Hart St. Martin takes us back to the lands of Garla and Thristas in Protector of Thristas, a novel that takes place fifteen years after the tumultuous One Day War. Rinli is the daughter of Korin and Lisen, and due to a prophecy created at her birth, she’s destined to be the Protector of the desert land of Thristas. While trying to guide Rinli on her path to becoming Protector, Lisen is faced with something far more challenging than ever before: she must do everything in her power to gain her teenage daughter’s long-lost sense of trust.
After becoming so invested in the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, I was thrilled to grab a copy of Protector of Thristas. There’s nothing I enjoy more than watching a fantasy world evolve over generations. Lisen and Korin have three children – Rinli, Nasera, and Insenlo – but Rinli is the only one who has a prophecy that she must fulfill.
Through highly emotional moments in the novel, the story definitely emulates how exhausting it is for the whole family when they are all separated. The story jumps between Avaret (the city where Lisen rules as Empir of Garla) and Thristas, where Rinli is required to stay for periods of time. The two lands have a very tense relationship, which forced Lisen to designate Rinli as the Protector of Thristas in an attempt to resolve these issues. As a result, Rinli and Korin must travel between the two lands several times a year.
As a sucker for romantic subplots, I loved seeing how fifteen years of marriage has impacted Korin and Lisen – due to the constant traveling on Korin’s end, they’ve grown even closer than they were in the first trilogy. Their bond even causes Korin to develop psychic-like powers, where he can sense when something bad is happening to Lisen or Rinli.
One of my favorite things about this novel is how Rinli has Lisen’s stubbornness and Korin’s perceptiveness, and her development throughout the novel kept the story captivating and fun. Something that separates her from her mother is that Rinli has an affinity for the desert land of Thristas, and her loyalty to Thristas is compounded by her close relationship with Madlen, her most trusted companion. She is especially resistant to the idea that she has her mother’s magic abilities, and this gets her into trouble at a few points in the novel.
Themes of forgiveness and trust pop up throughout the novel, highlighting the tense mother-daughter relationship between Lisen and Rinli. Hart weaves this tension throughout the entire plot, bringing the reader closer to these characters. Lisen can’t forgive herself for sentencing Rinli to her fate as the Protector of Thristas, while Rinli struggles to trust her mother. When Rinli discovers she may need her mother’s wisdom in order to understand her responsibility as a Protector, the two begin to develop a relationship.
Protector of Thristas is an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least, and it’s a breath of fresh air in a sea full of action-forward fantasy novels. As entrenched in fantasy as it is, this novel does a beautiful job of capturing raw human emotions of happiness, anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear, especially when dealing with challenging mother-daughter relationships and the connections between a parent and a child. The cliffhanger ending left me feeling some of those emotions myself, and I can’t wait to see if Hart will continue sharing more adventures from this world.
Pages: 452 | ASIN: B01E7NYLRI
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Stirring is a thrilling supernatural novel that sets a towns families against nightmares and tortured souls of evil that will pull them into the depths of their darkest days. What was the inspiration for the setup to this suspenseful novel?
I grew up watching monster movies – vampire movies in particular – with my mom. We especially liked the Hammer film series, starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and The Night Stalker films and TV series, starring Darren McGavin. Also highly influential on me was the Salem’s Lot miniseries that aired in 1979, starring David Soul and James Mason. Dark Shadows and other such films and television series also played a role in developing my take on the genre.
I started writing stories in earnest when I was a young teenager, and that’s really when Descendent Darkness was born. It was one of the first ideas that I began developing, and was partially born out of a weird experience I had. I got up early one summer morning, well before sunrise, and went out for a walk near a wooded area of our neighborhood. From a distance, I saw a man walking under a street light, and not far behind him, coming up quickly, was a woman with a very creepy expression on her face. Being the imaginative sort, I thought: What if she were a vampire? What if she was stalking the guy and about to jump him and drag him off into the woods? From there, I started down the Night Stalker/Salem’s Lot path, thinking on the subject of how vampires would operate in the modern world.
As for the setting, my family is from the Shenandoah Valley. It’s such an old area, and so full of history, that it seemed a natural location for a story of this type. The mountains have a mysterious quality to them that isn’t easy to put into words.
