A gut-wrenching journey through life is portrayed in the pages of Shame, Guilt, and Surviving Martin Bryant by Karen Collyer. It’s a short read, but the raw emotions within the page are heavy, terrifying and intense. This book follows Karen through her life as a very young girl towards where she is today and spares no detail. Karen’s life has not been kind to her, and the novella is not afraid to tell readers exactly what horrors she has gone through. This is not a book for those who are emotionally fragile or have troubles reading about assault and rape. These horrific events are laid out in painstaking detail as well as the trauma Karen faced when she was stalked by the man who committed the massacre in Port Arthur.
The book takes great pains to let readers know what they are getting into before it even begins. Readers should pay careful attention to the trigger warning at the beginning, as it accurately describes the type of events that take place in the book. The book, however, is a powerful tool that demonstrates the ways in which deep rooted emotional scars can shape our lives.
Karen tells the story from the perspective of the ‘wide-eyed girl’. This serves to disconnect the author from the story in a sense that readers may forget they are reading a memoir of sorts. This also allows readers to avoid projecting the feelings of the protagonist on themselves, as can often happen when stories are told from the first person perspective. This makes the story powerful and allows readers to relate on a deeper level. Those with empathy may feel drained after reading the emotional journey Karen had to go through.
This book states that it is a journey from terror to joy. Upon reading the book and now writing this review, it is hard to see where joy comes into play. There are several times that the protagonist Karen embarks on ventures that light her up and cause her to feel elated and wonderful, however by the end of the story there is no confirmation that she was able to obtain the happiness she is long overdue. Yes, she barely survived being a victim of Martin Bryant, but where is the confirmation of her happiness? Where is the consolation for the readers that the wide-eyed girl made it and was able to attain joy? It’s not explicitly stated, just implied. It leaves one wondering, in a good way, where one finds this confirmation in life.
For those who are looking for a short but meaningful book that will take them on a roller-coaster of emotions, Shame, Guilt, and Surviving Martin Bryant by Karen Collyer is a must read. It’s gripping, tears at the heartstrings and exposes the ugliness of the ‘don’t tell’ culture that is still alive and well today.
Pages: 174 | ASIN: B07B8Y47XR
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Masks by Nataly Restokian is salacious from the very beginning. We’re brought into the story where two relative strangers are having a one-night stand, one married woman with a lover on the side! It may appear to be an adult erotica novel at first, but keep reading, this is only one of the many layers to the plot that got me hooked and kept me flipping pages.
The protagonist is a fiery but spirited female named Anna that is surrounded by the glitz and glamour of the television industry. She is beautiful and successful, with her own show that sets her up to be an icon to woman in her country. The background setting gives the story a more visceral feel as one goes through the story. Anna is confident, daring, unstoppable and vivacious, but she is also hurting, bitter and cynical. She puts on her masks, as props to keep up appearances, lest others take advantage of her. The story evolves quickly and picks up speed from the risque beginning. Anna’s pursuit of happiness takes the reader on an emotional ride through the dark side of fame and fortune.
The story takes place in different cities throughout the middle-east which give you the same globe trotting feeling that Anna must have felt. I’ve never visited any of these places so this all seemed magically exotic to me. The settings are genuine and natural and lend to the emotional turmoil of the story.
There is a fresh feel in the author’s approach as she has been a keen observer of the societal nuances of the region, and is able to express it in terms that I felt were original and thought provoking. People from the west are inundated with reports everyday in the media and news channels about the region’s political and economic turmoil and forgets completely about the people, as individuals, living their lives. Hoping for a better future, like Anna. That’s what I like most about this story, that it’s a human story that I could relate to, because sometimes we too wear masks. I admire this story because it casts the region and culture in a different light, one that is not a hot spot for terror but instead brings forth the spirit of resilience. The spirit that makes people persevere in the face of difficulties and yet still have a passion for life. People that are scarred by their past, but not a prisoner of it. I feel that Anna embodies this spirit. I was intrigued by the exotic setting, Anna’s complex character, and the twists and turns that the story took as she risked it all in her quest for love and acceptance. I highly recommend this book.
Pages: 221 | ASIN: B07BB6RMDS
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Masks is a dark fictional tale, based on true-life events. It narrates the adventures of a young Armenian girl born in Lebanon in the seventies. She dreams of fame and power in Lebanon and the Arab world and shows resilience and motivation beyond her years. The novel delves into the world of the protagonist, Anna, who is surrounded by social, religious, and sexual taboos. She fiercely breaks the chains to enter the world she has strived to reach, in a seemingly conservative society barely emerging from a civil war. She builds her success on her remaining values, challenging her fate and sparing no way means to attain her goals.
