Hovis Monk received his verbal dismissal a few days ago so he knows that his simple and paid for life will not last long. Then his old buddy delivers the written dismissal in a shit covered envelope and Hovis knows he has three weeks left at no. 37. He sits with his friend Lee Kelso and the trips down memory lane start. He talks about his days as a struggling musical legend. Later, Hovis takes us through The Festers 2.0.
Tom McNulty regales the tale of Hovis’ life in the wake of dismissal from Blue Yonder Mining Company. He executes the story with flourish and profane delight. The story flows seamlessly allowing the reader to take in the surroundings. The author creates a rapport between Lee and Hovis that is both sad and brilliantly humorous. The way they engage with each other is heartwarming. As Hovis moves on to the next chapter of his life, the story presents his tribulations in a simple yet masterful way. With unique language and quirky mannerisms the characters make their way into the reader’s heart.
The character development in this book is top notch. Each character has their own unique traits that would appeal to one reader or other. Hovis, as the main character, is strong enough to drive the story. He is wistful and, while afraid to move on without the comforts Blue Yonder provides, proceeds to do something that appeals to his passions. Although Hovis might have a bit of a problem with bidding on auction items, he is a hoot.
The use of the English language in this book is unique and, at times, borderline peculiar. It is not language one would encounter in most places but it goes with the construct of this book. In this book it seems fitting and at home. Some of the phrases used in the book are quite confusing. However, these phrases enforce the personalities and traits of the characters. One thing is for sure, the use of the English language is expressive of the author’s creativity and ability to manipulate the language into croutons of absolute joy. All in all, it is fun to read through all the peculiarities in speech.
This is a fun and captivating book with interesting characters and a plot that is genuinely wonderful and intriguing. Hovis always seems to have a story under his sleeve that you have to coax out. This book is not recommended for children as it contains some hard language. However, any young adult or adult will certainly enjoy it.
Pages: 304 | ASIN: B07T68W277
Scooter Nation follows two funeral directors trying to hold things together as events spiral out of control. What was the inspiration for the setup to this entertaining novel?
The funeral industry, as it is now often called, is an interesting one in that its policies and practices haven’t really changed since the “modern” funeral home came into being in the 1970s. By that, I mean, larger facilities with multiple visitation suites and staff trained to accommodate not just European traditions, but traditions from around the world.
As a caregiver, the director is tasked with providing services to both the living and the dead; the people left behind need as much care and concern and, yes, expertise as the person who has passed. But approaches are changing in keeping with how society has changed with the arrival of the digital age. Families are now savvy consumers who demand to know what is going on behind closed doors at what cost and why.
All reasonable questions/expectations.
For me, as a funeral director, I was intrigued by the notion of how staff locked down by tradition—the funeral home in Scooter Nation is 70 years old as is a lot of the furniture—would react to change and how far they would go to hang on to the only thing they think they know.
They are a great deal wiser by the end of the novel, I think.
Scooter and Carla were unique and well-developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their development?
Scooter and Carla are career funeral directors, which means they have been doing their work since high school. Unlike the Weibigands who own and operate the funeral home, Scooter and Carla were not born to it. Because of this, they take a peculiar proprietary interest in the place. In other words, they think they care about it more than the family that started it. This may or may not be true depending on who the reader sides with. What is true is that they have been altruist funeral directors for a long time and resent the appearance of a new owner who wants to change everything for the greater good. They challenge this assertion, believing wholeheartedly that the new owner is merely out for revenge and self-aggrandizement. The journey for them and for me as the writer was to wade through the misconceptions, mistakes and moments of enlightenment that take not just them, but all the characters to a rational, thought-provoking conclusion. Very satisfying to get there.
I understand that you’re also a funeral director. Was there anything from your own life that you put into this novel?
