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Cloud Cover

Cloud Cover: A Novel by [Sotto, Jeffrey]

Cloud Cover by Jeffrey Sotto starts off with a warning so intense that it grabs your attention and you just have to continue reading. Like on the news when they say “these images may be disturbing… viewer discretion is advised.” Indeed, the books’ graphic exploration of eating disorders (from an in-depth exploration of a violent binging and purging episode to hair loss and bleeding gums) is slightly terrifying for anyone who isn’t aware of the very real consequences of anorexia and bulimia. But in addition to being horrifying, it is fascinating like seeing a horrific car accident.

The thing I really loved (and I am not sure if “loved” is the right word, but I definitely couldn’t put it down) about this book was its reality and Sotto’s ability to accurately portray the struggles that people who see themselves as “different” go through hundreds of times a day. Though Tony (the main character) isn’t actually all that different from those around him, being a gay man with severe mental health issues is enough for anyone to feel like an outsider among the masses. Anyone who struggles with any mental illness will immediately empathize with Tony as he runs the exhausting race of attempting to navigate a life fraught with the invisible pain of mental illness. And really, who can’t relate to that on some level? We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of mental health issues, whether it is simply never being happy about how we look in the mirror or feeling dissatisfied with our current status in life and feeling like we are missing something.

The book delves into so much of the human experience in one fiction novel. So much so that I could not believe this was Sotto’s first book. Throughout the book we explore how those with mental health issues interact with the people around them. Tony’s blossoming romantic relationship with Antonio provides insight into how someone with the dark secrets of mental health navigates between the pain of their lives alone with the hope of happiness that new love provides. The constant juxtaposition of how Tony is living with how Tony could live is regularly portrayed through scenes like an episode of what should be a happy couple indulging in a delicious meal ruined by Tony’s ongoing inner monologue about how he plans to purge himself of the calories the very second he is able.

This book will be an excellent read for anyone, though those who can relate more closely to Tony’s issues will probably get even more from the book. In all, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in taking an unfiltered view of the things that some people hide inside them which they may otherwise go their whole lives without otherwise being introduced to. It is a book for those who long to understand humans and their experiences.

Pages: 339 | ASIN: B07ZRTJ255

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Intense and Beautifully Tragic

Craig Moody Author Interview

Craig Moody Author Interview

The ’49 Indian is a beautiful coming-of-age love story following two friends leaving home and traveling across the country. What was the inspiration for the setup to this emotional story?

Thank you for the compliment! I am thrilled you enjoyed the book. As my first novel, The ’49 Indian is very special to me. The inspiration for the book is based on my real-life relationship. Not so much the details and occurrences of their journey, but the bond/connection between the two main characters.

Gauge and Dustin’s relationship was one I enjoyed watching develop and change. Was their relationship planned, or did it develop organically while writing?

It certainly developed as I was writing. In fact, I think the tone of the book’s first-person protagonist, Dustin, changes and evolves as the journey progresses. In the beginning, he is naive and poetic, but when things get real, he becomes far more direct and pragmatic with the way he delivers the story.

During their travels, they encounter many trials and tribulations. What were some obstacles you felt were important to their character development?

There are certainly some autobiographical encounters in this story that I felt represented the core of the most long-lasting trials and tribulations the two main characters faced. The relationship between Dustin and his mother is very reminiscent of my past relationship with my own mother. Thankfully, unlike the case with Dustin, my mom has evolved tremendously in her acceptance of me and my relationship. Parental acceptance is a blessing denied to many—for various reasons—something I am quite aware of, which is why I am deeply grateful that my story ends on a far more positive note than Dustin’s. Sadly, Dustin’s experience with his mother is more accurate to the misunderstanding, judgment, and pain many gay people endure when it comes to their own parents and families, especially during the early days of the AIDS crisis.

What is the significance for you of the ’49 Indian in this story?

For me, personally, the ’49 Indian represents the physical embodiment of Dustin and Gauge’s hope, perseverance, and resilience. That old bike just kept on going, despite the elements against it. Sure, it needed a tune-up or two, but in the end, it got them where they needed to go. For Gauge, it represents his departed father; he treats the bike like a living being. It becomes the third main character throughout the story. It is always thrilling and interesting for me to hear how readers personalize and interpret the meaning and significance of the ’49 Indian motorcycle so differently. It’s something unique for everyone, and there are certainly no wrong answers.

