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In Darkness, There is Still Light

In Darkness, There is Still Light (Wheeler Book 2) by [Zalesky, Sara Butler]

In Darkness, There is Still Light rolls in hot, picking up immediately where its predecessor Wheeler abruptly ended and engrossing readers from the very first pages. The Wheeler series centers on the life of professional cyclist Loren MacKenzie, an American living in the United Kingdom, and the physical and emotional challenges that she faces. Darkness resumes where Wheeler left off, right after Loren has won a world championship title in cycling and kissed her movie star boyfriend, Graham Atherton, farewell for three weeks apart as he flies off to film his next blockbuster. As in her first novel, Zalesky is able to squeeze an incredible amount of action into just a few short months of Loren’s life, though perhaps even more impressive is her ability to fit all the thrills in a short 250 page novel that will fly by for readers.

In Darkness should be read after completing the first Wheeler, as Zalesky does not spend much time reintroducing characters or explaining past events. Readers will recognize familiar faces in Darkness, including Loren’s sassy cycling teammates and loyal friends, but Zalesky also introduces new and exciting characters to the mix. While the first Wheeler was a fairly even mix of romance, thriller, and women’s cycling novels, Darkness focuses more on the romance and emotional challenges of Loren’s life, spending more time developing her relationship with Graham and another key character (whose identify I will not reveal!), and spending far less time on the bike. While I missed the road race episodes that Zalesky created in WheelerDarkness takes place during the cycling off-season when competitions are infrequent.

Though In Darkness lacks the nail-biting cycling races and triumphant finish line scenes, it is just as thrilling as Wheeler for other reasons. Zalesky further develops Loren as a complex and sympathetic character as she delves into Loren’s troubled past and fractured emotional psyche. One of Zalesky’s greatest strengths is her ability to develop Loren as such a complex but also relatable star. Though hopefully readers have not personally experienced the abuses thrown at Loren, they can relate to the conflicting emotions she feels as her relationship deepens with Graham and the rollercoaster of ups and downs she experiences after traumatic events. But far from a damsel in distress, Loren remains a strong protagonist that readers will find themselves rooting for wholeheartedly. Where Loren shines, though, her knight in shining armor, Graham Atherton, appears rather dull. Even as their relationship deepens, Graham remains a bit one-dimensional as the Shakespeare-quoting, jaw-dropping handsome actor. But, trusting our protagonist Loren’s judgment, I will give Graham the benefit of the doubt and hope that Zalesky continues to develop him in Wheeler’s third installment.

A solid four-star novel, In Darkness, There is Still Light again offers a unique delight for readers with its combination of romance, thriller, and sports. As the name suggests, Darkness tackles challenging and sensitive issues, especially physical and emotional abuse, but Zalesky successfully handles these with depth, grace, and realism. There is never a dull page with Loren, and the few months of Loren’s life covered in Darkness fly by, ending abruptly once more and leaving readers ready for the next race, which is certain to be just as exciting as those in Wheeler and In Darkness, There is Still Light.

Pages: 295 | ASIN: B07BT52785

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A Life Beneath The Shield

Lawrence Hoffman Author Interview

Lawrence Hoffman Author Interview

Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is the story of your life, from childhood to retirement, told with an honesty that lays bare some remarkable and sometimes scary moments in your life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a memoir?

I lived only 25 miles from where I worked and grew up in a middle class neighbor that was so different from where I now went to work. It was definitely cultural shock for me. This was early 80’s and crack was on the scene and people were dying by the thousands. Life, in a sense, was cheap. As a young cop I often wondered why people hated me when I was on patrol. I got to see the anger in their eyes just walking down the street. I later realized they hated the uniform and what it represented. I wanted people to know that there was a person in that uniform. So I used what God gave me and used my life experiences to show that as people we are not that different, we all have struggles and lose, and that there was “A Life Beneath The Shield” and so came part of the title to my memoir.

