This was difficult for me. It is extremely rare that I don't finish a book once I begin reading. I think it's happened perhaps a dozen times in my lifetime. I've always been an equal opportunity reader. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I read carefully and take my time. I try to give each author a fair shake, each book on its own merits… genre, theme, topic, story, character, setting, purpose… you get the picture. My encounter with this book is one of those rare exceptions. I couldn't finish it.
From a craft perspective, the author uses a fictional persona, "Mudflap," to help illustrate his story in third person narrative. Unfortunately, this device is inconsistent. The author frequently switches between personal pronouns (I, me) and back to third person (he, Mudflap), sometimes in alternating paragraphs in the same section or chapter. This inconsistency of narration was very frustrating to read. In addition, I found several grammar, spelling, and formatting mistakes (at least in my ebook version). Also, the "real-time post scripts" at the end of the sections or chapters are enigmatic. Their purpose and function was unclear, aside from acting perhaps as an extension of the author's frustration. This book would have benefited tremendously from professional editing.
The synopsis on the back of the book promises "…a philosophical and satirical humor… with solutions for our rapidly changing world." Unfortunately, I found none of these in the 172 pages I read (about half the book). The marketing for this book indicates it to be anti-bullying, but that's not what I read. Instead, I found a victim who decided that the only way to fight back against the bullies he encountered was to write an angry "tell-all" book. By my read, the author's goal was not to relate experiences so readers could learn and grow. But instead, to shame and blame with retaliation, all while hiding his true intent behind fictitious character names (I'm guessing to avoid a lawsuit or several).
One particular passage that stood out for me relates Mudflap's [the author's] frustration with Mudflap's business clients refusing to buy his book. He called it a "lack of support". He further explains that he "fired" them as clients because they didn't buy his book. In the following passage, he writes about taking great pleasure in this action, actually laughing about it with his crew of helpers afterward. In my opinion, this behavior manifested as bullying his clients into buying the book, and then "getting back at them" when they didn't. This seems to be an inverse of the purpose of the book. It was confusing.
In another passage, he writes about not receiving the treatment he wanted from a town librarian based on his status as a local author. He felt slighted and even angry when the librarian afforded more attention to a more experienced and "not local" author. Later, he engages in a conversation with the other author, belittling his work. In my view, this was bullying the author for his success. Yet, again, this incident seemed counter-productive to what I thought was the book's focus.
Perhaps I misinterpreted the book. Perhaps I don't understand the author's brand of humor. Perhaps all the positive stuff was in the first book, and I made a mistake by reading them out of sequence. Perhaps all is redeemed at the end of the book, and I'll never know because I never got to the last page. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. But perhaps not.
My opinion of this book is that it is a memoir of the author's life, his frustrations with his community, and his neighbors. He writes about the many bullies Mudflap [the author] encounters with a degree of acrimony I could not continue to read. It was too painful. I found only two instances of positivity in this book, and because of that, I had to stop reading.
It is possible that I'm not giving the work a fair shake by not finishing it. I can allow for that possibility. Perhaps I should have forced myself to suffer through to the last page. Perhaps not.
I believe that reading should be something we enjoy, something we can learn from, something that enriches us emotionally and intellectually. Unfortunately, this book served me in none of these ways, so I put it aside.
This book may have an audience, but I am not it. And that's okay. Not every book is for every reader.
All that having been said, I think it is important to take note that this author's writing is courageous. He emptied a good part of himself onto the page, and for that, he should be commended. All writing should be viewed as Sacred Text. Although this book was not in alignment with my personal reflection of life, that does not retract the Sacred value I place on the words and his effort in recording them. For clarification, please read my Philosophy on Sacred Text HERE.
Witness Testimony was an interesting and engaging collection of short stories. When I first began reading, I found it difficult to ease into a reading rhythm because I had expectations, based on the title and cover. I opened this book preparing for the intrigue of courtroom drama, legal thrills, and witness interactions. However, that’s not what I found, so starting out was slow going for me.
By the time I reached the second half of the book, I let go of my preconceived notions. Once I accepted that these stories, though not bound legally together, were indeed witness accounts of life, it then became easier for me to relax into the absence of pattern and enjoy the journey. Actually, the author allowed the reader to be the witness to a cross section of humanity with all its solaces, uneasiness, and eccentricities. Taken from that interpretation, the collection made sense. My strongest critique would be that the title and cover art set me up for a predisposition against that experience, initially.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book. Here are a few of my favorite stories from this collection:
The Bullfighter’s Waltz was a curiosity. A story that connects emotionally in a setting where emotion is not the expectation, was a pleasant surprise. I felt that I could easily relate to these characters, even though their day-to-day is very distant from my own. The humanity of this story was felt, rather than read. That was nice.
