Slay the Dragon is an action-packed mystery about a man named Cesar Rosada. He is descended from a line of coffee farmers, a former professional athlete and now a rising politician with a single goal; to help the working class of his country. He is determined to fight for the rights of his people but there is one crisis he can not see a way out of, the opioid addiction. Working as the minister of finance he will stop at nothing to fight against corruption. This leaves him with a choice that will test his own morality.
This book was written by author Laura A. Zubulake who worked for years on Wall Street and is a frequent world traveler. She has written non-fiction before, but Slay the Dragon is her debut fiction novel. The prologue got my attention from the very beginning and is an engaging start to an intriguing novel that hits on a subject that is destroying families and individuals in America. Slay the Dragon does a fantastic job of using fiction to understand a complex problem, and helps you visualize the enormity of the opioid crisis today. I enjoyed how the world unfolds slowly, detail by detail, we get to piece together a seedy world reminiscent of the show Narcos. César’s character development reminds me of George R.R. Martin’s characters. They are characters changed, dramatically, by circumstances out of their control, and they’re just trying to adapt.
This story is exciting, dangerous, thrilling, and full of adventure. Cesar is the kind of character you can’t help but root for with his pure ideals and determination to help those around him. When his actions enter a moral gray area you can empathize. How do you find such entrenched corruption? Zubulake has written a world that feels real in its gritty depictions of South American politics.
From beginning to end this book held my attention and kept me guessing. This is definitely the book for you if you like political thrillers that leave you thinking long after you’ve closed the book.
Pages: 289 | ASIN: B07BH2VMNQ
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Historian-for-hire Wrenn Grayson takes on a difficult client in Kerry St. John. Kerry seeks justice for his great-grandfather’s lifelong heartache. Wrenn meets the renowned jeweler through words recorded in his tattered journal. The year is 1946. He writes from the tiny crossroads of Wyatt, Ohio, about the theft of a treasured locket and the identity of three possible suspects.
The cold case heats up when Lori Hammond arrives. The stolen locket was discovered among her mother’s possessions after her death. Lori refuses to return it to the St. John family, so Wrenn sets out to follow the locket’s path through history. Next, Lori is attacked and Kerry accused. If Kerry’s not guilty, then who is? That question sends cold whispers from the past down Wrenn’s spine.
In Designs on Ivy’s Locket, Connie Chappell focuses on the theme of parents and children, separated by death, by theft, and by design.
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Expectations: The Real World Behind the Curtains of Time by Sarah K-N is a Christian fantasy novel. Sarah spins a riveting, well written story of two brothers caught in an ancient battle of light and darkness. There is magic and ancient curses, angels, demons and other popular staples of Christian faith sharing a page with intriguing secret societies. Expectations uses the Christian faith to give us a story that is fun to read while not being preachy.
The novel opens up with an ancient tale of jealousy, locusts, an ancient pact and it just gets better after that. Ace Cadman, the main protagonist of the story, must battle the occult secret society and somehow stay alive in a world where angels and demons pop up on almost every page. But the main attraction of this book is the style that Sarah K-N carries to the very last page. Characters have motives that make sense and do not contradict the actions that took place just half a page ago. Expectations: The Real World Behind the Curtains of Time masterfully handles exposition, dialogue is lively, and Sarah K-N describes the world in just enough detail before having her characters take over the story.
Especially interesting is the way Sarah handles the divine characters – these beings feel older than time even though she spent only several sentences on their description. Their archaicness is an asset, not a flaw, in telling the story. For example, an angel with a flaming sword is a character that is very much out of place in the modern world but Expectations uses this to its advantage. Simply put, angles are supposed to be out of place in our world and when they do show up, just like their malevolent demonic cousins, they add weight to the situation that other characters find themselves in.
Perhaps the hardest thing that Sarah K-N had to do to make the story work is to bring the spirit of the Old Testament on to her pages. And she did it masterfully. This is not the world where angels and demons walk the Earth fulfilling some shallow, New Age tripe task. These angels and demons are forces beyond our comprehension, spirits of old, just like they were thousands of years ago to our ancestors. Angels are fulfilling the commands of their Lord and demons will shower mortals with impossible gifts and power but will snatch your soul the first chance they get.