Each chapter tells a story from your life. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

I found it to be a very cathartic experience writing about my life. There were many difficult areas to write about. Certainly one that was hard was the passing of my mother and coming to terms with our relationship. But the most difficult was the chapter regarding 9/11. This event changed the world and the way we live. A lot of innocent people lost their life that day. But what hurts the most is that first responders are continuing dying every day and a lot more are suffering from the after effects of that day. Many are in treatment for cancer and other health issues related to 9/11. I have written a stage play based on this chapter of my book. A working title for the play is: “9/11…Never Forget…I can’t”.

You retired from the New York Police Department after 20 years. What is one common misconception you find people have about police officers and detectives?

I believe most people base their opinions of cops either on a one-time, first-hand bad experience or form their opinion from a news story, or a second or third-hand story. Cops are human beings. We make mistakes. we hurt, we bleed, we cry… more than you will ever know. There are good and bad in every profession. Priests-teachers-CEOs…you name it. Police officers are faced with life and death situations every day and only have a split second to decide a course of action. We have families and friends who we love, and who love us. It is our duty to make sure we come home safe. Believe me, no cop ever wants to fire his gun in the line of duty. The responsibility and consequences are enormous. We are truly here to serve and protect.

Are you working on another book? If so, what is it about and when will it be available?

I have written an unpublished novel titled: “Core Four”. I have written a screenplay with Erik Wolter which is currently being reviewed by some interested production companies. It is a coming of age story about four 11 year old boys. Danny’s struggles with the loss of his father (cop) to 9/11 related disease and his expectations. Danny and his 3 closest friends go on an adventure that brings them face to face with a gang of thugs and find a hero in the most unlikely person.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield by [Hoffman, Lawrence]As a kid growing up on Long Island, I struggled with an unknown psychological need to wear a uniform and a strong desire to be a part of an organization. My search would take me through Little League, Cub Scouts, and various fraternal organizations. This desire would only be fulfilled after joining the NYPD in February of 1984.

Somewhere during my twenty-year career, I was transformed from that kid into a veteran New York City police detective. This is my evolution from a middle-class suburban kid with simple values who naively thought the “projects” were a homework assignment into a veteran detective working in some of the most unforgiving neighborhoods of New York City. With this transformation comes the ability to separate the daily exposure to the dark side of human nature from your own life-sustaining core beliefs. Many will fail to acquire this ability and fall victim to drugs, alcohol, divorce, crime, and even suicide. This is a process which I have come to call Turning Blue.

This is my story of how I dealt with life-changing experiences at home while my gun belt and uniform hung safely in my locker. In my twenty years of experience as a police officer, I can honestly say that I have been scared and feared for my life. Could you go back to work after crying yourself to sleep, reliving your partner’s screams as he lay bleeding to death in the backseat of your unmarked car, and the only thing keeping your heart in your chest was your department-issued bulletproof vest?

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Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield

Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield by [Hoffman, Lawrence]

Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is like reading Lawrence Hoffman’s diary. This is a not a fiction novel, it is all real life told from Hoffman’s voice. The book starts out when Lawrence is just a boy and his fascination with uniforms. We walk though his college and young adult life as he takes different jobs and finds his way eventually ending up taking the police officer exam for the NYPD. From here the book is a series of stories, like sitting and listening to a relative recount their life. As a reader you get to hear his emotions, see what he sees, and experience life on the New York city streets from the eyes of the police from the moment he takes his exam, to his retirement over 20 years later.

One of the first things that grabbed me in this book was the details of New York, Lawrence describing growing up on Long Island (LI) and the city boroughs and bodegas it was almost nostalgic. I could imagine his life growing up on LI with his friends and their experiences with school and sports and even the crazy neighbor that he ends up respecting and admiring as he grows older. I felt like I was in the city the way Lawrence described the locations and the people he encountered, it made me want to keep reading. Aside from the great detail of NYC, the book is just engaging. The chapters are all individual memories and stories and each one is entertaining. You follow his career and you feel like you are right there with him as his partner. Some moments are horrifying, others are deeply emotional and touching. This account isn’t political, it isn’t written to sway readers to love or hate the police, it is just an account of his life. It is told on such a realistic level, he explains all the police codes and jargon as he goes along so you don’t need to Google search to constantly look up what each code calls for. It is written for the novice level reader when it comes to police terminology. A lot of this is explained though his stories as it was explained to him by his peers. It adds to the authenticity for me, Lawrence isn’t trying to impress anyone with his technical terms or fancy language, it is all just plain and simple to understand so you can focus on the experiences.