Stirrings is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a mystery, crime, and drama as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
It was definitely an organic thing. I had a basic story outline formed in my mind, but it changed many times after I started writing and getting to “know” my characters. I had to figure out how to bring vampires into the real world, and that meant dealing with real world issues in an unreal situation: How would the murders be explained? How would law enforcement deal with the situation, given that outsiders would never believe the truth? How would real people react to genuinely encountering the supernatural? What effect would keeping secrets about these things have on people over time? How would relationships change? How would a real vampire seek to protect itself and take victims in the modern world?
All of these considerations caused the story to branch out in many directions and develop a number of layers.
The relationship between the siblings Holly and Mike is intricate and relateable as they battle together, sacrificing their souls to save their family. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
Their parents raised them with a strong sense of family loyalty, but the tragic loss of their mother drove them together in a particularly strong way. They share a bond, not only as siblings but also as survivors. Books two and three reveal more of their background and illustrate why they have the relationship they do. This is a key aspect of the story as it moves forward.
Stirrings is book one in the Descendent Darkness series. Where does book two, Legacy, take readers?
Legacy picks up immediately where Stirrings leaves off. The curse the men of the town hoped they had buried forever has finally been set free, and the number one item on its agenda is vengeance. A game of cat-and-mouse is set into motion, with the mice unaware of the game until they’re already caught up in it. We learn something of the true extent of a vampire’s powers and even delve into their origins.
Legacy contains more action and further develops the main characters. The reader also meets some new characters who will factor heavily into the events of the final book. It’s here that everything blows up and the secrets come out, setting up the end game.
In 1982, three men in rural Clarke’s Summit, Virginia, faced an ancient terror, a curse that reached for them from out of the distant past, threatening to destroy them and to draw everyone they loved into everlasting darkness. Together, they paid the ultimate price and drove the shadows back, burying the secret of Clarke’s Summit for what they hoped would be all time.
Now, twenty-one years later, Richard Gaston, deputy sheriff Tom Campbell, and Father Ryan Bennett fear that the power they once defeated may be growing strong once again, ready to break free of its prison. For another amongst them – a tortured soul who was once the bondservant of evil – there can be no doubt. A familiar voice is taunting him, calling him back into the service of darkness.
And for Richard’s son and daughter, Mike and Holly Gaston, the nightmares they’ve had all their lives are about to take shape in the real world.
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Another Summer, written by Sue Lilley, tells the story of Evie and Joe, a married couple who have hit a rocky patch after uncovering lies and secrets within their marriage. Evie escapes to Cliff Cottage, a house left by her grandmother to do some soul searching whilst Joe stumbles through the countryside in an effort to find her. Old and new romances will be sparked as the couple reflect on their marriage and the twists and turns of their relationship. Will they reignite their old romance or will the lies and deceit be the final straw for Evie and Joe?
Another Summer begins with an awkward phone call that will change the marriage of Joe and Evie forever. Evie manages her grief through running away whilst her husband, dressed in expensive Hugo Boss attire, drowns his sorrows in a bar contemplating his next move. Prepare for a rollercoaster of emotions as Joe decides to chase after the leading lady of his life.
Summer flings, beach shacks and indie bands will come together for a teasing storyline that at times is hot and heavy with its seductive characters. Though the plot is steamy, the pace of the book is a little slow at times. I believe this was intentionally done to drive the readers to develop a burning desire to learn more. Another Summer questions the integrity of relationships and whether you would return to a partner after deceit. Many of us perceive relationships to be black and white, however, this love story opens the door to the possibility that love may be a grey area instead.
Sue Lilley’s ability to bring the characters to life left me feeling genuinely concerned for the fate of each character and their relationships. Even the small roles of the story had their own individual plot that I quickly became invested in. One of the characters, Lisa, is a lost and lonely teenager, desperate for answers and acceptance of a male figure in her life. Even though she seems like a lost cause, the reader will be inclined to fall for her sweet demeanour as she tackles her own demons alongside the ride with Joe.
The dreamy Jake will enter Evie’s life at a time where she feels the most vulnerable. With his boyish good looks and charming personality, it’s hard not to find yourself hoping he ends up whisking her away on a much deserved romantic holiday! But just like all of us, Jake is only human and has his own flaws and nuances to match.