The conflict between good and evil is masterfully done. You start to understand, even from the first pages, why someone would give their soul to evil. Their decisions, doomed as they are, make sense in the given moment and you will find yourself asking if you would make the same choice if put through the same tests.
This page turner is one of the most riveting reads you will ever find, no matter if you are a person of faith or not. The story, a classic tale of good vs evil, will keep you going for hours and will not disappoint.
Pages: 424 | ASIN: B0794LRWPN
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YEGman is a thrilling crime novel taking place in the underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Why did you want to set your story in this location?
I had several reasons why I wanted to have the story take place in Edmonton. I prefer to write Canada-based stories and I’ve spent a lot more time in western Canada than I have out east, so can craft stories in these locations easier. A second reason is the name YEGman itself. YEG is the airport code and a common hashtag for the city. It is easier to say than – for example – YYCman for Calgary.
I also have grown up in Edmonton and have seen the city change over the decades. It is a pretty (no offence Edmonton!) bland city when it comes to major issues. So it is a good thing. That raises the question, how can you make a tame city feral and gritty? This was an interesting challenge to me.
This story takes a uniquely gritty look at the Edmonton crime scene. What were some ideas you wanted to capture when developing this underworld?
For YEGman’s version of Edmonton, I wanted to paint a crime-infested city that has some similarities seen in superhero comics. Daredevil/Hell’s Kitchen and Batman/Gotham are examples. A city that is in dire need of help. It becomes a motivator for someone to become a vigilante when they feel the city isn’t making any progress.
The details of the drugs and music scene I wanted to make real by showing there are good people that get caught up in these dark worlds of gangs and violence. Either they feel trapped or do not know any better to get out and just try to keep their friends safe.
Where did the idea for YEGman come from and what were some book titles you considered?
YEGman actually was birthed from the album that accompanies the launch – Sounds of Society. Both YEGman and the album tell a story of someone who can’t handle the constraints of society and go off the deep end. They also share similar content in the lyrics. Originally I was working on this album in 2012.
The plot and character of YEGman came to me in the summer of 2015 when I was at a book signing in a comic store. It was a quiet period and was daydreaming about super heroes because of the increase in popularity due to the Marvel movies, DC movies, comic expos and I was in a comic store at the time. Personally I am not a huge comic book far so I asked myself – what type of superhero story would someone who doesn’t like superheroes read?
From there I drafted out the concept of the superhero YEGman. Quite quickly I decided against super powers and made him very earth-bound. This helped map out the ending as well. If he was just an average person, and didn’t have any tech toys, money or ninja training, he’s going to have a pretty difficult time being a crime fighter. After writing out the outline for the ending I reverse engineered the story – a process I do not normally do with writing.
In November of 2015 I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo but shelved the concept because my horror novel, Seed Me, wasn’t fully edited yet. That took a higher priority and I didn’t revisit YEGman until 2017 after doing some heavy research into police procedures and psychology. These two points of study helped craft the inner thoughts of Michael.
So overall, comic books were the inspiration and I looked at comics such as the Punisher, Sin City, The Watchmen, and Hellboy to name some.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I really need to wrap up the dark fantasy series Mental Damnation. Book three is coming out in the fall of 2018 and the fourth is in the works. I also am working on a slasher novella but it is in the early plot outline stage.
In the darkest streets of Edmonton, crime is around every corner. The police have exhausted their resources. Citizens are in a constant state of fear. The city is in dire need of justice. Someone needs to give the felons what they deserve – skip the courts and deliver their verdict with a fist full of fury!
At least that is what Michael Bradford tells himself. He struggles with violent tendencies while personally investigating the Crystal Moths, Edmonton’s most notorious gang. His vigilante methods get caught on film and are uploaded to the web with the hashtag YEGman. These videos catch the attention of a rebellious journalism student whose aspires to cover the developing story on the city’s underground hero.
Posted in Interviews
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Discovering a young boy living in the wilderness would be an unexpected shock for anyone, just as it was for a local state trooper, but no one could have predicted the chilling truth that finding the boy would unearth. It’s this unexpected fact that evil thrives in, often striking in situations where we least expect it.