Reading Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is like watching the life of Lawrence Hoffman play out in front of you. You can’t help but become attached and be transported to those streets of New York. Even the scary moment and horrifying experiences you are right there with him and you don’t want to stop reading, you have to keep going to see how things turn out. It is not a book of happy stories, it is not all horror and gore, it is real. Life is full of good and bad, and Lawrence shows it all, he doesn’t hold back on corruption or the really good people that care deeper than you can imagine. This book drew me in and kept my interest all the way though, it is a worthy read and one you won’t regret picking up.

Pages: 394 | ASIN: B01B54DUU6

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End of Knighthood Part III: Ballad of Demise – Book Trailer

The resistance fighters have suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Chancellor Venloran. With many of his enemies dead or imprisoned, the Chancellor is ready to move to the final phase of his scheme: The International Summit. The historic event is just hours away, drawing leaders from all over the world to the United Nation Headquarters in New York City. Venloran believes peace through dominance is at last at hand.

At the same time, Will is hell bent on launching an assault on that very night, though the remaining troops are weary and few in number. The renegade cyborg has the help of tech experts Alex and Bri, along with pilot Gabriella, but the opposition may be more than they can handle. Awaiting any threat are the Chancellor’s deadliest soldiers, among them the cyborg hunter Aliss Howard and Will’s very own former superior officer, General Kane. Looming in the back of Will’s mind is the reality that innocent people will have to die to see his vengeance finally realized.

As both sides prepare to collide, none are aware that an unscrupulous politician, Secretary General Vanzetti, is eager for the bloodshed to begin.

Check out the finale of the End of Knighthood Arc and prepare for a thrill ride. The Reverence Series transcends the science fiction genre and will entertain readers of horror, war, fantasy, and even the western.

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Truth and Authenticity

John Castello Author Interview

John Costello Author Interview

Executive Hoodlum follows the true life story of John Costello where he uses his harsh upbringing to move up the corporate world. What inspired you to put your story into a book?

Ultimately there were three reasons I wrote the book:

1. I wanted to pass on the story to my kids so they have an appreciation of their legacy. Why they enjoy certain privileges, and to make certain they remain humble knowing the sacrifices that sometimes need to be made to succeed in life and for the next generation.

2. As a volunteer boxing trainer for under-privileges kids I was able to give something back to my community. It was personally rewarding to me so I wanted to give something back in a bigger way. That is to reach a larger audience of would be under dogs to demonstrate they have the opportunity to succeed no matter what the circumstances.

3. I wanted to relieve the burden of my own guilt pertaining to the last words I spoke to my mother before she died. Those words haunted me for decades. I never reconciled my differences with my father prior to his death either. We were at terrible odds as usual but he was alive long enough to make an attempt at reconciliation but chose not to, not with me anyway. Consequently I do not carry the same guilt as with my mother. I did write most of the book and long overseas plane trips and found myself crying writing a couple chapters. Now that the truth is out there, I somehow feel better.

A little background will put the situation into better perspective:

Best Selling author Larry Elder is the one who put the book idea in my head as he is a friend for about ten years. In fact, he was originally going to be my ghost writer. However, it was decided the book had to be in my words due to my slang and other vernacular to be authentic. With my busy work schedule, I was going to drop the whole thing. Problem being, I hate to start something and not finish. Technically Larry inspired me to write as he brought up the original deal as described in my acknowledgements. Prior to beginning the effort in earnest, I contemplated the above three reasons.

Note – I never intended on writing a book because I would have to relive things in my life I was successful in suppressing. However, age and maturity helped me become more open with my early family life.

Additionally, there are individuals in Chicago, New York and New Jersey that I did not want to have to deal with when it comes to some of the content. These are friends I have maintained and kept in contact over many years. I personally spoke to each person, mob boss, made guy, associate and the outlaw biker leaders individually to let them know my intention. To my surprise, to a person they noted they respected my street savvy enough to give the thumbs up.