I enjoyed how the story paralleled real life with places in the present sparking memories of the past for Evie and Joe. The flashbacks into the past will remind the reader of their own teenage romances and the hormonal dramas that came with first kisses, parties and summer romances.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a romantic novel that questions whether relationships have the strength to survive the test of time. Does time heal old wounds? Should Evie return to Joe? Only time will tell.
Pages: 215 | ASIN: B00R9S9TFI
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Paradoxical: What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married, by Richard Homawoo, is a book that is summed up by the title. The author gives the exact tools and techniques that anyone, who is hoping for an honest authentic relationship, can use. Homawoo goes chapter by chapter unpacking his title and gives the readers easy morsels of information to digest, while also sharing his experience and knowledge of marriage and relationships. He covers the whole spectrum from knowing “yourself” to knowing what works within a relationship. He does this while still maintaining a very conversational tone, unpacking any jargon or other complicated terminology as it comes up. Overall, it comes across as an accessible book for anyone with passing interest in love.
What struck me first with this book, is how upfront Homawoo is with himself and why he chose to write on this topic. Love is often a complicated and complex thing to understand, especially in the context of marriage, yet here he has managed to simplify it enough to contain it within 200 pages. His writing is very clear and his roadmap is easy to follow as he goes from topic to topic.
Being recently married, I found some of the subject matter rather self-explanatory, if not obvious, but then Homawoo clearly aims to give this book to those who have yet to fall in love and experience it. His approaches to the various topics of compatibility and working with your partner are practical without any hiding the often “messy” reality. He maintains a very honest tone, especially with describing how love can feel at the outset, but also after the “honeymoon” phase as well. Love is no picnic!
Despite Homawoo’s own admittance that he is a shareologist not a therapist or counselor, I appreciated his incorporation of other writers and thinkers, such as Freud and Socrates. If nothing else these earlier thinkers help engage those readers, who may be seeking supplemental reading and could pursue those writers after reading Homawoo’s. It was one feeling I did receive from reading this book, which is that it felt like an introduction. He does mean this book for young couples and those just beginning to understand the often “paradoxical” nature of love and what that entails.
The best piece of advice, for even a seasoned “lover”, was his tips for managing certain aspects of the relationship. These aspects include stress, decision, and conflict management. I believe I’d heard of such things in the past, but Homawoo is able to explain them in a succinct and linked way that makes it part of a greater whole. I would say that most of this is connected to a greater whole, because it is love after all.
I’d recommend this book for high schoolers and college students, especially those in serious relationships. It would even be a good read for those of us in long term relationships, because it is always nice to have a reminder.
Pages: 226 | ASIN: B01NBJ68R9
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The Jealous Flock by Ashley Borodin is a realistic fiction story that centers around the slightly strained relationship of a married couple and their lives as individuals in partnership and their young adult son. The narrative drops readers directly into the lives of the characters featured and lets you explore their lives and innermost thoughts as they struggle with identity and the maturing of unique ideas. Heavily geared towards deep thinking, challenging societal ideals, and the mass acceptance of those who are different, The Jealous Flock is a story that is designed to open the audience’s mind and heart and think outside of the box.
What seems to be an ordinary, white picket fence family in England takes the spotlight in a vivid narrative from each character’s point of view. Hints of tension between Doris and Martin, a married couple both caught up in their jobs, play their part on their son John who is beginning to phase into his adult life from that of a teenager. As Martin travels to Afghanistan to help stop a potential blood bath with jihadists, Doris is left at home to struggle through the differences in her personal opinions and morals as they pertain to her career in the law as a PR agent. Meanwhile, left behind in his parents own crisis, John quits his respectable job and flees overseas where he hopes to find himself and pursue his passion for photography. In Australia, he follows the steps of his father in participating in protests that aren’t always peaceful to defend Muslims battling hate and discrimination. Here he meets Randall, an unhappy widower pursuing an unusual relationship with a transgender prostitute who is stuck in her own shell of self-hatred.