I was a hybrid in mortuary school in that I was not a funeral home kid. My family weren’t directors and certainly didn’t like the idea, at first, of me becoming one. I was drawn to it, maybe the way some astronauts dream of going to Mars even if it means never coming back. I love and believe in the work and the intrinsic good it does. But there’s no way to write about death and dying and make it “nice.” I tend to shy away from novels that go there. But I’m influenced by the satirists and gonzo writers and like the idea of shining a light on tough subjects and making them accessible through humor.
We don’t joke a lot at work, but many of us have that dry sense of humor that carries us through after a tough day. Murder victims and children are especially tough—no one gets used to that—so I guess I bring that mix of dread and the promise of a new and different day to the novels.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have three half-finished manuscripts and all three demand my attention. It’s a tough choice. Self-Defense, the first in the Kirsti Brüner Mortuary Mysteries series, follows the ups and downs of a first-year licensed mortician not quite in tune with the practices and traditions of her chosen profession. She has a nose for inconsistencies and knocks foreheads with the formidable chief coroner, who isn’t really a bad guy but claims to know much more than she ever could. Self-Defense is a murder mystery.
Next, there’s The Heuer Effect, which is a prequel to Heuer Lost and Found, my first. Effect goes back forty years to 1979, where protagonists Enid Engler and Jurgen Heuer are alive and well and doing as much damage as possible. It’s a coming of age story set against the reality of growing up first generation Canadian with questionable German relatives. Enid lands a job at Seltenheit and Sons, the enemy funeral home of Weibigand’s referenced in Scooter Nation. It’s fun giving that side of the story.
The last one is Poor Undertaker and this one really calls out. It is the story of Jocasta “The Jocastrator” Binns and Alma Wurtz, her nemesis in Scooter Nation. It begins in 1947 when the Weibigand funeral home is in its prime and staff are venerated for the good work that they do. Poor Undertaker shows Scooter readers why the home declines and why the Weibigand family staff become the way they are in the current novels. There is a murder and a doomed romance as well as a matriarch who is equal parts racist, alcoholic, brutal and very, very sad. This is a three-part novel that treats equally, the matriarch, Jocasta Binns, and Alma Wurtz. It’s very exciting to write.
Aging managing director Charlie Forsythe begins his work day with a phone call to Jocasta Binns, the unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home founder Karl-Heinz Sr. Alma Wurtz, a scooter-bound sextenarian, community activist, and neighborhood pain in the ass is emptying her urine into the flower beds, killing the petunias. Jocasta shuts him down. A staff meeting has been called and things are about to change.
The second novel in the UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series, SCOOTER NATION takes place two years after HEUER LOST AND FOUND. This time, funeral directors Scooter Creighton and Carla Moretto Salinger Blue take center stage as they battle conflicting values, draconian city by-laws, a mendacious neighborhood gang, and a self-absorbed fitness guru whose presence shines an unwanted light on their quiet Toronto neighborhood.
Scooter and Carla have to deal with lots of drama and backstabbing behind the scenes. They face off with Jocasta Binns. On the other hand, there is also a scooter bound gang led by a silver haired goon wreaking havoc on the gardens in the most contemptuous way. The Funeral Service is saddled with tension between the ‘siblings’.
The author has weaved quite the hilarious tale set in a funeral service establishment. The story highlights the inner workings of managing such an establishment which, it turns out, is like any other family business. The story is so vividly narrated that the reader cannot help but join the world.
The plot is well developed and fast paced and the characters are multi-dimensional. This makes it easy for the reader to visualize them and get acquainted. It is particularly interesting how Jocasta is introduced to the reader. She is introduced with her crackling fingers and her scandalous origin. She is not fazed by her old age and remains stoic and a force to be reckoned with. The Jocastrator can withstand anything and anyone. She inspires the kind of admiration that is mixed with fear. Then there is Scooter, who seems very sweet and charming. He is like the sunshine that peeks through the curtains in the morning. Then Charlie, the poor old man who has been turned into a mere informant for the brothers. Every character has a backstory and their uniqueness shines through regardless of their role in the story. This is one of the biggest strengths of this book.
Scooter Nation contains all the elements of a great novel. Thoughts and ideas flow seamlessly while moments of laugh out loud humor keep you engaged in a story that is surprising at every page turn.