The characters in this book were well developed and interesting. How close did you stay true to real events and what did you take liberties with?

Thankfully, I did not have to manufacture any drama. The one upside to being born a Costello!

I took no liberties because my street and business credibility are important to me. I played down certain events due to statute of limitation consideration. Most of what is in my book can be authenticated via documents I kept (murder investigations, police reports, death certificates, pictures,letters. newsreels and other documents I collected when fact checking. Additionally, there are third parties I contacted that were with me during certain events I consulted to make certain my recollections were as accurate as possible)

I’m not a big fan of fiction. Truth and authenticity are of utmost importance. This stems from certain things I know that have been portrayed in both books and movies about people I personally know or knew, that were embellished.

John finds himself surrounded by constant turmoil with gangs, members of the underworld, murder, suicide, and drug addiction. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

The ugly truth of my own family, especially the circumstances of deaths of my mother, brother and cousin.

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

There are many entertaining stories I was reminded of by friends I did not include in this book. Consequently, there may be a part two.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Facebook

Executive Hoodlum: Negotiating on the Corner of Main and Mean by [Costello, John, Elder, Larry]

Meet John Costello, Vice President of Business Development and Government Relations for Microsemi Corporation, a $6 billion leader in the advanced-semiconductor market. Well known and respected in the industry, John Costello graduated from college in 1983 with a degree in Business Administration. John’s social circle includes high-level corporate executives, politicians, military leaders and movie stars. As a young boy he played Little League baseball and Pop Warner football, and went on to become an outstanding track and cross-country runner in high school, captain of his college rowing team, and an accomplished boxer in the Golden Gloves and other tournaments. With this wholesome All-American resumé, most would think that John Costello emerged from a solid middle-class family with all the usual privileges pertaining – though nothing could be further from the truth. Costello was born into a working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s north side and grew up under quite difficult conditions. His father was a talented Italian tenor with mob connections and a proclivity for violence; his mother, the daughter of an Irish street cop, was a straight-laced Catholic girl till she took to the bottle after falling victim to that violence. Surrounded by constant turmoil and hardship involving gangs, members of the underworld, murder, suicide, drug addiction as well as physical and emotional abuse, John eventually transcended his circumstances to obtain a higher education and pursue a profitable career that entailed all the perks of an executive lifestyle inclusive of the Hollywood party circuit.

Readers who might enjoy this book are those interested in true-crime stories, mob activity, murder and mayhem, as well as anyone seeking a no-holds-barred story that describes the resilience of the human spirit. Spiced with wit and humor and distinguished by the inimitable voice of tough-talking John Costello, his story touches our hearts while keeping us on the edge of our seats.

Other comparable books include The Truthbook: A Memoir by Joy Castro, which describes a similar childhood fraught with abuse and dysfunction. The theme of destructive behavior and personal downward spiral in the fight game and mobster milieu is also taken up in Raging Bull by Jake La Motta. Then there is the true-crime and gangster activity to be found in Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob by Jeff Coen, as well as in The Neighborhood Outfit: Organized Crime in Chicago Heights by Matthew Luzi. All these works taken together give some idea of the scope of John Costello’s life as recounted in his own book.

And that is what makes our book “unique” – John Costello’s life is unique. It has been a strange blend of two distinct worlds, but with one foot firmly emplaced in each. The fact that he is comfortable meeting with Senator John McCain in the morning to discuss government business, and can then enjoy the company of old friends from the streets of Chicago in the evening, is indicative of his parallel lives and will certainly be something readers find highly intriguing. We have an extensive collection of family photos, newspaper clippings, death certificates, court papers, and other supporting documentation for all claims made, as well as music recordings and video that would introduce the amazing voice of Johnny’s father to a whole new generation.

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The Dark Legend of the Foreigner

In 17th century Japan, a battle between the shoguns and the Lees raged for a lengthy period of time. The shoguns wanted the Lees to come join their elite army, but the Lees remained neutral and peaceful people. After much harassing, the husband and wife became supreme warriors. The Lees began killing whatever shoguns threatened them. After a particularly violent, gruesome battle with the shoguns, the Lees disappeared into the Oakla Mountains for about twenty years . The mastermind, an ancient wizard siding with the shoguns, commanded what was left of the shoguns to patrol the mountains of Oakla trying to find the Lees. Decades would pass.