The relationships in The Jealous Flock are realistic and relatable, breathing life into the characters both on their own and in harmony with their counterparts. The story takes on a political drive with themes of racism, xenophobia, and sexism as strong elements in the plot. Dynamics between the father and son of this story are particularly captivating, as Borodin manages to catch those meaningful moments that happen during the shift from parent to lifelong friend and mentor.
Ashley Borodin makes a strong call to arms to fight against society’s expectation of us in any walk of life. In a way, the author has created a coming-of-age story not just for young adults but for those in later years as well. This story dives deep into your thoughts and twists open the cap on unique thinking and encourages ideas of change and acceptance. The graphic, bold way that the author takes depression and insecurities relatable to everyone is a refreshing breath of life and gives you the chance to realize that you are more than what a shallow skin can provide for you. Though a bit wordy and emotionally daunting, Borodin transcribes a striking narrative that has the ability to strike the hearts of those who yearn for something more than mundane life.
Pages: 66 | ASIN: B01NAPZWB8
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In His Way tells the story of your second marriage to a Deputy Sheriff and being a mother of three; a volunteeraholic and a workaholic living together. What made you want to write about your life and put it out there for the world?
To be completely honest, I’m not a writer. I’m a numbers kinda gal. Back in the days when I worked for a paycheck, I did Bookkeeping or Accounting.
As my husband was dealing with his health issues, God made it clear I was to share with others, through a book, how I was getting through it. I was to write about my transition of no faith in anything, to faith in God Almighty, which brought hope, forgiveness and love into my world.
In His Way is a beautifully written memoir. I felt you left nothing out. Why was it important for you to give a faithful retelling of your life?
It was important for me to be all in when writing this book because ultimately, I desire the reader to feel connected to the story. I believe many people, if not everyone, can relate to something I have shared, because they too have gone through it. It’s important for the reader to feel the pain, relief, distress or joy as I experienced it for that connection to be made.
What was one of the hardest moments of your life to write about?
The hardest part of the book to write about was the relationship with my mom. It took many rewrites and a lot of tears to openly admit how this relationship affected who I am today.
What do you hope readers take away from In His Way?
I hope each reader would know they are never alone in any situation. God is right there beside them, waiting to be invited into their circumstance, to offer His comfort. Also, there is always many who have walked the same road they are on and willing to bring them help and encouragement, but they must first let their pain or difficulty be known.
Are you working on another book? If so, when will that be published?
No, I’m not currently working on another book. I do however, have a blog, inhisway.net, that I write on occasionally.
Throughout much of my married life, I lived under the illusion that I had it all together – it was everyone else that needed fixing. Several years into my second marriage my husband, a Deputy Sheriff, became a workaholic and was never home. Meanwhile, I became a volunteeraholic, too busy to face the fact that we had become two strangers under one roof, raising three kids.
God revealed Himself to me through the different women I volunteered with. As my heart slowly opened to God’s presence, my marriage came crashing down around me. As I cried out for God’s help, I discovered my husband’s affair. I found myself surrounded by faithful people who gave me the strength to face the problems in my marriage and the tools needed to begin fixing it.
Over the next four years, my husband’s health deteriorated and he was forced to retire. Through this God continually showed me I was In His Way and then, when He knew He had my attention, He would proceed to show me how to do things In His Way. In the end, what God told me to do, saved my husband’s life, and our marriage. What was broken is now fixed by the grace and love of God.
Posted in Interviews
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In His Way by Rebecca Duvall is a personal journey of her life and how she came to discover God. Duvall goes through many trials in her life. Everything that life could throw, divorce, children, financial situations, and serious illnesses, she faced. It is through this intimate journey you get to know Duvall, her family, and their troubles. You see how she evolves from struggling and thinking that she can only get through this alone and control everything to her discovery of letting go and letting in God. It was not an easy journey, but it is an honest one.
I enjoyed this book and could not put it down. In His Way took me on an emotional adventure. I felt for the author and her family because of the ups and downs they face. In the beginning, she states that she was not always positive and wrote that way. The story takes you through a raw, impassioned relatable telling. No one is perfect, and this book is a reminder of that. I love how honest she is. She held nothing back. She spoke of the resentment and hatred she harbored toward her husband. These were authentic feelings and thoughts expressed. You see how she goes from wanting to control everything to becoming understanding, appreciative, and cooperative. Duvall transforms, and it was all because she learned to talk to and accept God. My favorite part about this book is that you do not have to be religious to enjoy it. It is an uplifting, encouraging, and inspirational read.
