Tag Archives: drama

Things Happen by Christopher Acker Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The desperate search for answers we all desire takes center stage in four incredible short stories from author Christopher Acker in the collection, “Things Happen”. 

The Synopsis

In these four stories, things happen.

A mother loses her son to a magic trick gone horribly wrong. Now a Google Maps car is trying to erase the last tangible memory she has of him.

Michelle lands her first big role in Hollywood as a prostitute in a Sam Cooke biopic. But her chance at stardom is jeopardized when riots break out after an innocent black man is murdered by the LAPD.

Everyone in St. Louis knows about the Salazar House of Horrors where a teenage girl was tortured and imprisoned. The prosecution asks Brandon—a model railroad enthusiast—to make a miniature replica of the infamous dungeon. The goal is to persuade the jury to put the monster behind bars forever. But constructing such degradation at 1/12th scale with his wife and two daughters lingering over his shoulder pushes Brandon and his family beyond their limit.

Disgraced journalist Alexander Reynolds is knee-deep in depression. Just about the only thing he can muster these days is slithering to his couch to watch The Maury Povich Show. In a sudden stroke of genius, a path out of his humiliation falls into his lap: he will fake his way to being a guest on Maury. There’s only one problem. He’ll need to convince his wife—the Oscar-winning filmmaker—to play a co-starring role.

The characters here are bruised, battered, and just plain exhausted. They’re like us. And like us, not everything works out for them. It’s this humanity that’s at the heart of this unforgettable collection.

THINGS HAPPEN offers a poignant yet highly entertaining portrayal of people desperately looking for answers in a time when truth and facts are more elusive than ever. The themes of infidelity, unresolved grief, identity, redemption, and racial injustice are woven throughout, lending these short stories a degree of resonance every reader can connect with. And to keep things interesting, a celebrity or two might even make an appearance.

Above all else, THINGS HAPPEN reflects what’s going on in this country right now:

A whole lot of something. 

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The Review

This was such a compelling and engaging read. The author expertly crafted each story to represent an important representation of today’s issues facing our nation, from racial injustice to grief and loss and everything in-between. The characters in each story felt real and gripping as their stories developed over time, and their struggles touched upon so many issues that have always been there but seem to have intensified and become more prevalent in the last couple of years during this pandemic.

What stood out to me was the pacing the author took with each story. With each story being a short story or novella, the reader may have expected the narratives to feel rushed or details to have been missed, but honestly, after reading this collection I felt like the author perfectly elevated the tension and built up the atmosphere in a natural way without sacrificing the theme or characters in any way. 

The Verdict

A memorable, thought-provoking, and entertaining read, author Christopher Acker’s “Things Happen” is a remarkable and relatable must-read collection, and the perfect book to pick up this fall. Emotional storytelling, haunting atmosphere, and perfectly built-up tension allowed this collection to shine brightly, and I was truly enthralled with each story’s narrative. If you haven’t yet, either preorder or pick up your copy of this book today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Christopher Acker is a husband, father, and full-time clinical social worker living in Bridgewater, New Jersey. His fiction has appeared in Change Seven, Crêpe & Penn, New Reader Magazine, Junto Magazine, The Ocotillo Review, Thing Magazine, Subtle Fiction, The Raven’s Perch, Inwood Indiana, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Firefly Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and No Extra Words. His work has also been featured on Wandsworth Radio in the UK.

www.facebook.com/christopherhowardacker

www.amazon.com/author/christopheracker

www.goodreads.com/christopheracker

Hollister McClane by Laurie Lisa Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

After stumbling into her first bank robbery, newly-formed criminal Hollister McClane takes readers on a journey of discovery, danger, and more in author Laurie Lisa’s “Hollister McClane”.

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The Synopsis

Hollister McClane is a small-town, southern Missouri, gorgeous (if she does say so herself) heroine who has a knack for accidentally robbing banks, a convenience store, and a possible drug cartel. She might inadvertently throw in a couple of grand theft autos, but truly, she wouldn’t hurt a fly–not even when that Ruger falls into her lap.