Mutch Katsonga’s latest book, Where Wildfires Glow, unexpectedly made me challenge my own personal view of the good and evil in the world. The introduction poses a series of deep, philosophical questions for the reader that I often found myself reflecting upon as I read the novel. I was skeptical at first as to whether the story would furnish me with the answers to these questions, particularly, considering that I deemed the start of the book to be slow. However, what I did not realize is that Katsonga was just setting up what was to come through his in depth descriptions of the landscape and natural world, and I found myself reliving these romantic descriptions during the climatic end. The child’s two contrasting encounters with the harsh wilderness are beautiful metaphors for the detrimental and damaging effects that abuse can have on a person.
The way in which Katsonga has narrated the story and not given the boy a identity means that as a reader, I struggled to form a connection with the character, regardless of the overwhelming compassion I felt. Whilst I thought that this made the story feel a bit empty at the beginning, I realised that this perfectly reflects the sense of detachment that evil inflicts on its’ victims. The writing is a bit unpolished with slight typos and grammatical errors which probably could have been avoided with thorough proofreading. Unfortunately the obvious mistakes often pulled my attention from the story, which was a shame at crucial moments, but this was definitely not to the point where I lost complete focus or the book was no longer enjoyable. Additionally, as the protagonist of the book is a young child, I felt that some of the words the used are too mature which I felt detracted from the authenticity.
However, the poignant moral behind the story is that evil can make us lose sight of who we are and taints our view of right and wrong. When we allow it into our lives, it will inevitably envelop us; our vision becomes tunnelled and focuses only on the negative. The cycle of abuse is unrelenting and will just keep going, manifesting in each generation, until something breaks it. Katsonga teaches us that evil cannot be fought with evil, and it is only the power of light and the power of good that can break the cycle. I believe that this book will challenge that way that every reader views negativity and the power that it can have on an individual and those around them. It made me more conscious about how my actions can affect others, and has encouraged me to make sure that I always give off a positive energy.
Pages: 160 | ASIN: B07CCJTGDB
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Kiera Blake is a girl running from her painful past in Damaged by C.K. Green. It has been eight years since she suffered an attack that left her paralyzed with fear and afraid to actually live her life. She survives by controlling her environment and not allowing many people to get too close. She basically has her job and one real friend, Anna. Her anxiety and panic attacks keep her from truly connecting with anyone though. Then, along comes Ethan Parker, someone she knows from the past. This unexpected turn of events sends Kiera spiraling out of control and frantically trying to suppress her feelings about the past.
At the begging of the story Kiera seems a bit shallow. She struggles with the trauma from her past but she is still focused on her looks, clothing and makeup. She was a character I couldn’t relate to, but I could empathize with. The writing at the beginning of the book seemed a bit forced and awkward. I noticed several places where it seemed like the the wording was changed but the superfluous words remained. But as the story progressed the writing became much more relaxed which helped it flow better. The last half of the book was a much more fluid and enjoyable read.
Ethan Parker’s character was more relatable to me. He was the police officer who found Kiera after her attack and is still haunted by it. I felt like the connection these two had because of it was haunting but deep. He went to high school with her so they have history together, with each secretly having a crush on the other. He started his own security business and relocates to Nashville because of the music scene and the need for personal security there.
Kiera and Ethan reconnect while out dancing and their chemistry is natural and explosive. From there, a deep love story develops. Some of the wording seemed a little cliché to me. There was a lot of “staring deeply into souls.” Despite that, as the story develops, I started to root for them, empathize with them, and (here’s a twist) I was able to relate to Kiera. It is clear they fit together in a natural and easy way. It’s one of the stories that makes you want to shout at them, “But you belong together!”, before you realize you’re shouting at a book.
Considering that this is Green’s first book, I think the few grammatical issues are minor and could be fixed in subsequent books. Also, Kiera’s personality grew on me as the book progressed. Despite not liking her at first, I found myself looking forward to seeing what happens to her in the second book. Plus, the last half of the book really did have me flipping pages quickly to see what was going to happen. This book takes a few chapters to grow on you, but when it does it’s impossible to tear yourself away.
Pages: 298 | ASIN: B079LZW642
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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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Dance with the Devils starts with a gruesome murder which sets of a series of events that brings detective Nate Burns out of retirement. What did you want to be different about this novel from your other murder mystery works?