Duvall’s narrative is strong. It was refreshing to read something where a person is faithful to the events, no matter how it paints them. There were plenty of moments where I was shocked at the mean things stated, but it was relatable. When you meet challenges in life, sometimes you are not the nicest person and make the wrong decisions or say things you do not mean. She does not hold back from that. She admits to many faults, and I admire her.
My only real complaint with the book was that there were some grammar mistakes and awkward phrasing. It also got a little slow toward the end but picked back up. Overall, I genuinely love it.
I learned a lot from reading this book. I learned that we let fears get in the way of our decisions. I also learned about communication and not bottling things up. One of the major things I took away from this is that if you are dedicated, you can get through something. I also found understanding in religion and people’s relationship with God in this. I related to Duvall so much because she went from not understanding or knowing God to praying, and I have learned more about God and understanding God in this book than going to church. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has lost their faith or anyone who have lost or looking to understand faith.
Pages: 280 | ASIN: B00MO01VIE
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Fired. Workaholic technology executive, Dan Underlight is fired from his high-paying job at a Fortune 500 tech company by the woman he considered his best friend. Sixteen years of working together reduced to a severance package. He feels angry, betrayed, and heartbroken, but mostly he feels lost. Lost because being unemployed gives him too much time to think about the tragedy of his ten-year-old son’s accidental death, and the guilt he still carries for spending too much time working and not enough time parenting.
Before he’s processed this toxic blend of emotions, Dan embarks on a new relationship with Willow, a victim’s advocate, a poet, a lost soul, and an abuse survivor. Their love is deeper than anything Dan has experienced before, but will it be enough when he accomplishes his dream of opening a new tech company, one that is in direct competition with the one he left? Will Dan allow himself to grow into a kinder, more compassionate human being at the same time as he grows his company into a conscientious innovator, or will the demons from his past collide with his present and destroy him?
From the very first paragraph, Rich Marcello drew me into his book with a command of the language that I liken to a poet’s. Passages like this one, “He put his head down, tried to rekindle the wildfire he helped birth years ago, tried to daydream down a riven path.” and this one, “Don’t look down, the pinpricks have spouted and are covering the new carpet in blood.” provided me with ample proof early on that Marcello was a real deal literary composer, a master of the language, and a wordsmith with soulful depths.
But beautiful language alone can’t make a reader keep reading. Original characters with powerful character arcs and a compelling story to keep all the characters growing is fundamental. No problem there, either. From Dan to his counselor to Willow to his son, stronger characterization is front and center. I know Dan—he reminds me of the author Richard Bach. I know Willow, too, this wild child, compassionate, changer of the world woman who is always strong, always courageous even when her heart is broken. These characters kept me reading.
Then we arrive at the story. Characters and language need movement, need story, setting, pace, tension. Marcello has these covered, too. Set in New England, the vivid colors of the seasons remain clear in my brain long after I finished the book. Authors who take the time to divide their books into parts and give them names always receive a grateful nod from me. I like to know the structure of a story before I begin reading, and I like rolling back to the Table of Contents to remind myself what’s next in this journey. The Beauty of the Fall’s Table of Contents is especially brilliant; titles like “So it Spins,” “Build from the Sky Down,” “Spectacles, and Halos and Code” promised each chapter would carry its own mini-story and all the mini-stories would merge to form a powerful narrative.
Themes of forgiveness, trust, simplicity, honor, technology as healer, and non-violence echo through the pages of The Beauty of the Fall and held me captive until the end. If I had to name a gripe, it would be that the last chapter was unnecessary. The story should have ended with “The Good-bye Return,” but I can understand why, for closure’s sake, Marcello included “In the Coming.”
The Beauty of the Fall will appeal to readers who love a compelling, well-written story with elements of literary fiction, technology fiction, and romantic fiction. Marcello doesn’t write the type of literary fiction that prizes language over story. He writes the type that uses beautifully soulful language to real unique characters living compelling bittersweet lives.