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The '49 Indian by [Moody, Craig]

In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Dustin Thomas’s naive curiosity leads him into the shadows of Fort Lauderdale’s seedy underground, where his innocence is met with violent and traumatic consequences. Despite the dire start, the dreariness of the season is instantly transformed when a handsome and mysterious new next-door neighbor arrives, the tattooed, multi-talented, and youthfully exuberant Midwesterner, Gauge Paulson. Gauge possesses an inspired passion for restoring his late father’s classic 1949 Indian motorcycle, as well as a healthy penchant for the beautiful young women of the nearby South Florida beaches. Regardless of their differences, Gauge and Dustin kindle an unlikely companionship, spending nearly every waking hour together for the remainder of the summer.

After a series of dramatic and disturbing circumstances force the duo to flee the familiarity of home, they venture across the country on the back of the antique motorcycle, with only their friendship and a shared dream of relocating to the magnificent California shores of the Pacific Coast leading the way.

Faced with an onslaught of trials, tribulation, turmoil, and misfortune, Dustin and Gauge persevere, surrounded and guided by a connection that transcends their understanding. When an unexpected intruder invades the sanctuary of their world, the young men are confronted with an impossible fate, challenging them to embody the selfless sacrifice and impenetrable commitment needed for their journey’s end on the sands of the Pacific.

Intense and beautifully tragic, The ’49 Indian tells a timeless, universal coming-of-age love story, vividly capturing the fierce, uncompromising loyalty of a profound and mighty bond.​​​​

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The King’s Horse

The King's Horse - Book 1: A Mondus Fumus Series by [Dreece, Adam]

A world of spies, invention, battles for power, and secret societies. A brilliant scientist, Christophe Creangle, is plagued by his inner struggle to not make any inventions that can be turned into weapons, unfortunately he is one of the greatest inventors of all time. Inventors are known as Conventioneer’s in this world and they are governed closely by whatever ruling body they happen to reside in. All inventions are turned over to the ruler in order to help protect and build their power base. After escaping from the king and his men, Christophe searches for his daughter. His daughter Christina inherited his sharp mind but after years of separation their relationship is strained. A young girl named Mounira acts as the go between for them and together the three of them reside in the Moufan compound. The Moufan however, is going through a power struggle and change; what use to be a neutral community is becoming a dominate power through force.

Adam Dreece has continued his saga of his created world, the Mondus Fumus, with a new series called The King’s Horse. While there is some character and history tie back to his original series, The Yellow Hoods, this novel stands alone and is ready to introduce readers to the world he has invented. Adam Dreece describes his world as a combination of steam punk and fairy tale. This novel sets up the series providing background to how key players got to be where they are.

Through back and forth timelines we get the history of Christophe Creangle, his inventions and how they have helped shape the world he lives in. We also learn why his relationship with his daughter Christina is so challenging. This is probably the one part of the book I dislike. There are multiple time lines following several story lines that all intertwine. Given the complex character development I would have preferred it to be chronological. Aside from that distraction of having to make sure you were reorienting yourself to the right time period, the separate story lines were well connected to make sense in how they all fit together so you don’t feel like you are reading a bunch of separate novels.

I really enjoy the world that Adam Dreece has built in this series. It is like reading about the industrial revolution with a fantasy twist taking place during medieval times. It is a bizarre and enticing mix of elements that draw you in and take you out of reality. While giving the reader this mix of elements, the characters are highly complex, and you learn more and more about them with each chapter. While some of the characters like Rumpere are easy to identify as the “bad guy,” others are much more discreet, and you are left wondering where their loyalties lay. The characters of Oskar and Petra, a brother and sister duo, at times feel like filler, but as the story progresses you see their importance coming into perspective.

Overall this novel is a great set up to the series. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing how all the twists and turns change and to see what the real end game is. The characters come to life and draw the reader in, you almost think you know how some will respond and when they don’t you are left turning pages to find out what happens next.