This is a book I can see myself reading again because the characters, incontinent though some may be, make you want too keep coming back. It has managed to surpass expectations which were already high from the first installment in the series. A perfect book for a good chuckle.
Pages: 196 | ASIN: B07RQ92W83
No Old Souls at Fury Tavern, written by Dave Matthes is a must read for anyone entertained by the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. In the story, we meet a regular guy, working in a regular place, who deals with a series of seemingly mundane problems. The ways in which the characters interact with their world, however, is much more interesting than what you would find in your rundown neighborhood dive bar.
Despite a few typos and minor grammatical errors, the writing is excellent. The author’s style is unapologetic and rich, with plenty of depth worked into his narrative to keep you hooked throughout the book. Never too simplified or overly complex, the short, bite-sized chapters keep the pace moving at a quick beat which is obviously what the intention was.
Characterization and world-building are areas that Dave Matthes excels at. While reading No Old Souls sat Fury Tavern, it is impossible not to relate with either the protagonist, Rocko Pitts, or any of the other inhabitant of his world. Each character is carefully crafted and comes with his or her own set of idiosyncrasies and personality. And, each of the characters seems to be placed very well within the world that Matthes creates.
From the descriptions of the physical attributes of Pitts’ world to the imagery – and empathy – that gets drummed up as the characters interact with their world, it is no difficult task to forget that you are reading a work of fiction. The world surrounding Pitts seems as real as the one we all inhabit and that makes identifying with and relating to him a satisfying experience, indeed.
The author is able to transport you into his world and the ride couldn’t be more believable. Add that to the fact that the story is entertaining, and you have yourself a highly-rated book that should be on your must-read list.
Pages: 220 | ASIN: B07R881T6Y
The Land of Ick and Eck follows Harlot’s strange encounters as she travels through a strange land. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
I’m fascinated by children’s stories that are strange and make you think, “Wait, What? Haha, did that just happen?!” Victorian literature for children, as well as older versions of fairy tales, are where I found inspiration for the setup up of this book; they so often make you take a step back, laugh, think, and then continue on with curiosity. These stories can sometimes be whimsically mature, exploring violence, sexuality, and/or morality in creative, imaginative ways. Not treating children like delicate sugar-flakes and allowing for such content adds so much depth to the meanings and understanding of the stories, something I have found difficult to come across in modern children’s literature.
So when I started writing, I wanted it to be something that that gave me similar feelings to when I read older, bizarre fairy tales. I wanted it to take place in a strange world, where things were non-sense, but also made sense if you had the knowledge to understand what was happening, especially when the reader becomes aware of the innuendos. Like many episodic folkloric tales, there is much more than what lies on the service, multiple understandings; that is what I really enjoy about such types of stories. This is one of them.
The world that you’ve built is enthralling and curious to say the least. What were some sources of inspiration for when creating this world?
Reading literature about/from the faerie, medieval, Georgian, and Victorian world was where some of my inspirations came from. I would often find myself reading, for example, faerie lore and tales, medieval fabliaux and chivalric romances, and strange episodic stories that involve children, such as Jerzy Kosiński’s The Painted Bird (a modern tale). I wanted to create something like Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but darker and with more macabre and questionable situations.
The realm of Ick and Eck needed to somewhere that made sense not necessarily for the human world but in the faerie world. It was to be a place that the mind of an imaginative child could easily follow and bring to life, but for adults, things might seem a little off (unless they still have the child within them). It needed to be absurd, but penetrable if you put yourself in a different sort of mind-set. To get this inspiration, I often found myself delving into the artworks of Brian Froud and other artists who have continued to add to the world of faeries and fantasy, also mixing them with some of my other interests.
One of those curiosities was religion. There are many religious characters in the book, ranging from the fat-Friar, empty moon creatures, Crowned-Alter-Fops, gluttonous monks, to name a few; I enjoy studying Abrahamic religious texts, traditions, as well as medieval stories of how clergy use power to control others. Several scenes in the book comment on these injustices, but they are mixed in with the faerie world to create a more folkloric feeling. Truth be told, no hesitation of satire was taken.