In those twenty long years, the Lees raised a son who would become known as “the Master.” Phenomenal genetics would breed an individual who became a far better warrior and stronger fighter then both of his parents put together. In the Master’s infantile years, the mother and father went up on the mountains of Oakla, similar to Moses’ summoning of God, where they asked their God for a sacrifice. He answered, and in return of this sacrifice, he would give their extraordinary son, the Master, the power of immortality in the form of Five Scrolls of Terror. Their God asked for the skin from their baby’s head, a threatening request, but would ultimately create a child who would grow into that of the Master: the Skulled Warrior.

As the Lees returned from Oakla on that twentieth or so year, they got ambushed and killed—an attack decades in the making. When the Master found the bodies of his parents, he naturally flew into a blind rage and killed many shoguns, slaughtering anyone who stood in his way. As he battled on Oakla Mountain, his scrolls disappeared off the mountain and were never seen again. As the Master went to the end of Oakla searching for the ancient wizard for retribution, he came across an ancient hut, and inevitably the wizard and the Master did battle. The Master would ultimately kill the wizard, but he would put a curse on the Master that would remain with the Master for nearly four hundred years. As the Master’s statue, which in reality was the curse turning him to stone, was moved by cult followers and believers, it eventually found its way to New Amsterdam, which as we know, would evolve into present-day New York City.

An adventure unfolds as the Master awakens after a four-hundred-year slumber, masked as a mysterious piece of art, to deal with our current world as we know it. And so begins The Dark Legend of The Foreigner.

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End of Knighthood: Ballad of Demise

End of Knighthood Part III: Ballad of Demise (Reverence, #4)

Ballad of Demise is the third and final installment of the End of Knighthood series by Joshua Landeros. Set in the far future, we continue following Will Marconi, the renegade cyborg super soldier, who is aiming to launch an assault the same night as the International Summit. Chancellor Venloran, emboldened by his victory against the resistance fighters, moves into the final phase of his scheme. The International Summit will draw leaders from all over the world to New York City, and he will be able to achieve peace through the dominance of his design. It is up to Will, Alex, Bri, Gabriella, and others to stop the Chancellor and his deadly minions.

Ballad of Demise is an explosive and satisfying conclusion to the End of Knighthood trilogy. Landeros has been getting better and better with every installment. Expanding the borders of military science fiction, Ballad of Demise incorporates elements of horror through war and the suspense of a thriller. All of this adds up to a book that does its best to defeat the conventions of the genre and archetypal narrative structure.

While confining this book to virtually 48 hours and flashbacks, one would think this is a bold move from a relatively new author, but Landeros manages to pull this off with skill. The pace is snappy and engrossing for the reader. The internal struggle of Will and even Venloran shape the tone and theme of the work, which keeps asking if the ends justify the means. Even for the proposed hero, Will finds himself questioning if everything is acceptable for him to have his vengeance.

If there are any issues in this book at all, it would be that Landeros tries hard to stretch out these two days. Some of the action seems forced, and in other places, the dialogue slows the pacing but never enough for the reader to notice for too long. These are minimal problems and ones that take nothing away from the story itself.

For a trilogy, this series sets a high mark for the rest of Landeros career. In other ways, readers will be sad to see this cast of characters go but maybe they will return in future stories? Either way, this book is memorable and a fantastic sound off for Will Marconi. One can hope that such a world does not arise in the future, but these books seem to be asking, what if?

Pages: 161 | ASIN: B076BW7YLJ

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Shadow of the Moon

Shadow of the Moon: A Fantasy of Love, Murder and Werewolves by [Griffeth, Kwen]

Shadow of the Moon, written by Kwen Griffeth, follows Special Agent Adaline “Andee” Trakes and Detective Gerald Meeker who are sent to a shocking crime scene in Central Park. Here, a faceless man sparks the beginning of a thrilling investigation into the life and death of a diplomat’s son.

