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.
Posted in Interviews
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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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Days Gone By is a heartfelt tale of loss, memory, and acceptance. Jerry Veit writes a heartwarming and wholesome tale that is startlingly intimate.
We follow the main character, Caleb, four years after a car accident that occurred three days after Christmas and left him partially handicapped and terrified of leaving his house. The accident also took the life of his five-year-old nephew. The fallout of the event is not only Caleb’s physical and psychological difficulties, but the spiritual burden of guilt for being the cause of his nephew’s death. We find him now, four years later, unwilling to leave his house, even for his brother’s wedding. It is only after the mysterious arrival of past friends and deceased relatives, who give him messages that help him out of this fog of phobia and grief.
At first glance, Days Gone By may seem to echo some of the beats of A Christmas Carol, but in some ways, it brings us back to the classic fable in a nostalgic glance. Veit chose to write this story in play format, but considering the story and themes it allows the reader to enjoy the dialogue and characters even further. The reader can feel a part of the action this way and considering that the story bespeaks more fabel qualities, than a usual novel, Veit gets away with it.
The story has an almost Lifetime channel or Hallmark qualities, considering the history and cause of Caleb’s problems. What should not be left out is how Veit chooses to tackle these issues and instead seeks to bring his hero through these tribulations. It calls on the long tradition of other Christmas story classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life.
Once the reader gets used to the format of the story, it reads quite easily and fairly quickly. It is perfect for the short winter days and may be a perfect thing to pick up around the holidays. As Caleb struggles with agoraphobia readers will find it easy to connect with the sense of loss and how memory often haunts us. We all long to speak with loved ones who have since passed and Caleb is lucky enough to experience this for a short time. Hopefully, we can cherish that gift and not take our time for granted.
Pages: 106 | ASIN: B0175A7258
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Amaris Jensen is a regular 17 year old college girl when she gets the earth-shattering news of her father’s tragic death. Ever since the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Amaris’s father was all she had. Now she’s sent to live her life with her cousin Sandon, who is a lab scientist and a self-defense trainer for 7 other girls at Amaris’s new school. Amaris eventually grows close to them and starts to find her when she begins uncovering strange secrets about the girls and her cousin. Amaris finds herself pulled into a vortex of myths, magic, precious stones, secrets and danger.
What starts off simple and straightforward, quickly escalates to a new and exciting level in the first few chapters. Her father’s sudden death due to a sickness Amaris never knew about, shatters her idea of normalcy and routine. She is then forced to live with an estranged cousin Sandon, who Amaris expects the worst of, but the new father figure in her life takes her by surprise.
Sandon and Amaris’s relationship develops and grows effortlessly. You can really feel Amaris’s pain and longing for normalcy, and when things start to go awry you are just as confused as she is. Which makes the mystery, and the big reveal, so much better. For Sandon, Amaris is much more than a cousin, she is like a daughter. Amaris struggles with leaving her old life behind, but she finds friends in unlikely people. I really appreciated that, while the novel was easy to read, I never really knew what was coming. The protagonist’s strength of character and depth of thoughts is very well portrayed by the author and the range of moods that Amaris wanders through is deftly characterized. This is a highly emotional novel. Amaris goes from crisis to mystery and back all the while trying to cope with the loss of her family. Emotion can be a hard thing to capture in novels, but Casey Hansen does a fantastic job of showing not telling. A few editorial errors exist but they are easy to overlook when all you want is to find out what happens next.
Black Box is a clever title for this thriller novel from Casey J. Hansen and perfectly suits the mood and unexpected ending of the story. This is not a Scooby-Doo mystery; their are layers here that you must peel back slowly. When Amaris finds out that there were initially 10 girls to begin with and now 3 of them have mysteriously disappeared, just like her mother, the book really finds legs and you’re carried along for a thrilling ride. The number of ways in which Amaris’s world crumbles throughout the story is something well worth reading. This thriller is exciting, addictive and is highly recommended.
Pages: 225 | ASIN: B01MQGCJ4J
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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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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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Themes of forgiveness, trust, honor, technology as a healer, and non-violence echo through the pages of The Beauty of the Fall. What was the inspiration for the themes you used throughout the novel?
When I started the novel three years ago, I was interested in writing about, as you say, technology as a healer, or as I like to say, technology as a community builder. There are many good novels out there about the evils of technology, but few, if any, about technology companies that bring about positive social change. The idea of using technology to enable true democracy, as opposed to the slew of representative democracies out in existence today, intrigued me. The events in the world this last year –– the rise of fake news, populism, racism, and sexism—confirmed that I was one the right track. However, as my protagonist, Dan Underlight, emerged, I realized I was actually writing a redemption story. Once I was clear on that point, the themes broadened out to include all the ones you mentioned, especially forgiveness and simplicity.
I felt this story was very well written and used beautifully soulful language to create unique characters living compelling bittersweet lives. What’s your experience as a writer?
Well, first thanks for the compliment. I spend a lot of time at the sentence level, so it’s nice to hear that the language resonates with you. I’ve been writing all of my adult life, but only full-time for the last six years. In college, I had a chance to be mentored by a novelist in residence, but I was broke and needed to make money for a time. So when I graduated, I did. Throughout those years, I kept writing––mostly songs and poetry––but I always knew I would come back to writing novels. Hopefully, I’ll get ten or so of them out into the world before I’m done. I tend to write on most days in the morning for five or six hours. I’m a big believer in writing in the morning and tend to do my best work first thing each day.
The characters in The Beauty of the Fall are complex. What is your process for creating such in-depth characters?
As a writer, I’m trying to go deeper and deeper into the soul of each of my characters, and so I focus a lot of my effort on their inner lives. In this novel, I spent most of my time on Dan and Willow, but I also spent a considerable amount of time on the other characters. On process, I write a character over and over until I feel I find his or her voice. That usually happens at the scene level, and once I understand a character’s voice in that scene, it generalizes to the rest of the book pretty easily. With Dan in particular, once I understood his grief at some deep non-verbal level, he came into focus.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
I’m working on my fourth novel, The Latecomers, which is about aging in a world that in many ways devalues age. It’s about how a few folks try to build a community that values age and wisdom. I’m one-hundred-and-forty pages into that novel and hope to have it out in a couple of years.
Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.
Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. He then recruits three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.
Guided by Dan’s leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?
Posted in Interviews
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