Pages: 264 | ASIN: B07BHWG5HR

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Upon Broken Wings

Upon Broken Wings by [Reedy, E.L., Wade, A.M.]

Upon Broken Wings by E.L. Reedy and A. M. Wade is not a light read, but it is a read worth your time. This dark, cathartic story is a unique meld of many genres; coming of age, gay positivity, and family all interwoven with religious flavor, life after death, angels and demons. Reedy takes us on a journey through a small, overly conservative community all the way to Purgatory in a way that makes sense. If the story has any weak points it can all be forgiven by the enthralling premise of the novel.

The story follows several boys at the verge of of adulthood; Andrew, who suffers from Aspergers, and Keenan, a brave gay boy who is coming to terms with his identity. A series of unfortunate events will lead to a gruesome assault that will require all the strength of their family and friends, dead or alive, to help them resolve.

Upon Broken Wings avoids obvious descriptions of the worst that the characters have to go through but the indication is enough to leave me seething and demanding justice. Add to it is the slow burn of sadness, loneliness and isolation that the characters feel, all the misfortune and all the lost chances add up to a dark and emotionally heavy reading experience. Reedy takes us through mud so we could feel all the anguish that made his characters behave the way they do. So when he finally, mercifully, starts to get us into a somewhat better place we feel like we earned it.

His characters are the best part of the story. They feel like real people and their motivations seem genuine, even when they are no longer among the living. And that’s a tall order with all the elements or death, gay identity and angels in it.

I felt that the dialogue was disjointed and the characters, especially young Casey, sometimes feel like intentional Mary Sues. Casey, Keenan’s brother, is a boy wise beyond his years and can also see angels. We are never given a reason for this ability. It serves the story and paints an emotional picture but I felt that it lacks depth. Similarly, Andrew’s Asperger is important for the story but we never see how it affects him in his day to day life. We are told but we are not really shown the consequences of living on a spectrum. I think this would have helped flesh out the characters.

The angels give a distinct New Age vibe. Their shallow philosophy of forgiveness and understanding along with healing crystals and other cliches works well because angels should behave like that, which gives this coming-of-age and coming-out story interesting and unexpected religious undertones. Upon Broken Wings is not a perfect story. But it is an interesting and original endeavor in this day and age that is. A rare novel, certainly worth your time.

Pages: 199 | ASIN: B07BZXWNBJ

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Spinner

Spinner

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

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

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

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

Pages: 445 | ASIN: B075VCQ5F9

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Not Just Transgender

Liam Klenk Author Interview

Liam Klenk Author Interview

Paralian follows your tumultuous journey to find your authentic self and happiness through many adversities. What was the moment in your life that you knew you had to write this book?

It was more a process instead of a precise moment. Throughout my childhood and teens I knew one day I’ll have to write a book about my life. So much went wrong, and I kept thinking, “In order for this to make any sense and lead to something positive I’ll have to share it one day with the world.”

What was the biggest challenge you faced in finding a home inside your own body?

The biggest challenge was re-discovering who I was. As a child I knew instinctively. Then puberty hit and I got overwhelmed by societal constructs… people telling me who I am… so for a while there all I knew was something was way off… but I couldn’t quite define it.

Then, thankfully, at age 20, I stumbled over a book with short stories about trans people. Finally, there was the mirror reflecting me back to myself. The final information I needed for all puzzle pieces to fall into place. It was instant recognition. But until getting to this moment I was in a state of constant confusion and desperation.

What is one thing in your life that you regret, and what is one thing that you are happy to have done?

Regret: I miss my grandma and regret to this day that my final gender reassignment surgeries happened during a period in her life when she became increasingly senile. Grandma ended up thinking her granddaughter never visited her anymore. She didn’t recognize the young man who came to visit her so regularly and would always love her with all his heart.

Happy about: I am so glad I ventured out into the world and lived in as many places and cultures as I did. The best way to compassion, understanding, and open-mindedness is to travel the world as widely as possible. I’ll keep being a nomad all my life. It’s the most fulfilling form of existence I can think of.

You’ve traveled and lived in many different places. What has been your favorite place to visit?