The Matchmaker’s Reward entertained with a bit of fantasy. This is one story that left me wanting more. For me, it read perhaps as a last chapter for a larger novel… and perhaps it is… I hope it is. A bunch of questions were left unanswered, and I wanted to know more about the character’s history and their future. I wanted to know more about the magic and the rules behind how it is used, or how it isn’t. I enjoyed this story very much. It felt a little like a “Pat The Bunny” book for adults… a few words gave the reader so many tactile experiences, it left me wanting to learn more.
The Sending was tremendously poignant for me. Everything about this story, the why behind it, and the minute details of spirituality, evoked something akin to a universal understanding. This story was delicate and powerful simultaneously. It offered just enough to allow for emotional transference, but not quite enough to lose the intellectual intensity of the moment. That duality, for me, made it a great read.
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy the sensation of being a fly on the wall. These are tales experienced through the expression of the temperature of the room, rather than the cold distance of reporting.
If you're looking for something completely innovative, exciting, and really smart, you'll enjoy this book.
This is a suspense story that could also be a police procedural, a mystery, and... or... an alternative creation myth. There are so many enticing passages in this book that honestly, I find it nearly impossible to choose a favorite.
Andrew is a master storyteller, and he has combined all his strengths in world building, encouraging empathy between the reader and the characters, as well as solid scene set up to bring us an evocative tale that could be as old as time... and yet, it is so contemporary that we wonder if it hasn't been hiding in plain sight, right around the corner. To all of this, he has added delightful snark and deep passion to the page, and it will not let you go.
If that isn't enough, there is a serious morality question he provokes, yet doesn't demand that the reader agree. Some will, some won't. This is a tremendous testament to Andrew's skill. A reader's agreement or disagreement with the choices the characters make doesn't negate the rush of the story he is sharing. The adventure is high stakes, physically and intellectually... but more interesting than all of these is the risks Andrew takes to invite readers down a hidden passage, the walls oozing with fear, love, greed, and the premonition of possibility.
When I asked, Andrew told me that this book was the first in a new series... and I can assure you, I'll be nagging him to be first in line when the next one is ready to read!
I was overwhelmed reading this book... not because it was difficult material (which it was), and not because the complexity of the relationships and internal dialogue of the characters was so intensely emotional (which it also was), but because everything written in this story is REAL LIFE. Confronting that can sometimes be overwhelming... and I've never been happier for the experience.
D.A. Reed has created a masterpiece of Young Adult fiction with this story. From the complexity of teenage angst to the thoughts, speech patterns, and body language of teenagers, to the adult interactions... this author got it all right. As a person who has been touched by teen suicide in both my generation and my son's generation, I cannot endorse this book enough. It is poignant, it is accurate, it is raw, it is unsettling, it is tender, it is difficult, and it is necessary.
This story channels the day-to-day experiences of teenagers in a way that feels a little like voyeurism; and if that thought doesn't frighten you just a little bit, it should. The bravery these characters show reminds us that everything is worth healing when we take the time to talk and listen. The resources and discussion questions in the back of the book encourage this dialogue between friends, families, and teachers.
This is a book that should be on a bookshelf in a central part of every family home, and in every classroom. It should be a part of every educator's and religious leader's continuing education program. I am certain that all who read it will be touched and motivated to help others in some empathetic way.
When you are given the gift of seeing teen suicide from the inside, you can't help but become changed. Thank you, D.A. Reed, for giving us this profound insight into a world we must not ignore.
I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to find when I opened the pages to this book. I've read Ken MacGregor a bit in the past... but the cover for this one had me wondering how far he would go.
I know Ken, he's a very nice man, with wonderful children. A kind man. A thoughtful man. And after reading this, I can now also say that he is a man who has an imagination that goes to places - almost without effort - that I wish I could go more often. It's odd to say that, considering that scary stuff and the like have never really been my thing. But this... this is different.
In each of these short stories, Ken takes your brain to some strange and beyond interesting places.
When you get the book, and you really should, here are a few you'll not want to read too slowly...
Tom's Personal Demons has got to be my favorite of the lot. If you've ever been a kid, or known a child, who has been afraid of the dark, this story will resonate with you. Here's the thing I liked best about it: I felt emotionally connected to these people and the darkness. It sounds strange - even stranger after you read the story - but I felt like I completely understood what poor Tom was experiencing, but more, the way Carla was accepting, and the way she helped Stephanie to connect to her father. It's difficult to explain without spoilers, but suffice to say that the gentleness of parenting here, except when it wasn't, caught me in an uncomfortably familiar place. That, and I've never experienced the dark as a living entity before... and now, I feel it a little differently.
Bad Squirrel was especially fun for me, because, growing up with a father who did all he can to defeat them, and me cheering for the squirrels every time, this one made me happy in a place I'm not necessarily proud of acknowledging.