Savvy and self-taught, eternally optimistic and zealously patriotic, Hollister walks, runs, hitchhikes, and drives from one chance encounter to another across America’s heartland. After accidentally robbing her first bank dressed as Uncle Sam, Hollister sees her newfound life on the run as a matter of Fate. And it doesn’t hurt that she is a genius at disguises (if she does say so herself).

Hollister always tries to do the right thing with her newfound bounty, but somehow, it keeps slipping through her fingers. Also, there are a few obstacles along the way: the law, the lovers, the three not-quite-ex-husbands, the babies, and always, world-weary Mama. When Hollister finally does use that gun, unfortunately, she’s pointing it too close to home.

The Review

This was a truly engaging read. Author Laurie Lisa hits it out of the park once more, delving into the crime thriller genre with ease and finding the perfect balance of this genre with humor and charm. The theme of morality, and how desperation and miscommunication can easily lead someone down a dark and dangerous road made this story shine brightly.

Hollister McClane was a brilliant protagonist/antihero. The unique perspective of the character’s arc is fascinating to read, as the character gives a first-person POV as her journey into a life of crime grows deeper and deeper throughout the narrative. What is fascinating is seeing how the character rationalizes and frames the arc of her journey. From the moments trying to shed light on the path not taken, to the growth and experience she takes on as time moves forward, and even to the open-ended finale that highlights the character’s story, Hollister truly becomes the driving force of her own novel. 

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The Verdict

Something that author Laurie Lisa has done so well over the course of several books is creating relatable, realistic, and emotionally-driven reads that focus heavily on intricate character development, and Hollister McClane is no different. From the complex relationships with exes, her mother, and the law, to the balance of humorous observations on the protagonist’s part and the brilliant writing that showcases the author’s talent for fleshing out strong and unique characters, this novel, “Hollister McClane” by Laurie Lisa, is an instant smash hit! If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Laurie was born and raised in Southern Illinois.  She obtained her B.S.in English Education from the University of Illinois, where she also met and then married her husband Steve. Laurie earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English (20th-century American literature) from Arizona State University, where she also taught literature and composition. In addition to her novels, Laurie has published two academic books, several short stories and poems, and edited other’s works. After much time spent in Academia and raising her three children (Anthony, Michelle, and Caitlin), Laurie returned to her passion for writing fiction.  She is a prolific writer of contemporary upmarket women’s fiction and typically completes one novel each year. 

Laurie resides with her husband, Steve, in Paradise Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona.

https://laurielisa.com/

Interview with Jeff Costello

1)    Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’m a long-time sales executive in the technology space. That’s how I’ve made a living for the past 30-plus years. But, deep down inside, I’m really a storyteller. Whether it’s a presentation to a large group, a barstool conversation with a customer, or just hanging out with friends, I like to tell stories. Usually, they’re humorous. Occasionally, they’re insightful. Sometimes, they’re both. I hope that book falls into the “both” category.

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2)    What inspired you to write your book?

There’s a famous quote from Toni Morrison that goes like this, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I’ve always wanted to read a book that accurately captured what I’ve experienced in my career. I felt that readers would enjoy the people, passion, camaraderie, customer interactions, and overall craziness associated with hitting a revenue goal, chasing the big deal, or being for sale, especially if I did it in a humorous way.

3)    What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope that readers gain a better understanding of the salesperson-buyer relationship and, hopefully, a better appreciation of it. Business people are almost always portrayed negatively in books, movies, and TV shows, especially salespeople. It’s a common trope to show salespeople as either smart but devious or affable morons. This has not been my experience. I’ve interacted with thousands of buyers and salespeople over my career and have found the great majority of them to be intelligent, honest people.