Pages: 283 | ASIN: B01MFCTYYW
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Return to the Madlands follows Arlo in the final chapter of the Mire Man Trilogy and brings to a close Arlo Smith’s wild and messy journey. What was your inspiration for the wild journey you take readers on in this novel?
Trilogies, by definition, usually sum everything that has transpired throughout the course of the story, if not most everything up in the final entry, and while that was of course my drive for finishing the story, it wasn’t necessarily the inspiration behind it. I once considered not writing it at all, and simply leaving the ending to Book II the way it was, sort of like a… “…and he got away” type of ending. Maybe it was out of greed on my own part that I wrote a Book III, because I wanted more of the character, I wanted him to engage more in the world around him at a different time of his life. I wanted Arlo Smith to finally be presented with the fact that death is in his, quite possibly near, future, and what that would mean for him in terms of deciding which one of these new, completely unprecedented paths he would take. I wanted Arlo to be presented with a final choice concerning Constance, and work in also the idea that there are no actual “final choices” in life, or at least there doesn’t have to be. And I think that reflects in a few of the supporting characters throughout the book.
Arlo often meets many interesting people on his travels. Were there any characters that you especially enjoyed writing for?
Arlo’s father, most definitely, considering the parallels of their individual existences and their already established roughness in what they think/thought of each other. I toyed with the idea of writing more for Arlo’s father in a separate novel, or short story, and even considering throwing in a twist at the end of “Madlands” that tied Arlo’s father to a character in a past novel of mine. There’s so much time that has passed since Arlo’s father left him until now, so much history and mystery that anything could have happened. I like to think though that sometimes it’s best to leave the mystery as it is; the idea of ascertaining the truth is not always as romantic as wallowing in the unknown.
Arlo meets his estranged father and forms a tentative relationship. Why was this event important to Arlo’s development?
Arlo’s chaos stems from his youth, and by extension if unintentional or not, his father had a hand in that. At this point in time, Arlo and his father, one has always assumed the worst had happened to the other, and in some ways, assumed they had been dead. So when they finally reunite, neither one of them wants to part with those assumptions because those beliefs have become such an essential part to their existences, that any interruption in said life has the potential to cause an insanity-driven rift. Neither Arlo or his father, in the beginning, wants anything to do with the realization that they are both still alive in the world. But as the story progresses, through intended subtlety and background “what-if’s”, Arlo’s father and Arlo himself in their own way begin to wonder if their reunion is fate, and even if it isn’t, why would that stop them from taking a chance at rewriting their futures?
How do you feel now that the Mire Man Trilogy is done? Did you accomplish everything you set out to?
I think I’ve said what I set out to say. The story’s been told and I don’t have any intentions of returning to Arlo’s world. That doesn’t mean any of the other supporting characters may or may not get a spot somewhere down the line, though it’s mostly unlikely. For me, “The Mire Man Trilogy” is a brief glimpse into the mind and heart of a people-watcher; someone who enjoys the company of people only as much as he can tolerate them. It’s a story within a story within a story within a story, and it could be that, more or less, to anyone who reads it. And even though it was me who wrote the story, I’ll never look at a glass of whiskey or listen to a piece by Miles Davis the same way again. People have said to me that they could never expect Arlo to have a happy ending, and maybe they’re right. I like to think of the ending of the trilogy as a reminder that it’s not important whether or not you leave the world on a happy note, but rather you instill in the people around you, and the people you’ve crossed paths with, some measure of self-inquiry, instead of simply letting the world and everything that it could be, slip through their fingers. Finding life’s answers isn’t as important as never giving up the search for them.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will that be available for readers?
Currently, I’m working on another volume of poetry and short stories alongside a novel. My fourth volume of poetry/short stories is titled “Slaughterhouse After-Party” and the novel is tentatively titled “He Showed Me All the Neon Tombstones and Together We Embraced the Abyss”, which is written in episodic form, in that each chapter deals with a different story in the life of the main character, who writes obituaries from the point of view of the deceased. Every chapter has to deal with a different client/family. The main character also has horrible anxiety and depression, for which he takes medication for. That medication has had a strange side-effect in that it more than occasionally causes him to hallucinate a version of himself, calling himself Chauncey, speaking in an English accent, with skin painted over its entirety, a deep, royal blue. Chauncey basically exists with the intention of mocking or critiquing every move the main character makes. So there’s some psychological bafoonery at play, along with the melancholy, always-present scent of death. Neither of these two books will be available for a while…maybe not for another year or two, depending on the stability of my own particular sanity.