In Karen Gets Her Man, I was again reminded why storytellers and those who indulge in hours of vicarious living through the written word are the luckiest people on the planet. Storytellers and their readers get to do, be, and say things that would get most humans sent to solitary confinement forever. Fiction is our get out of jail free card, and we know it. This is the story every woman secretly plans for, at the same time she plans her wedding... but most never talk about it.
I waited far too long to read this short story collection by the hugely talented Ken MacGregor. You shouldn't!
This book was a complete delight to read! In this age when so many people are complaining about the foibles in life... or worse... D.A. Reed steps up and shares her less-than-perfect self with us proudly. This book is part memoir, part stand up comedy, part intimate reflection. This is a study in courage presented in a way that will not only make you think of fearlessness as a delicate thing, but as a vigorous thing, too. The author is so brave... and her family even more so for allowing themselves to be shared on the page in her soul-bearing self-giggle.
I loved reading this book as a diversion while exercising... to help me get through the stuff I didn't want to do. I loved reading this book on the couch with the dog at night, to lend me comfort after a long day. I loved reading this book during a few lunch breaks now and then, to give me the light-hearted break from a complicated day.
What this incredibly passionate woman has done with her life, and continues to do, inspires me and helps me to see that all is not lost to those who stumble. The simplicity of how she spilled her life out on the page to remind me of my worth and strength through her missteps, is a gift I will hold dear for many years to come. My respect for my friend, this amazing author, this incredible human, has grown tremendously because of these simple, inspiring, elegant, hysterical 136 pages.
Also, the amazing artwork on the cover was designed by Malerie Zupin, an eighth-great student who will surely make a name for herself in the art world... and she's a wonderful person, in her own right! Keep at it Malerie!!
Admittedly, the closest I’ve come to indulging in Asian literary influences were Sidhartha from a Far Eastern Literature class in High School, a Folklore course in college, and a bit of Manga, Dragon Ball Z, and Pokemon from my son’s affiliations when he was young. It’s sad, I know. I’ve been living under multiple rocks for far too long. Yet in my own defense, there is so much spectacular literature in the world… I can’t possibly be expected to understand it all intimately. So, with this read, I’ve been introduced to a new escapade in storytelling… at least for me… and I’m delighted.
I can’t tell you what I expected when I began reading this novel. I heard the author, Xander Cross, read during a few Virtual Book Festivals, and so I had a bit of a taste… but I was walking in largely unaware of what I might find. I love picking up books this way… first introductions are incredibly seductive.
What I can tell you now is that not one page of this book was tedious or indiscriminate. Every moment of conflict or repose was crafted for a reason. Every word of dialogue is spoken with the goal of revealing a personal connection you didn’t think you’d find. The cadence of the story feels natural, and the breadcrumbs of anticipation are impossible to neglect. The author knows his way around the playground of Asian folklore. His devotion to research adds depth to his writing as he crafts a respectful homage inside the allure of dystopian possibility.
Each of the characters in this story are full and rich in their creation. They fight, speak, dream, and strategize exactly as they should… none of it is out of place, nor dropped in simply for shock value. As the main character and the others follow through their individual story goals, we watch loyalties unfold and we discover relatable characters where we least expect them. Rather than trite, magic is natural. Battle is an honored tradition; a currency to earn respect.
The most interesting aspect of this book for me, was the way the author crafted the evolution of his main character. We’re taught in creative writing class that a protagonist should evolve, grow, and change toward a positive arc as the story tracks from chapter one to the end. Xander has, quite skillfully, flipped this notion inside out. The protagonist, Hayate, moves through the story from a place of near serenity and focused spiritual purpose, toward a place of emotional and spiritual degradation, but he retains a hard-won respectful dignity. It feels perfectly right that he does not deserve our disdain. We cheer for him at every step. Why? Because as our eyes inhale the story, we share in his frustration as he recognizes his fall from grace. We acknowledge that he’s making the change out of self-preservation and within the very same traditions that enlightenment demands.
Throughout this story, subtlety lives well in the shadows with assertive posturing, vibrant word choice, and emotional manipulation. This author has done nothing by happenstance. It’s all a beautifully choreographed dance revealing the underbelly of survival without giving in to the trope of sacrifice.
This is the first book of a series I am eagerly looking forward to devouring. Thank you, Xander Cross; you’ve set the bar very high for my next Asian folklore reading experience.
After reading A Slice of Fear by Andrew Allen Smith, one resounding phrase echoed in my brain. It was the old Monty Python television program’s transition phrase, “...and now for something completely different”.
This collection of short stories pulls you in several directions simultaneously. From the title, you can easily imagine that you’re going to be led down paths of suspense and tension… but with Andrew, you just never know what that might look like.