One other theme that I’d like for readers to see is to always find the humor in things. The characters in my book deal with a lot of turmoil in a short period of time but are always laughing together every step of the way. That should feel authentic to every salesperson I’ve ever met.

4)    What drew you into this particular genre?

I find what I do for a living to be fascinating. I love it and really thought readers who were unfamiliar with my world would love it as well. I confided to friends that I wanted to write a book that described the process of running a sales organization with the same level of passion and detail that Tom Clancy uses in describing the inner workings of a submarine because I think it is every bit as intriguing.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I want to sit down with Joseph Whitehorn. Every other character in the book is very familiar to me from my years of experience running technology sales teams, so I’ve already had the pleasure of spending time with many similar people.  I find the backstory of Joseph Whitehorn to be fascinating, especially since this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first casualty from the Osage Indian Murders. I love his blend of purpose, focus, and his hidden humor that emerges as the story progresses. 

6)    What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

As a business person, I have the most extensive following on Linked-in, so that has been the best outlet for me. I also use Facebook and Twitter and would expect those two platforms to grow in importance to me in the future.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

The two obvious answers are to read more and write every day. That’s the recommendation from every reputable source, and I agree with that wisdom. The best way to get better at something is to do it, so writing daily helps. I would suggest that when you read other author’s work, read with a purpose. Notice the things you like, such as descriptions, dialog tags, POV choices, story structure, etc. Take notes and use them as inspiration for your own work.

Those are the two things that everyone will tell you. Now, I’ll give you some advice that few people will give to you. My book is filled with humor, and I found this advice from Neal Simon quite helpful. I saw him on 60 Minutes, where the interviewer asked him, “Do you laugh at your own work.” He answered that he does the first or second time he reads it, but after that, he doesn’t because he already knows the joke. He remembers it was funny, though, and that is the key. As you proof a chapter for the 50th time, the funny lines are no longer funny to you. You’ll be tempted to pull them or change them. Don’t do that! If it was funny when you wrote it, it will be funny for your readers the first time they read it. That advice may seem blindingly obvious, but when you are deep into the editing process and questioning everything you’ve written, it isn’t.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I just released Surfing with the Bishop and will focus on promoting the next few months. After that, I’ll see what inspires me. I’ve already got some thoughts on future projects but want to get more reader feedback before I lock in on anything.  I do publish a weekly blog called Trifling Amusements on Business and Life that readers might enjoy. To view, check out my website, jeffreybcostello.com.

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About the Author

Jeff Costello served as a senior sales executive for 30-plus years, driving billions of dollars of revenue from emerging technology markets. He’s led worldwide sales teams that supported partners in over 100 different countries and participated in numerous company acquisitions. Having entertained customers for decades, he’s often boasted that he has, “fed more people than Mother Teresa, or at the very least, served better wine.” Jeff lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with his wife, Trina, and their dogs, Bentley and Bo. 

Author website

https://jeffreybcostello.com/

Social Links

https://www.facebook.com/jeff.costello.7

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jecostello/

Amazon Buy Links

Hardcover https://www.amazon.com/dp/1737501902

Kindle https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BT7C9YP

Broken Pieces of God by David Seaburn Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A family reeling from setbacks and tragedies must find a way of banding together to face the darkness in author David Seaburn’s domestic drama, “Broken Pieces of God”.

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The Synopsis

In Broken Pieces of God David B. Seaburn returns to the domestic arena to explore the complex and extraordinary lives of an ordinary American couple, Eddy and Gayle Kimes. Eddy, a supervisor for a cable company, loses his job. Gayle, a tax accountant, is recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Unemployment, failed chemotherapy, and no insurance bring them to life’s precipice. Desperate, Eddy turns to a statue of Jesus, seeking a miracle, while Gayle dives deeper into a scheme she has been concocting for twenty-five years.

In the meantime, their adult offspring, Rich and Sandy, grapple with the aftershock of a tragic incident that has shadowed their lives since high school. What will happen when their secret is revealed?

