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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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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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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In The Wagon Driver, Earth is overcrowded and Kyle’s job is to collect bodies for government disposal, but soon learns of a more nefarious reason why he’s employed. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
I initially wrote this story in the mid-nineties, when I was working at AT&T in Lake Mary, Florida. Computers had already begun taking over, and the Y2K phenomenon was being considered globally. My imagination, as usual, went into overload, and I began having dreams about the Government using technology to move into the home, take over completely and systemically select who would be permitted to exist and who would not.
Kyle grows up an in orphanage and I instantly felt the isolation and loneliness that he felt. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
Being an orphan as well as a loner, Kyle has never felt the bond of friendship before and frequently uses humor and sarcasm to disguise his shyness. When he meets Allie, he thinks he has developed his first true friendship, but when he realizes she has let herself become just another cog of the System, he feels betrayed. And when both Allie and the System turn against someone who could have truly become his one and only friend, he knows he can no longer stick around because he will eventually cease to exist as well.
Do you think over population is a serious concern today? What do you think are the causes and solutions?
I think it is a major concern, especially in many other countries. I don’t want to get political here, but in this country we could eliminate much of it ourselves, without Government intervention. However, I really can’t see it happening.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on a Christmas novel entitled, Yesterday’s Journey. It is a fantasy, and should be ready to be published on Amazon and Kindle in early or mid November.
In the not-so-distant future, population control becomes a necessity. Turning eighteen, Kyle Sonnet leaves the State Orphanage and becomes an employee of the Department of Population Control. As a wagon driver, he follows the ambulance to emergency calls and collects bodies for Government disposal. However, it isn’t long before Kyle understands that, due to the collapse of the healthcare system and contrary to what he has seen on the news, euthanasia has become the universal solution. But when he suddenly witnesses a horror he cannot accept, Kyle is forced to decide whether to become another pawn of Society or risk escape, which will result in certain death.
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Lockless Doors weaves a brutally honest and incredibly unique story of a family in all its ugly and painful moments. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Initially, the entirety of the story was just going to revolve around one demented family Christmas, but as it always seems to happen… the plot thickened and I couldn’t exactly control what happened. And then, while exploring the backstory of Jean, I saw an opportunity to expand upon a favorite character of mine from another older book I wrote back in 2013-2014. And now I’ve pretty much got 2 to 3 books in the making to continue with the chaos that is the Ponces.
Lockless Doors subtly examines complicated relationships and skillfully reveals insights into the siblings’ connection to each other. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
I wanted to establish a sense of foundation for the three main characters, so that the reader could sense that there was in fact a very complicated past. Little by little, I offered little tidbits as to just what that past entails, and each of which would (at least for this book) center around the death of their mother. Their own childhood, while growing up, was riddled with seeds that would eventually force them all to spiral out of control. And so the death of their mother, at least according to their mother, would hopefully begin to bring them back together again. If I could narrow it all down to one single word, I’d say this book is about forgiveness, and not just the simple “on-the-surface” kind. Self-forgiveness is probably the most important type out there.
Lockless Doors is both hilarious and heartbreaking, soul-searching and sarcastic. Was there anything from yourself that you put into the novel, and did you have fun writing it?
Honestly, I can’t think of anything I really took from real life experiences that would inspire the book. I just started writing it one day and it just kind of became what it is. As I’ve said to others who’ve asked, I never really plan out a novel’s plot, at least I can’t think of a time during which I actually sat down and outlined a story. Maybe dabble a few ideas here and there, jot down some quotes for characters to use at some point in the story. The Ponce siblings, Edgar, Jean, and Charlotte are far and beyond my favorite characters I’ve thus far shat out out my brain. And yes, I can say I had the most fun writing this book compared to my others, and I am currently having loads more fun writing the second book.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m actually working on the sequel to “Lockless Doors…” at the moment and have written about two to three chapters. I wouldn’t expect it to be finished until next year sometime, but I can say that the story and the characters will explode in a way that makes “Lockless Doors…” seem like an ABC Family special. If all goes according to how it feels it’s going, “Lockless Doors…” may end up being the first in a long and chaotic series that may or may not have a definitive ending.
It’s Christmas time, again. Family gatherings. Company parties. Yule logs. Screaming fits of dysfunctional requiem. But for the three Ponce siblings, they’ll be burying their mother. Edgar Ponce, the family exile. His brother Jean, the west coast porn star. And their younger sister Charlotte, mother to four kids and wife to the richest orthopedic surgeon in Western Pennsylvania. Reuniting them for the first time in over a decade, the funeral of their mother will only serve as the mere whisper that starts the avalanche of the next month, entangling them in their own webs of insanity for a holiday season none of them will ever forget. ‘Lockless Doors in the Land of Harsh Angels’, a crossover/sequel to 2014’s ‘Sleepeth Not, the Bastard’, is at its core a story about family. Beyond that, it’s an examination on forgiveness, the relationship between Christmas trees and caskets; bliss with a little bit of chaos thrown in for good measure, and learning the importance of one of the holiday’s most heartfelt lessons: appreciating those loved ones around you while doing one’s utmost best at tolerating the rest of the family without murdering them.