Andrew’s suspense-spy-thriller Masterson Files series undoubtedly delivers on what the genre implies; page turning action. You’ll get no such comfort in expectation with this book. The slices you're served will stimulate taste buds you didn't know you had, or wanted. Your breath will catch in the back of your throat, and you’ll think… “Oh, that was good;” smiling to yourself as you turn another page.
Don't you just love hunting for bargains? The ritual of Black Friday shopping is exhilarating! Masks and social distancing comfort our virus apprehension, offering us security. Flea Markets sometimes hold wonderous surprises in the most ordinary packages. A woman always speaks in earnest when she vows to protect her man. These are just a few of the familiar sunlit paths Andrew entices you to explore, and in so doing, you may discover that the gentle shadows have a more sinister silhouette... and it's invigorating.
This collection achieves something remarkable for it’s genre. Each story, while pulling you to the edge of fear and in some cases, enticing a certain squeamish terror, also invites you to examine your preconceived perceptions about how humanity thinks, acts, and responds to fear. These stories will pull at your racing heart and prickle at your clammy skin. Andrew will offer psychological temptations to blend the insight of terror with common life experiences. If you follow his lead, you may become irrevocably mesmerized with your own indulgences of fear. And you'll like it.
As a human being, one of the very best things you can do in life is to be surprised by someone who you thought you knew. For readers, that means discovering something new inside the writing of an author you thought you already understood. Such is the case for me with Andrew Allen Smith. And it's exhilarating.
In Andrew's novel, Vengeful Son, which I took FAR TOO LONG to read, I have discovered additional layers to the writing acumen I already knew this fine gentleman possessed. Andrew is a friend, a fellow of my writing community. He is a profound thinker, offering up meditation pieces each day about the simplest moments of life. They inspire and comfort me, daily. Andrew is also a master at short stories that insinuate the answers to questions we didn't knew we needed to ask; some that make us comfortable with the shadows that follow us - which is a little unnerving at times.
Andrew is a super-tight writer. I knew that going into this book. Andrew understands the twist ending like few others I've read. I knew that, too. What I didn't know was that Andrew also knows how to give you depth of emotion and layers of intellect, without making it seem like the characters have something to prove. These are real people he writes about, confronted with extraordinary circumstances, that in truth, simply make up their ordinary lives. Having that glimpse into their motivations - and the lack of the necessity to explain themselves - is refreshing and alluring.
This is an action-packed thriller that doesn't overwhelm you with the details you really don't need to know, anyway. Backstory be dammed. Beginning with Chapter One starting out at a comfortable ninety miles per hour, Andrew offers you the opportunity to go on a ride that at first glance, you may think you've been on before... but you'd be wrong. He drops you directly into the action, and simultaneously draws you into the empathy of each character he introduces. He allows the hook of each chapter to entice you deeper into the story, with what seems like effortless negligence for "the way it's supposed to happen". The people you're set up to dislike have qualities about them that make you question your own judgement. The people you like immediately, only grow on you as time passes. And the dogs are by far, the most remarkable illustration of dichotomy I've seen in quite some time. This is a fast-paced read that forced me to put it down every so often - just so I could catch my breath.
I like these characters. I like their story goals. And I like Andrew's equal, high-octane treatment of both. I am engaged so fully in the world he has created, that I'm actually a little disgruntled with myself that I promised to read other author's books before moving the rest of this series to the top of my list. But in time - they shall all be read. With my apologies and thanks, to the author.
Holy Moly! I waited WAY too long to read Kate McNeil's work. I don't think I've enjoyed a spy book this much in quite a while. Generally, I gravitate more toward stories about people and exotic locations, rather than tales of espionage and government back dealings... but this one had me hooked from page two.
It took me a minute or two to realize that this wasn't going to be the average take on the spy genre. This wasn't James Bond or Jason Bourne... this was so much better! Why? Mostly because of the fact that the main character, Vivian Carmichael, was a real person. She has self-doubt, strong confidence, mad firearms skills, and a heart and brain that are constantly in motion... sometimes overlapping with the high-energy of a quick-step, and at other times with the seductiveness of a tango. So unpredictable are her thoughts and movements, that only a skilled author, like Kate McNeil, can create a love interest to keep up - and sometimes, he doesn't... which makes this story even more engaging.
If you're looking for an escape into a world of thinking ahead while simultaneously pulling the pieces together, this book, with its tight dialogue, reverberating action, and tender psychology will have you hooked. The details written into the story... the places, the language syntax, the cultural nuances... they all provoke you to follow wherever Vivian leads, and you'll believe it's all true.
This is book three in the series, but it's really the beginning. The acumen with which the author can entice you to jump in the middle while validating your need to read both forward and back, is, in my opinion, the reason to ditch your preconceived notions about what spy thrillers are all about, and embark on the adventure to Bulgaria.
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