Another source of inspiration was the study of medieval and Victorian prostitution. As a reader would observe, the protagonist’s name is Harlot; yes, the story does indeed explore the ideas of a dark side of history, as well as a subject very much alive today. From the exploration of courtly love and the desperate knights in need of a doctor’s (i.e. a beautiful woman) cure to save them from love sickness, to the poetic grocery-list like booklets of women found in Harris’s List of the Covent Garden Ladies, these studies were an essential backbone and driving force of inspiration. The story is a critique of this behaviour. It is meant to bring light to a subject so many people want to hide.
The introduction of the book lays this out:
- Into a land of fantasy
- With haste we cast them all aside
- No tearing if you cannot see
- That is what we all make-believe
My list of inspiration could keep going on, so I will stop before I get carried away even more.
Harlot is a curious and innocent character that I found endearing. What were some driving ideals behind the character?
I wanted to create a character that constantly found interest in novel things, while at the same time never really learns much from their experiences. Even after Harlot is assaulted at the beginning of the book (i.e. her blue flower), deceived, used, and treated as inferior, she continues on. Some say this might be a weakness, others a strength, that is for the reader to decide.
I have found it quite funny though, how some people really like Harlot, while others really do not. Some like her curious and innocent perspective, while others think she is rude and inconsiderate, and do not want their children to read about her because she is a negative role model.
In any event, what drives Harlot is her curiosity, her unwavering innocence, and her ability to navigate such a strange place, the land of Ick and Eck. She is such a strong character, a feature I have seen in people who have been abused. I can never understand their strength. They are stronger than I could ever be.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on a couple projects, but I am a very slow writer. It took me eight years to be contempt enough to pursue publishing The Land of Ick and Eck: Harlot’s Encounters. But in any event, I am working on a continuation to The Land of Ick and Eck, per say, following a girl named Perfume, as well in another section about Harlot. Each are separate and different stories, written in different styles, but in a way they meet together through common characters, situations, and absurdities.
I am quite excited about it, though I do not know how long it will take to complete.
A much too trusting Harlot finds herself in the preyful Land of Ick and Eck, a place where she encounters peculiar creatures that have the most awful intensions of the carnal sort. By happenstance, she finds the company of a Ground Faerie, a Wood and Water Nymph, and a Butter-Maiden to assist her (sort of) along the way.
But Alas! How the outlandish figures are quite the handful, ranging from the likes of Spriggans, the-man-with-a-can-for-a-head, Jaw Skins, to Alter-Fops, a knight of courtly love, and a Nigwig (to name a few). Thankfully, there are moments of repose, such as those with the band of eunuchs with sacs on their heads, the beautiful Milk-Maidens, and the adventures within the Faerie Ring.
Though the bombardments continue to pursue her, Harlot’s innocent temperament, irrational faith, and devotion to feeding her curiosity provokes her forward, and thus her true strengths are revealed within the Land of Ick and Eck.
Posted in Interviews
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Plum Rains on Happy House follows an American who is trying to turn an Inn into a school but is thwarted by the house’s strange creatures. What was the inspiration behind this unique story?
I live in Japan, and it’s a place I know well. The book’s dedication probably says it all:
This book is for Japan. It’s the place I call home—though it may not want me to. For over 25 years I have grappled with the dos and don’t’s of my host country, destroying the language in conversation, giving up, resuming more study, eventually resigning myself to the boundless plateaus of almost-speech.
And Japan abides. Like a patient steward, it absorbs the frolics and the ribbing, while providing a solacing habitat in which to write and teach and parent and grow.
I came over to Japan in the 80’s and I’ve lived in some pretty seedy guesthouses—what we call gaijin houses. In creating the residents of Happy House, I just mingled the characteristics of a few of the unique people I’ve met over the decades in Tokyo and in Los Angeles. In some cases, I didn’t need to exaggerate at all.
