after year, and bring much delight to the hearts of children during this wonderful holiday time.

Demons, the Great White North and the Blind Detective 

Demons, The Great White North and the Blind Detective, is an intriguing novel about a blind detective and a near-future world of enhanced dogs, chimps, and flying cars. The story primarily takes place in northern Alaska and Canada and follows Peter Shaw and his assistant, Watson, an intelligently-augmented talking golden retriever. With the help of the Canadian Mounties, they investigated a series of gruesome crimes committed against the native Inuit people of the region. Intertwined with this story are the happenings of the Integrated North American Space Force, where a seemingly unconnected tragedy has a far-reaching impact on the Inuit people and the world itself.

Author Shawn Adair Johnston uses shifting points of view as he flows through his narrative. We experience this new futuristic world through the eyes of many characters, including the naive and innocent Watson, the truly detestable Lt. Colonel Rex Trantor, and the slow-rolling existential crisis that is Sergeant Aristotle Jones (an intelligent chimp who works for the Mounties). We see them through shifting inner monologues and consciousnesses, where many characters explore what it is to “be,” including their ideas of right from wrong and even their pondering on whether on not they have a soul.

I feel that this narrative structure is a bit jarring at first. The point of view changes abruptly from man to man, dog, chimp, antagonist, and possible new antagonist. However, seeing the points of view of particular characters really enhances the suspense at times and providers some much-needed information to follow the clues of the mystery.

Much of the story is told and not shown, as actions and events are expressed to the reader through the characters listing a series of things that happened or will happen. I feel that more dialog between characters would have enhanced the storyline more than reading their own thoughts on what they were experiencing and what that meant to them. However, the internal dialog of the characters did provide a unique perspective given the diversity of the characters in this story.

Demons, The Great White North and the Blind Detective, is a captivating story that is not too overpowered by the technological marvels of the sci-fi setting while incorporating humor from the characters. In addition, the fantasy elements brought in add an intriguing aspect to the plot that blends the two genres into a fantastic read.

Pages: 290 | ASIN : B09QD6SVNG

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A Better Heart

A Better Heart by Chuck Augello follows Kevin Stacey, who is trying to make it in the film industry. His friend and coworker, Veronica, is with him when his actor father, George Gringo suddenly steps back into his life. One day in the middle of a shoot, George shows up with a mysteriously disheveled capuchin monkey, a bundle of cash, and a gun. Henry, the capuchin monkey, has been stolen from a research laboratory by animal rights activists and is supposed to be dropped off at a sanctuary. But, before that can happen, the authorities catch onto the plan. From there, a fateful journey begins where during a road trip, Kevin faces several moral dilemmas. He is torn between helping Henry and risking his father’s freedom or helping arrest the activists. During all this, Veronica finds herself in the ethical crossroads as well, between wanting to make a difference in the fight against animal cruelty and the indifference towards animals she grew up with.

This humorous story follows the bond between a father and son, the rebuilding of personal ethical philosophies in a young woman, and a question into how much an animal’s life is worth compared to a human one. The author uses a slow-burn style to start the novel in order to introduce all the characters and their backstories. The background information allows readers to really understand how the characters got to where they are and why the tension builds so strongly between them.

Chuck Augello’s writing is incredibly creative; his writing style is realistic and engaging. The characters come alive with his ability to capture their captivating personalities, humor, and self-reflective thoughts. The characters are the type of people that most readers will identify someone like them in their own lives, making the story more relatable and personal.

A Better Heart is a riveting comedy based around moral decisions and a family drama. Building relationships and discovering personal values are mixed with humor as people come together to save Henry, the rescued lab monkey.

Pages: 257 | ASIN : B09C2S6P78

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Powerballs Be careful what you wish for by Jimmy Clifton is a story about a middle-aged couple who unexpectedly wins the lottery and find themselves in a very different world, offering them a life vastly different from their challenging careers and financial struggles. Henry Ball, an accountant in a progressive firm, fantasizes about living a more exciting life, fantasies about his younger female coworkers and greater recognition at work. Likewise, Henry’s wife, Rose Ball, dreams of a luxury lifestyle that she sees her friend enjoy.

As the couple dreams about their ultimate life, they suddenly realize their most fantastic fantasy, winning the Powerball lottery. Quickly though, they learn how this transformation will create a new set of challenges for each of them. Things are not what they seem as they dive into this extravagant world. This growing tension and realization of their newfound financial freedom becomes a journey that leads them on separate paths. The couple’s new adventures lead to many exciting and humorous encounters that give them a changed perspective on life, but not without a few shocking lessons and opportunities.

Readers will enjoy this light and funny read that details the struggles of a couple’s journey from mediocracy to luxury and how they trade one set of tension and challenges for another, with higher risks and experiences. The author narrates a well-paced, lively tale that creates a sense of hope and adventure for a couple struggling with mid-life identity and goals while transitioning into the extravagant world of billionaires and how they transform into this world of privilege.

Powerballs Be careful what you wish for is a riveting, enjoyable read that’s quickly absorbed. It’s a fun page-turner that readers will find entertaining and witty, with brilliant character development, lots of action, and a well-structured story filled with drama. Readers looking for travel fiction or contemporary American fiction will enjoy this humorous, fast-paced read.

Pages: 250 | ASIN : B094DTBRPX

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