There is no such thing. Every place I lived in or traveled to found its place in my heart. In each place there were countless good and bad experiences. In each place I met amazing, inspirational individuals.

Are you working on publishing another book? If so, when will it be available?

Yes, I am. I have dozens of other book ideas. I’ve just started with my next one. With all editing and time to be set aside for my day job it’ll probably be a good 2 years before my next book is being launched. I promise it’ll be worth the wait though 🙂

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Definition: Paralian – Ancient Greek meaning ‘one who lives by the sea’. Paralian is a memoir narrated through the author’s relationship to water. We follow Liam Klenk’s tumultuous journey to find his authentic self and happiness against more than a lifetime’s worth of adversities. At five months old, Liam was adopted from an orphanage and ushered into a unique journey, which introduced him to the characters that would become both the currents that moved him and the rocks that supported him. Liam, who lives in Zurich with his wife, says: “At three years old I began catching odd glances because I was born in a girl’s body yet began to introduce myself to people as a boy.” Paralian tells the remarkable story of an honest, and at times, challenging life, and offers insight and wisdom from a fluid position – from experience. Liam reveals how exploring the world helped him find a home inside his own body and spirit. Through this ultimately heartwarming and inspiring story, readers learn how Liam never gave up, faced his fears, and always managed to find positivity in each trauma. Written with an engaging sense of humour, this memoir of transcendence and finding oneself will appeal to those who enjoy true stories of courage, resilience, and dedication in the face of adversity. Paralian celebrates life with infectious strength and positivity. Follow Liam’s journey from a small river in Germany to the biggest performance pool in the world, from Switzerland to the US, the Maldives to Macau.

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Paralian – Not Just Transgender

Paralian - Not just transgender4 StarsThe term “Paralian” comes from ancient Greek origins, and it has taken on the meaning of “people who live by the sea”.  There could be no more apt title for Liam Klenk’s autobiography. In Paralian: Not Just Transgender, He recounts the sweeping and nomadic movements of his life via the lens of the rivers, lakes, and oceans by which he periodically makes a home. Water is the element of change and transition.  It is also the element at the heart of so many human-nature entanglements; the resource that has always defined and guided the movements of our species. Fittingly for a tale of bodies, travels, transitions, and wandering, Klenk uses bodies of water to parse the sections of his life like chapters in a narrative.

The voice and experience of Liam Klenk is tender, vulnerable, and honest. It comes to the reader unassumingly and asks only for a patient ear. As the title would suggest, Paralian: Not Just Transgender tells a tale far wider in scope than Liam’s courageous journey through gender confirmation. If anything, the story is about the contexts that occur before, during, and afterwards. It tells the story of a human being finding his place in this world. It opens near the River Enz in Germany, with a young girl named Stefanie and illustrates how a complex and tumultuous family origin, vexes and feeds her inherent confusion over identity. At the end, the reader closes on a confident, middle-aged man named Liam who views the world through hopeful, optimistic eyes from an airplane above Hong Kong. In the intervening pages a transition obviously happens but—to the author’s point—so does a full life. As Stefanie becomes Liam, the reader is taken abroad from Germany to Seattle, from Zurich to Italy to Macao, and all points in between. What makes Klenk’s tale so necessary is that we get a story about a transgendered individual that articulates that while a singular aspect of his life was important, it by no means is the sole determinant of identity.

Regarding execution and readability, there are some pieces that could give readers trouble. As with many ESL authors, minor line-level similes and metaphors go overboard at times and actually distract the reader from the emotional intensity of scene and moment. The larger issue however is that Paralian: Not Just Transgender isn’t just a fascinating book, as it is several fascinating books mashed together. Because Life has no definitive plot, the best works of biography and creative nonfiction tend to follow an A-side/B-side construction in which real world chronologies and events are echoed and digested alongside another more metaphorical through line. Klenk’s book is framed around the metaphor of nomadic travels and bodies of water, but the device is often glanced over or abandoned entirely for lengthy sections. This leaves the prose, like it’s subject, to wander widely. Luckily for Klenk, his book is entertaining enough that its propensity to lose direction is easily forgiven.

Pages: 456 | ISBN: 1785891200

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