On one level Plum Rains on Happy House is a detective story. A fellow named Harry Ballse invites the protagonist, nicknamed the Ichiban, to Japan. But the residents of Happy House all deny any knowledge of this mysterious Harry Ballse.
Some readers may pick up on the references to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, about a policeman who is lured to a Scottish island to investigate the report of a missing child. It’s a game of deception. The islanders are playing with him. The paganism and the sexual activity the sanctimonious policeman finds so objectionable are simply part of the selection process—to see if he possesses the characteristics to burn in their wicker effigy so that the village will have subsequent successful harvests.
In Plum Rains on Happy House, the Ichiban must undergo his own horrific sacrifice to appease the house. My novel is in many ways a tribute to that remarkable film, and it has the same foundational plot lines, but I’ve laid down a hearty layer of satire and lots of cross-cultural lunacy.
There are some weird and fascinating things happening in this story. Was this an easy outlet for your creativity or was there some effort put into creating these things?
Nothing is easy. If women will forgive me the metaphor, creating Plum Rains on Happy House was like giving birth—it hurt a lot. There were points when I considered giving up because it was just too hard. I’m not a funny person, but I have little trouble dreaming up wacky stories and characters. The residents of Happy House had to be distinctively quirky. I didn’t know how bawdy things were going to become, or how much depravity would creep its way into the story. But once I had the characters they took charge, and I relegated myself to being, more or less, their stenographer.
Dialog was also something I paid close attention to. Of course, sharp dialog is vital in any story, but for this kind of back-and-forth humor to succeed, I felt it really had to have zip. Just like a comedian practices his delivery line, the dialog exchanges had to have real punch. As with most writing, dialog should say a lot , with very little. The communication isn’t in the words being said but in the subtext. Good dialog says it without saying it. One quick example from Chapter One has the resident of Room 3 (nicknamed The Goat) explaining to the new resident about his missing foot:
“I saw you looking at the bottom of my leg.”
The Goat scowled. “Obviously, you can see that no longer exists.”
“It’s in Cambodia.”
The Goat went into a cross-eyed fluster. “What is?”
Sometimes readers need to work a bit to understand the exchange, and I think they appreciate that. Dialog is an organic process. It’s the way characters talk in my head, and I think I know how to write them because they are all a part of me. It all works toward satisfying the element of what a good scene often comes down to: one person trying to get something from another.
Mix that in with the baffling idiosyncrasies of Japan and its language, and the vexing stages of culture shock, which frame the Ichiban’s adventure in Happy House, and readers have a lot to juggle, especially those uninitiated to living in other countries. I’m hoping this confusion is a part of the magnetism of the story. On top of that, one should remember the old guesthouse is haunted:
“Happy House is an amoeba everlasting, a floating world—capturing and sealing the self-indulgence of the red-light districts, the bordellos and the fleeting, delightful vulgarity of ancient Japan, an eternal time capsule of the flamboyant and the boorish.”
What do you find is a surprising reaction people have when they read your book?
The book has received mixed reviews. Of the five books I have up on Amazon, Plum Rains on Happy House was the first to receive a customer review of one star—perhaps rightfully so: the reader was “disgusted” by some of the more explicit scenes, and I think that was my fault; the earlier cover gave no indication of the sexual content within, and this poor woman was clearly ambushed. With the one star, I know I’m finally an author, and wear it as a badge of honor.
There are, however, cultural elements in the story that some will not understand: the usage of the various slipper customs inside a house, the daily beating of the futon, the laundry poles, the shockingly steep stairwells, the neighborhood garbage trucks that play cute tunes to let you know they’re coming, the confusion between the colors of blue and green.
The dichotomy of substance versus form also plays an important part in underscoring the tension—in the way one swings a tennis racket, or walks in a swimming pool, or plays baseball, or eats particular dishes: What should predominate—what you are doing or how you are doing it?