As a disappointment to her parents, she walks the challenging paths alone, making her way toward fame and fortune despite lacking the support system to do so. Doors begin to open for her, and she enters the world of Arab celebrities. She is now a public figure in the Middle East, living an immoral married life in a materialistic world surrounded by influential business people and royal family members. She tries, in vain, to fill the void in her soul with sexual adventures and controversy by taking a wide variety of lovers. Her adventures invariably end in misery, doing nothing to awaken her from her numbness. Still, her vivid, out-of-control personality helps her move forward while simultaneously getting her in trouble. In the early stages of her life, she has suffered the unthinkable, being bullied and raped, with the civil war a constant backdrop throughout most of her childhood. The novel delves deep into Anna’s mind as she has flashbacks of the trauma she has suffered, offering the reader a hint of an explanation for her behavior.
In a society in which men dominate women, she is one of the few who realize that fashion, social status, plastic surgeries, and bright smiles are not the answer to happiness. She lives in a world where a girl is only worth as much as her virginity, where women do not dare to ask for a divorce, where the fear of retribution keeps them locked in a cage that is very rarely gilded.
As fame, money, and power slowly eat at her soul, the arrogant Anna falls in love with a total stranger—a young, single bachelor from Canada—after a night of secret passion. That is where the story begins to unravel as she returns home with a scandal in her back pocket, her eyes and ears and heart tuned to this man instead of her husband. Anna realizes that neither her marriage nor her achievements have ever made her happy, so she decides to throw it all away. The lies and deceit that fill the so-called glamorous life she has been leading are floating up to the surface, including her husband’s infidelity and the critical steps she has taken to reach the top.
Marriage, family, career—all destroyed to be united with the stranger. She starts a new battle, this time struggling to change her destiny for someone she barely knows, who lives oceans apart and offers her nothing except his heart.
She risks everything, turning her whole life upside down. Anna realizes that her happiness, inner peace, and love are found worlds away from her own, with someone she would never have expected to be her soul mate. Still, Anna’s sacrifices are not behind her, and the struggle has not yet ended, although she has found what she has needed all her life: redemption and unconditional love.
The stranger enigmatically hints at emotions in Anna that have been hidden for a long time behind the masks of her dark and shallow lifestyle.
The characters in the story are the voices of so many who do not dare to speak up in a world where social and religious standards openly chastise the very actions that behind closed doors have become the ultimate paradigmatic way of life.
Posted in book trailer
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A Deal With God tells the tale of sweethearts Rebeccah and Leon whos fates are intertwined after a romantic summer night. What were some themes you wanted to capture in their relationship?
I believe the reason “Deal” has been so popular with readers and reviewers alike is because the interpersonal relationship between the characters are so real. The truth is there relationship between Leon and Rebeccah was very rocky. She blamed him for everything that was wrong in her life. The night before his marriage to Deana he tells her he is shocked to be remarrying because his first marriage was so bad.
This book is inspired by a true story. What were the real events that you used in this book?
The real event in question is that she actually died in the car wreck in chapter 2. Most characters in this book are based on actual people with real personalities and emotions. I love asking readers if they can tell me which parts of the book are real and actual verses what I made up.
We learn about Deana’s life and her hardships at the beginning of the story which builds a beautiful persona. What were some things that surprised you the most about Deana?
To keep the man who raped her from ever finding her when he got out of prison they changed her name and put in her in a boys orphanage in a different school zone. My old asst coach said it best: “If you asked Murphy (Deana) to run through a brick wall she would be back in a few minutes with a sledge hammer.” The story is unique in the feature it gives you the best of both fiction and non-fiction literary worlds.
Deana Murphy endured a life and death of brutality and hardship. She met every challenge God gave her and it made her stronger and stronger. God had a plan for her and she would need every ounce of this strength. Deana always dreamed of a bigger life. However, she never realized smaller can be just perfect. She wants romance and love, but she never realized sometimes it can take a little Divine intervention. In return, though, Deana senses the payback price will be steep. it is something big but God does not fully disclose the task. Desperate for a second chance, Deana agrees to do “anything ” God desires.