A decade or so following the events of “Paradise City”, Arlo Smith finds that he is still somehow clinging to life. Fueled by the revelation that Constance may also still be alive and waiting for him somewhere out in the world, Arlo Smith, now feeling older than ever, decides to make one last stand against himself. Obliging to the last wishes of a recently-deceased love one, and perhaps succumbing to his own obsessions, Arlo embarks on an open road quest one last time in hopes of finding what he’s been searching for since that fateful day near the end of his high school years. What he discovers is an unexpected , and obligatory companionship with his estranged father, self-exiled in a lonely Nevada town, and more revelations that could either cement his perception of his very existence, or tear it down completely, rendering him beyond saving. Feeling the promise of death in one direction and the lure of Constance in another, Arlo is forced to decide to stay or leave… to obey the itching bones of his lusts, or to do what is right… and finally put to rest what may have started him on his path to damnation all those years ago.
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The Dragons of Alsace Farm by Laurie Lewis is a contemporary romance with a deeply engaging plot that will pull at the emotions of the reader. Despite dragons being in the title it is not a fantasy fiction book. The three main characters of the novel are Noah, Agnes, and Tayte. The common bond that brings these three together is woven throughout the novel and each chapter provides a new twist in the plot or a deep divulge into the past lives of the characters that make their story all the more endearing. The romance in this novel is slow building. You will not find steamy sex scenes, rather you watch the deep connection between Noah and Tayte form over their mutual love of the women Agnes.
The novel starts out with Noah living and working in Myrtle Beach South Carolina. The initial impression you get of Noah is a gruff biker with a past that you don’t want to mess with. His story however is borderline tragic and it is only by the grace of his uncle John that his life turns into something beautiful rather than just existing, hiding in the back rooms and shadows of SC. Next you meet Agnes, an old French woman living on a farm in Fredrick Maryland. Agnes is suffering from dementia and is haunted by her past having trouble separating the past from the present. Last we meet Tayte, an artist living in Miami Florida running from her own past. Tayte has challenges forming intimate relationships with people and also has OCD with things being clean and neat.
Noah is brought to Fredrick Maryland by his sick uncle, in a last ditch effort to mend the wrongs of the past before cancer takes him away from all that he loves. At the same time Tayte is brought up from Miami to attend the funeral of her parents that have died in a car accident. Tayte is the estranged granddaughter of Agnes. The three are brought together through Agnes. Noah comes on to help Agnes with her farm and keep an eye on her while his uncle and wife Sarah spend his remaining days together. Noah’s specialty is woodworking and his uncle John encourages him to put those skills to good use. Noah and Tayte are both hired on to work on a special community project to honor a local hero, Ely Eppley. The Eppley’s are a modest family with two children that won a prize to have a custom deck built and portrait painted with hand carved frame built. The project throws Noah and Tayte together in addition to them both living and helping Agnes. The reader may wonder what the point of the project is, as the Eppley’s seem to have no clue how they were even awarded this honor. The answer to that comes in the end with a dramatic turn of events.
Overall this book is very compelling, the reader is drawn into the lives of main characters learning about their pasts, and how all the other characters fit into their complex story lines. The way that Noah goes from rough and unapproachable to the compassionate loving gentleman friend to elderly and children is a beautiful transformation. The emotional journey Tayte makes is complex and deep, this isn’t a novel where everything ends up perfect, it shows real life struggles, and shows that sometimes even the best intentions are not going to work out every time. Tayte is a very relatable character. All the characters come off as real and genuine, no one is too good to be true and perfect, everyone has flaws and good sides.
Dragons of Alsace Farm will draw the reader in, it will stir up emotions and will leave the reader with a sense of “this could happen” rather than being so far out of the norm. From dealing with aging loved ones, losing loved ones, mending family rifts and finding love after believing your unlovable, this book has something for everyone.
Pages: 376 | ISBN: 1534909141
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