On another level, the story examines language acquisition and the role of structure within the learning process. The residents all have their various opinions: As teachers, should English be taught through some kind of lock-step formula, or would one be better off approaching it in a more hands off manner, rather like painting? Everyone seems to have an opinion.
The idea of structure comes to the forefront again when discussing what one character, Sensei, calls the hidden structure of the house, which, like the neighborhood (or any cityscape in Japan) appears as an amorphous sprawl. But look underneath this sprawl and one sees the organism. Sensei says that the randomness, or chaos, embraces a flexible, orderly structure, and he likens the house to an amoeba that has the ability to alter its shape. Similarly, this amoeba can be seen as a microcosm of Japan as a whole.
What are you currently working on and when will it be available?
I’ve finished the first few drafts of a story about Special Needs teens who discover time travel. But the adult teachers at the school find out what’s going on and abuse this ability to travel back into time for their own selfish needs. It turns out the ones with the Special Needs are not the teenagers—who are all somewhere on the Autism spectrum—but the supposed grownups, and it’s up to the teens to save the day. It should be out in autumn.
Thanks for having me!
The American in Room 1, however, is dead-set on turning the derelict Happy House into a burgeoning English school.
The house has other plans, and Room 1’s attempts are thwarted by a freakish creature that lives under the floorboards called “the Crat”.
Posted in Interviews
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Dom is a computer engineering genius in her own right. Rose’s instincts when it comes to human behavior are fine-tuned. Layla has the gift of an incredible memory. All three women are true forces with which to be reckoned and phenomenally good at their jobs. When Dom, a virtual recluse, is approached for help in solving a violent death, the lives of the three women quickly become entangled. Dom, Rose, and Layla reiterate that we are all one quick internet search away from an interaction we may or may not want.
B.J. Cyprian, author of Shadow Resistance, has created a world effortlessly blends fantasy and realistic fiction. With the elements of advanced artificial intelligence looming large in Dom’s storyline, readers are treated to science fiction laced with humor and heavily layered with relevant current events. While I’m not a fan of most historical fiction novels, I more than appreciate the references Cyprian includes in her characters’ story lines. Especially effective is the way in which the author works in the black and white doll experiment into Rose’s subplot. Cyprian knows how to hit readers where it matters. This is just one of the aspects of her writing that helps make her book so worthy of praise.
The entire scenario involving SARA is quite amazing. I don’t want to call SARA a character as it were, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention how incredibly fascinating her contribution to the book actually is. At times, Dom almost plays second string to the artificial intelligence she herself created. The back-and-forth between the two is entertaining to say the least and simultaneously frightening. To think that SARA is Dom’s only connection with the outside world is, in many ways, sad. In introducing Dom as somewhat of a hermit, Cyprian has given a certain richness to Dom’s story line and made her views of injustice all the more fiery.
Cyprian does a beautiful job of weaving history into every aspect of her plot. Page after page, she seamlessly meshes mentions of countless historical figures into the dialogue between characters. From impromptu history lessons given by Rose to the background revealed by Rose and Robert’s visit to Larry’s apartment, the book feels less like a lesson in history than a conversation on the front stoop of an elderly neighbor.
This unique work of fiction is a must read for anyone seeking technologically-based crime dramas. In addition, Cyprian’s work holds a special appeal for those who appreciate historical accuracies and current events woven throughout their fiction. The more I read, the more I found Shadow Resistance qualifies as a mystery. It’s impossible to fit Cyprian’s work into one slot–and I’m not sure I want to. It deserves a category of its own. Kudos to Cyprian on an outstanding first novel.
PagesL 648 | ASIN: B07NQKYGVP
Tags: alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, bj cyprian, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, crime, crime fantasy, crime fiction, ebook, fantasy, fiction, fun, funny, goodreads, hacker, historical, history, humor, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, murder, mystery, nook, novel, political, publishing, read, reader, reading, satire, science fiction, scifi, shadow resistance, shelfari, smashwords, story, suspense, thriller, womens fiction, writer, writer community, writing
The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
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Posted in Literary Titan Book Award
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