Deana Murphy had been unlucky at love. Yet the man who was perfect for her lived in one of the smallest towns in the United States. When God gave her a second chance at life, he was actually playing matchmaker. He sends her to rural Georgia, deep in the country to meet Leon Samuel’s. Sparks fly and love prospers as these two paths intertwine. This book features the greatest pick up line any woman can use on a man .“A Deal with God” is the romance novel readers have been waiting for.
Posted in Interviews
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Heartbreaker, by Thomas Duffy, is a dramatic story about a young woman, Amber Robertson. The book opens in Brooklyn on Amber’s 19th birthday. Her birthday is eventful as it is the first time she is arrested (for stealing). While in jail, she meets Missy, another young woman, who has been arrested for prostitution. As Amber and Missy talk, Amber decides that the life of an escort is as good as any other (and could help her earn some much needed money).
Amber starts her business with some online advertising as an independent escort. Unfortunately, she immediately draws the attention of a pimp, Pete. He starts making promises of protection for a cut of Amber’s money. Soon, her landlord, wants to evict her, so she starts renting motel rooms.
Unfortunately, she soon faces bigger problems. She’s kidnapped by one of her clients and starts a sordid love affair with another that eventually makes a sudden turn into something even more frightening.
As you can imagine, this book is complex and not necessarily a feel-good story. Heartbreaker’s protagonist, Amber, goes on a wild and weird anti-heroic arc right from the beginning of the story and the audience can see how those early misfortunes lead to an increasingly painful and tumultuous life. She initially presents as both hesitant and impulsive; constantly not sure about what she wants to do, but will then make a sudden and foolhardy decision.
As a reader, there is some sympathy for Amber. She ends up in pretty bad situations. Anytime things start to look as though they may improve for her, it only gets worse. Yet, she is also frustrating. Her impulsivity sometimes leads her into her worst outcomes. For example, late in the story she takes bold, rash action. Of course, I am avoiding sharing the ending here to prevent spoilers, so you will have to read for yourself to see how Amber’s story fully unfolds.
This story, in its own way, forces the reader to examine the evil that can hide in people. The evil, within the story is almost infectious, capable of spreading from person to person, evolving and mutating along the way as it collides with new lives, who act it out in their own unique way. Amber’s progression through the story seems to demonstrate her methods for confronting the evil in her past and present. It shows how she, like anyone, is capable of becoming somewhat immune to bad acts, bad people, and a bad life. Like so many people, she acts out what she has seen and experienced by replicating pain onto others.
This book is well-written, but I felt there were some issues with the pacing. At points the story seemed to drag out, such as during Amber’s interactions with Miguel and Jeffrey. I think these could have been shortened up a bit without losing any essential character development. Heartbreaker is written for mature, adult readers, who enjoy dramatic characters in intense and emotional situations.
Pages: 184 | ASIN: B017UZDW02
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Karen Glista sets the book The Taking of Peggy Martin in the deep south of Texas. The book details the tribulations of a once God-fearing widowed nurse known as Peggy. She suffers from sleeplessness, which she takes advantage of to regale tales of her childhood and traumatizing loss of her husband. We see her struggle in a mental asylum and her contact with a wild young man by the name of Morgan in Piney wood thicket. The author mingles horror with science fiction to illuminate the mystery in the book. The author uses lots of colorful language to conceal the horror of murder, rape, and macabre details witnessed by Peggy.
The author does a great job of keeping the readers interest in the book despite the vile and gory details. Peggy witnesses what we would call horrendous encounters of eviscerations, decapitations, and murder. To those who are not fans of horror, the flowery language of the author encourages one to read on. However, the author uses colloquial expression and slang which would keep the reader unfamiliar with Texan dialect researching on what some of the words mean.
I tried to pin down what genre this book would be in, but then gave up and just enjoyed the blend of mystery, horror and macabre recounts in the Texan thicket.
Within just the first quarter of the book the author has packed so much information character building that sets the rest of the book up nicely to proceed with vigor punctuated by horribly enthralling events. For those who love the quick speeds at which the story unfolds, you would thoroughly enjoy this edge-of-seat thriller.
Peggy comes across as a pious lady who is unfortunately haunted by her past. She is enigmatic and one cannot tell what caused her husband’s death or if she had anything to do with her dark past… “The more we learn about her, the darker she gets”. Peggy is a strong, resilient lady, given her struggle at the mental asylum. We do not have much information about Morgan except that he is mute and wild, having grown into a feral man. The author has employed various styles in the book such as contrast, colloquialism, vivid description, and slang. The main ideas in the story revolve around rape, murder, and mental instability.