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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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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Suzy Spitfire is a take-no-bull fugitive on the run. Her best friend Aiko, who was her father’s lab assistant and is also on the run, wants to see her and she’s taking a big risk by coming back to Earth. She wastes her time at the bar flirting with Ricardo until Aiko shows up. Her friend reveals the location of a top-secret Artificial Intelligence her father developed for the government, and also informs her that her dad’s death was a murder, not an accident. Almost on cue, the bar is raided by the feds. Ricardo comes to their rescue (while stealing a case of whiskey on the way out) and they are on the run again, this time with a price on their heads and Special Forces on their heels.
With the feds, a fleet of pirates, and a criminal gang all gunning for them, this crew of outlaws has nowhere to turn. Blurr, the Special Forces commander, has no qualms about using extreme methods to get what he wants. Getting to Suzy – and the secrets she knows – would be even better.
I really got into the rapid-fire action. There’s never a dull moment in this book. Suzy is a larger-than-life antihero who would rather shoot than talk, and when she does speak, it’s usually a string of smartass remarks. Surrender is for weaklings and arguments are best ended with her pistol set on “stun” so she can mock the loser later. The action escalates through the book, with the crew of the Correcaminos Rojo bouncing between criminals, pirates, and the law, trapped on posh spaceships, hell-hole prisons, and domed spaceports. Her banter with Ricardo is fun, and her inability to keep her mouth shut gets her in trouble more than once.
Along the way, Suzy begins to second-guess her impulse to fight and starts listening to Ricardo. There may be a lot more to the guy besides his stunning good looks and bad poetry. She realizes she might be falling for him, but she can’t be sure that he’s not working for one of the factions trying to chase her down. It makes for a nice romantic subplot that may or may not involve bullets before it’s all over.
I also liked getting occasional glimpses into the stories of the people on the other side of the fight. Getting insight into what was going on behind the action provided a break between fight scenes and added a lot of scheming and intrigue. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but getting the inside scoop on other key characters added a lot of excitement to the story.
If I had to criticize one thing, it would be that the action gets a little repetitive. Several encounters with enemies are similar, but the great thing is that none of these situations resolve in the same way. It was nice to see the characters playing to their strengths and weaknesses, and the author does a great job at blending screwball humor into the mix. There is a minor loose end concerning a secondary character, but that might be covered in a sequel.
I would absolutely recommend this for a quick, fun, summer read. It’s a great blend of over-the-top action that reads like classic pulp fiction, and characters who play their tropes for all they’re worth. Suzie Spitfire Kills Everybody will leave you smiling.
Pages: 297 | ASIN: B072PXT1P7
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With Zombie Mage Jonathan Drake has moved beyond the tiered story lines of your basic flesh eating zombies and brings a fresh take to the zombie genre. Zombie Mage is the story of Olligh, who is known as a Walker. He is a zombie that can travel the cosmos and transcend time and space. A group of cultists, called the Dark Cloaks, have trapped the Walkers claiming to be helping them find finial death and peace. They enlist Olligh to help them bring back five Walkers that have gone missing in exchange for his and his wife Laura’s final death together and an end to this life as zombies.
I found it difficult in the beginning to understand what was going on. There was a lot of shifting from one location to another as well as change in time periods. Going from ancient times to modern and then into the future. I was thrown off a bit at first because there is not much context given. But the story really starts to pick up after we are introduced to the characters and the order of the Dark Cloaks. This brings the story into focus and kept me flipping pages. I was fully invested in the story once we discover that Olligh is a mage and the possibility of magical zombies or, zombie mages, existed. This was unique to me and is a novel approach to the zombie genre.
Olligh’s one goal is to reunite with his wife Laura who is also a zombie. She wants nothing more than to be with Olligh as well and makes life difficult for the Dark Cloaks on several occasions in her insistence to be reunited with her love. I felt that this was similar to Romeo and Juliet where they want to be together but circumstances keep them apart. It is sweet that they were so dedicated to one another even in death.
Marvin is probably my favorite of the missing Walkers, all that remains of him is a skull, one disconnected eye, and his brain in a jar. This doesn’t stop him from having a great sense of humor and a love of playing practical jokes. His sarcasm adds much needed comic relief to the novel at a time when Olligh is so serious and focused. The novel does a famtastoc job showing Olligh’s internal emotional struggle. I felt that Olligh’s struggle was an example of humanities constant struggle to find balance a balance between good and bad while fulfilling ones own selfish desires. The love story that develops throughout the book is well developed and adds a another romantic layer to what is otherwise a bleak genre.
Zombie Mage by Jonathan Drake is a fresh twist on the zombie genre. It has all the ingredients of a great story and combines them into a tale that is consistently entertaining. Don’t worry, there isn’t too much gore; Drake often uses humor and sarcasm to accent the gruesome parts of the novel. Overall a fantastic new take on the zombie genre.
Pages: 220 | ASIN: B00A4HQM42
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