Together they work on the case where they uncover an unusual aspect of the murder. Werewolves, or more importantly, a werewolf executioner, seems to be on the loose. Baffled by the case, Trakes is sent to meet with a history professor, Alwyn Lloyd, who specializes in myths and legends. Andee Trakes will soon learn that there may be some truth behind the notion of werewolves as she delves deep into a world of hierarchy and crime. Who is the killer behind these gruesome attacks?

Shadow of the Moon is a crime novel with a dash of supernatural mystery that will have you fixed to the edge of your seat. Prepare to be taken on a wild ride as you uncover gruesome secrets involving werewolves, FBI agents, and killers. There’s a taste of everything in this novel, from crime to romance, to action and mystery.

The first scene is gruesome, with a man who has been shot with what appears to be a canon to his face. Even the tracker dogs are avoiding the scene like the plague, leaving the agents baffled by the scene. Andee Trakes takes on the case, determined to get the bottom of the killer’s intentions, even if she stumbles across more than what she bargained for. Arthur Hubbard, the Special Agent in Charge of the case, is wary of her and how much she has been shifted around. Trakes takes it in her stride and proves that she is more than just a pretty face. She’s confident, smart and understands the motives of killers better than most.

One of my favorite characters was Professor Alwyn Lloyd. Lloyd is smooth, sexy and claims to be an Alpha werewolf. When Trakes goes to meet Lloyd for information, there is an instant attraction between the pair. However, there is more to Lloyd then meets the eye and Trake’s must divide her attention between her attraction to the Professor and government business. Lloyd provides deep intel into the history of werewolves, leaving the reader with the impression that they could potentially be a very real and alive.

Shadow of the Moon takes readers on a journey where they are able to visit the parks, city, and homes of the people who live in the great city of New York. Kwen Griffeth paints a picture of a busy city life and provides a stark imagery contrasted with Trakes visits to the countryside. Griffeth, as usual, provides a literary masterpiece that will capture the reader’s attention with its clever plot line and intriguing characters.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys being kept on their toes as they delve into crime, romance, and supernatural beings.

Pages: 336 | ASIN: B075XCD516

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Manhunt

A cop killing in New York throws up all the horrors of the Vietnam War.

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To Never Know

To Never Know

To Never Know depicts the story of Steven Lewis, and how he is affected by his life choices, his stalled inertia, and forces far beyond his control.

To Never Know, by Thomas Duffy, is a millennialist coming of age drama centered on the late adolescence and early adulthood of the main character, Steven Lewis.  The story starts in 1994 in Queens, New York. Steven is in his Senior year of High School. Steven has a crush on a girl in his class, Kelly Brennan. She seems to be interested in him, finding excuses to interact by asking for his notes and a stick of gum. But he never works up the courage to ask her to Prom.

The story skips past graduation and things have changed for Steven. His life continues a downward progression: his grades are not as good at college as they were in High School, he drops out, takes some time off. He tried calling Kelly again, but he could not bring himself to talk to her.

A family friend encourages him to send Kelly a letter, so he does, on September 10, 2001. Keeping in mind that Kelly lives in New York, you can make some good guesses about where the story goes after that, but this story packs a lot more into it, as Steven’s life events continue to unfold.

This story is an exploration of millennialist worries and fears in a post-9/11 life: adulthood with its ever-increasing responsibilities, how to live a good life, intimacy, isolation, establishing one’s self-identity, and the existential fear of death. The story is deeply emotional, with conflicting emotions. The quality of writing is strong enough to convey nuanced emotions and details. There were a few copy editing issues, but none bad enough to detract from the powerful meaning of the story.

The title, To Never Know, gives some insight into the central themes within the story. There is a strain of philosophical agnosticism (not in the religious sense) that there are unknown unknowns in our lives and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. There is also the theme that there are “bells that cannot be un-rung.”  Steven cannot go and have the relationship he wanted. We will never know what life would have been like if one thing would have been changed in the distant past, and we cannot know what tomorrow will bring.

This book is good, but really heavy at times. It is intended for adult audiences, and probably best understood by older millennials. There are depictions of sex, death, terrorism, and coarse language. The content of the story takes an odd twist at one point, and the end is unexpected.

Pages: 208 | ASIN: B01K7RYJB6

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