Nate has been medically retired from the department and has not adjusted well to the forced inactivity. I wanted the murders to be complex enough that they would serve as an enticement to get Nate off the couch, so to speak. The gruesomeness of the killings is evidence of the mindset of the killer, which is the reason for Nate decides to become involved. The staging of the bodies, as there is more than one killing, also becomes an attractant for Nate.
I thought you did a fantastic job with the setting and descriptions. How do you balance story telling with setting and character development?
The initial setting was determined by previous novels and Las Vegas is where Nate’s friend Jack resides. It is also the money source as an investigation as I describe would require funding in large amounts of money. There had to be a tie in there. The other locations were chosen for various reasons, the last one in Ohio is the hometown of the narrator of my books for audio. I wanted to give him a nod of “thanks.”
Character development is the most important part of the writing process for me. With interesting and engaging characters a story can be set in a shoebox. Every character I include in the story has a developed backstory and the possibility of a continuing story, if need be. More than one of my minor characters have grown into larger roles, and continued in the next book in the series.
I felt like Gabe Monet was one character that had to grow on me, and continued to develop throughout the novel. What was the inspiration for that character?
Gabe was the personification of the story. She is another version of Nate, she, like him is the overachiever with baggage. Where Nate uses his surliness to distance people, Gabe uses her outlandish behavior and sexuality. Readers of the series will remember Nate has an attraction to women like Gabe, and I also wanted her to serve as a temptation to him. She develops and with Nate’s help can depend more on her abilities as a detective and therefor lower her defensive actions. I wanted Gabe to be Nate’s reflection and I think I accomplished that
It seems like this book leaves the door open for a follow up novel. Will there be another story in this series?
Oh, most certainly. Dance with the Devils is the third book in the Nate and Clare series. Much is happening to the characters in the stories. Nate is struggling to find new direction. Clare (his wife) is finishing law school. The older daughter Lizzie is graduating high school with the stated desire to follow her dad into law enforcement. The Las Vegas side of the team has Jack growing bored with what he does. His wife Terri is not doing well after being shot. Jack’s friend and bodyguard “Snake” is still in a coma and “Gunny” is growing restless. There are many more stories yet to be told.
The murder was brutal. The scene resembled a slaughterhouse. “We need Nate Burns,” Jack Mill said and set about getting the medically retired detective to Vegas. Such a simple request will lead Nate not only on a manhunt across the country but also back in time thirty years where he will struggle to understand the implications of the Cold War.
Book three, in the Nate and Clare series, finds Nate trying to come to terms with being medically retired from the department. Unsure who he is any longer, he hesitates to accept the challenge. For the first time, he afraid he might fail.
Posted in Interviews
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In Hemlock vampires are returning with the intention of taking over all living creatures. What served as the inspiration for the theme of this novel?
Well, I was always going to do a vampire book. I think, as often as we see them, we still don’t understand them. Everybody that does vampires well reinvents them for their own world. This was my chance to do that, to create a vampire that was all mine. Vampires have been in my life through other genres as long as I can remember. I wanted to see what it would look like to have a vampire in a fantasy setting, wanted to see what the creature could do and how a wizard would go about fighting a vampire. I’m fascinated with other genres, but fantasy is my home. In the past, I’ve written fantasy adventure. I’ve written fantasy horror. I just am fascinated with other genres, but I know what’s in my wheelhouse. So I enjoy mixing other genres with the fantasy world to figure out how to make them one way or the other. How do you blend a fantasy and a western? Well, in a book I wrote not too long ago, but hasn’t been published yet, I write a fantasy western. In April of 2019, my fantasy romance will hit the market. Exploring other genres I think keeps a writer sharp. But the language I’ve always spoken has been fantasy. This was my chance to write a fantasy vampire book, and if you can, you should.
I always enjoy your characters, one stood out to me this time. Aaron the Marked was a fascinating character. How did you set about developing his character and how did it differ from other characters?
Well, this is the first time we’re seeing Aaron the Marked, but it was not the first book he was written in. Because of my method of writing, my books can’t be published in chronological order. If I tried to do that, I would have series spanning decades and decades. So I have to find another way to do it. Aaron the Marked’s origin story shows up in a book that will be published April 15th, 2026. We get more of his story than we have received so far in a book that will publish October 5th, 2019. It doesn’t back up to his origin, but it backs up quite a bit. Aaron is a character that really captured my imagination. I spent a lot of time in his skin, writing him as a point of view character. I fell in love with him. So far, as written, he spans five series. He’s a major facet of my world. Aaron the Marked is a character we’ll be seeing as long as I’m writing. One day, we will be able to take all of my books and line them up in chronological order, and at that time, we’ll realize that everything I have ever written in the end, boils down to the story of two men. One of them is Aaron the Marked.