The Taking of Peggy Martin has excellent narration and is an engaging and mysterious thriller that touches even the deepest of our emotions. The plot has a nice flow that takes you through Peggy’s emotional roller coaster, and as things unfold, we can unravel some of the issues in the book.
Pages: 382 | ASIN: B07466DS5H
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Dark, gritty, and altogether brutal, Steel, Blood and Fire is an archetypal dark fantasy novel. In the first chapter, one of the main character’s hands and feet are amputated, and the story continues in similar fashion from there onward. The setting is fantasy grounded in muddy reality, although there is a vein of consequential magic that adds a little sorcery to this otherwise swords-based world. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones then you’re familiar with Allen Betchelder’s style; multiple character perspectives, inter-weaved story lines, and a healthy dose of murder. It’s a fantastic modern-style medieval fantasy, and a definite read for any fan of the genre.
When I began Steel, Blood and Fire, my first thought was, “Wow, this is a lot like Game of Thrones.” Then I began to think, “Or is it more of a Witcher book?” As I continued through the novel, I began to decide it was a blend of both. By the end, I thought that perhaps it was its own thing.
The book isn’t afraid to touch on the brutal. In fact, it seems to revel in it. Blood flows freely; rape is the buzzword of the day. It’s a mature novel for sure although it doesn’t quite cross the line, but regularly toes it. A lesser author would have toppled their novel over into prurient pulp.
The writing is well-executed, with the author’s own voice clearly shining through. There is one trap that Allen Betchelder tends to fall into, and that’s the ‘fear of said’. Every other sentence seems to find a new synonym – characters question, murmur, mutter, bellow, but words are never just ‘said’. It’s awkward to read, and tends to draw you out of conversations that should flow naturally.
In any perspective-hopping plot, characters are one of the most important factors. Fortunately, Steel, Blood and Fire features a strong and memorable, if slightly generic, cast. They come off as slightly one-dimensional, particularly towards the start of the novel, and the inclusion of a comedy group of village bumpkins – who of course meet with terrible fates – struck me as being an attempt at generating some frisson with the grim background. Other than those minor niggles, the diversity and depth of the cast begins to truly shine through around the midway point; from here onward they become much more than the sum of their parts.
Despite my above criticisms, I really did enjoy the story, and it quickly became engaging only a few pages in. If you’re a fan of the genre, particularly Game of Thrones-esque fantasy, you’ll certainly enjoy Betchelder’s offering.
Pages: 548 | ASIN: B00AW53RMQ
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Fireflies of the Dead takes readers on a horrifying journey of blood seeking killers and revenge loving victims. What was the inspiration for this collection of short stories?
I’ve always been a fan of exploitation horror films, which I think really shows in the stories in this collection. I’ve been fascinated with rape revenge films such as Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave for as long as I can remember. The boldness and grit of those films are what really drew me into them. I am a horror fan and as a horror fan I wrote stories that I myself would enjoy reading.
What was your favorite short story in the collection and why?
That is tough for me to answer because each story I like for different reasons. If I had to narrow it down, I would think my favorite is Watching Over Loved. I think it’s the darkest story in the collection. It contains no gore at all but packs a punch.
The stories are preceded by poems that help set the tone of the next story. What made you go with this format for your collection?
My previous books besides Burning Down Paradise were horror poetry collections dealing with extreme horror. As a reader, I’ve always loved reading short story collections. Especially when it’s a collection written by an author I’ve never heard or read before. I thought the poems would both serve as a way to set up the tone of each story as well as serve as stopping points for the reader.
I didn’t notice that any of the stories were connected, but they stood on their own well. Was there any overarching theme you tried to use in the collection?
Yes, some of the stories do share a common theme which might be hard to see through the violence and gore for some readers. In a lot of my work, I focus on themes of loss, loneliness and trying to find one’s place in the world.
Are you currently working on any full-length books? If so, when will the next book be published?
I’m working on a new draft a Novella I do not yet have a title for. It kind of serves as a sequel to my book Burning Down Paradise but yet is a stand alone story as well. I don’t want to give away much right now but I will say it takes place in a prison.
An alien from a distant world falls to earth with an insatiable craving for human flesh and something even more frightening, a desire to mate! Witness the tragic tale of a lonely man with an unhealthy affection toward the fire.
Seven short stories and poems that will take you on a blood-soaked thrill ride filled with mayhem and horrific images.
Fireflies of the Dead will chill your blood.
Posted in Interviews
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