I felt like we again get to explore the dark side of humanity in this book. Do you find that you are drawn to this theme, or is this where the story leads?
All of my books are about hope in some way or another. By the end of the story we find out that it was all built on hope. Because of the childhood I lived and my life as a young adult, I have a deep understanding of despair, of the darkness of the mind and the evil people are capable of. My work is about telling people that there is a way to rise above that horror. But in order to show the power of the light, we have to explore utter darkness. So my work ends up being very dark, very depraved at points, until we climb out of that and enter happiness and well, hope. A lot of people say that my work is really dark, but I hope when they think about it a second or third time, when they find themselves trapped in despair, that they think not of the horrible parts of Jesse Teller’s novel, but of the way people were able to overcome those things, meet their darkness head-on, and triumph over it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book of The Manhunters series is called Crown. It’s already been written. It’s currently with an editor. It’ll be ready to go very soon. I’m really excited about it because if you’ve read any of my work before, you’re most likely acquainted with a character who goes by the name Sob. In her last book, we find out her children were kidnapped and taken from her. In Crown, we get to see those children. We get a glimpse of how they overcame losing their mother and the effect it had on them. No event that intense occurs within a bubble. There are always going to be ramifications. In Crown, one of the stories we embark on is the telling of those consequences. So I’m very excited to be able to explore that section of my world. We get the final segment of the telling of the Manhunters, the things they suffer, the deaths within their numbers that they have to work past, and the challenges they have to overcome. We get to meet all new villains, and alongside Rayph, try to figure out how we can prevail over them.
The busiest pirate bay in Perilisc is newly infested with vampires. These monsters will soon overrun the world, but the Manhunters must try to stop them in secret. Agents of the king are hunting Rayph’s vigilante crew. With one false step, they could all end up at a royal execution.
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Man with the Sand Dollar Face is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a thriller, mystery, and crime fiction as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I wrote the rough draft for Man with the Sand Dollar Face in less than twenty-four hours without concern for where the story was going or where it would end. I have written like this before, and I have always found it to be a wild and thrilling experience similar to watching a heart-pounding adventure movie. I laughed at Hattie’s antics and cried over the tragedies she faced.
Hattie is a quirky widow in her sixties when she pursues clues that get her caught up with drug traffickers. What were some themes you wanted to explore while writing her character?
Some of the themes that came through were issues of tremendous importance; for example, compassion and personal expression. Hattie was like a quirky aunt that you could not help but love. I wanted her rambling thoughts to drive the reader crazy as they unknowingly became emotionally attached to her child-like innocence.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
My favorite character to explore was Vic; he had a complex personality that was at times compassionate and other times terrifyingly brutal.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I am currently working on the revisions for an adult fiction that delves into Quantum Physics that I hope to have ready for release in 2019 along with a sequel to Man with the Sand Dollar Face.
Hattie Crumford, a quirky widow in her early sixties, takes her first job answering the phone in a private investigator’s office. Running a little late one morning, she discovers an agitated man pacing at the office door. He insists he must see the PI immediately. In the midst of his anxious demands, he clutches his chest and collapses. Shocked, Hattie runs for help. Upon returning, the man has disappeared. Detective Hugo Gabby and Hattie’s boss, Wallace C. Woodard, are skeptical and dismissive of her story. To prove it’s not her wild imagination, Hattie sets out to find the missing manusing only the cryptic note he left in his place and his last words as her clues.
Meanwhile, the private investigator is onto something and tells Hattie to retrieve a disc in his file cabinet, which must be delivered to the police immediately.
When Hattie returns to the office the next morning, she’s met by two men who usher her out at knife point and drag her into a waiting limo. Abducted and held hostage, she’s drugged by her captors who are trying to get the mysterious disc.
As the story unfolds, Hattie Crumford finds herself embroiled in an international drug trafficking ring. Everything hinges on the man with the sand dollar face.
Posted in Interviews
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