At the eleventh hour, Gayle re-enters treatment and the family pulls together. Will it be too late?

This is a story of resilience in the face of uncertainty, hope in the midst of darkness, and family ties strengthened by life’s vicissitudes. 

The Review

The author does a fantastic job of relaying the paths we take in the face of overwhelming hardship, struggle, and pain, and how families each struggling with their own issues can come together to face the future with hope in the face of darkness. The author writes in a way that feels relatable and personal all at once, crafting a gripping tale that embodies life’s greatest trials and tribulations, and how people search for help or solutions from various sources, whether that be faith, family, or a little of both.

The character development was what really sealed the emotional pull this reader had with the story. The author perfectly captures the emotional depth of each character, highlighting the real-world struggles that many readers will be able to identify with while crafting a story that is engaging and pulls the reader in full-throttle. The blend of family dynamics and personal turmoil, and the family’s push to come to terms with the events of their lives was a whirlwind of emotional ups and downs as the reader became invested in this narrative. 

The Verdict

A heartfelt, gripping, and emotionally driven narrative, author David Seaburn’s “Broken Pieces of God” is a must-read drama this fall. The relatability of the characters and their plights will become super relatable to readers, while the narrative and the balance of faith and family in the midst of crisis will touch a lot of reader’s hearts. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

David B. Seaburn is the author of seven novels with his eighth, Broken Pieces of God, being released in September 2021.

David’s first publication was a series of poems when he was in seminary at Boston University (1972-75). He continued writing while serving a church for six years, mostly short stories, plays, songs, essays and two manuscripts of inspirational prose.   

He entered the field of marriage and family therapy in 1986 and was Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center where he did extensive academic writing.  During this period, he co-authored two professional books and wrote over 60 papers and book chapters.

He started writing fiction in 2000, completing his first novel, Darkness is as Light, in 2001. It was published in 2005. 

Since then, David has been busy: Pumpkin Hill (2005), Charlie No Face(2007), Chimney Bluffs (2012), More More Time (2015), Parrot Talk (2017), and Gavin Goode (2019).

He has also written and co-written numerous non-fiction pieces some ofwhich are listed on the Other Publications Page.

www.davidbseaburn.com

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/going-out-not-knowing

The Warfighter: A Novel of the Second Korean War (The Aviator: Stories of Future Wars Book 2) by Craig DiLouie Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After peace has settled over the Pacific in the aftermath of the Taiwan War, Navy fighter pilot Jack Knapp finds himself standing between a US City and nuclear destruction as he explains to the world the true cost of war and heroism in author Craig DiLouie’s “The Warfighter: A Novel of the Second Korean War”, the second book in The Aviator: Stories of Future Wars series.

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The Synopsis

Peace has returned to the Pacific after the Taiwan War, but it doesn’t last. The Korean peninsula erupts in fire and blood, drawing America into a fresh conflict that sees use of some of the world’s deadliest weapons.

In the aftermath, Navy fighter pilot Jack Knapp tells a news reporter about his experiences fighting the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and how he helped prevent a nuclear attack that could have destroyed an American city.

As the media simultaneously cheers and questions the war, Jack sets out to explain the truth of its heroism and horror—so that all might understand war’s true cost.

The Review

With a brilliant balance of character growth that readers can identify with and haunting insights into war, especially a look into future warfare, author Craig DiLouie has crafted a brilliant follow-up to his beloved novel The Aviator. Following his political prisoner trial, protagonist Jack Knapp returns to the line of duty, finding his struggle to not only retrain and fit in with his crew but normal civilian life in general after spending so long being tortured and imprisoned. The in-depth look into the mental and physical nature of his return was an engaging aspect of his character growth and helped elevate the overall narrative.

The drama and sheer terror that comes from the actual act of war on soldiers and civilians was brilliantly captured in this novel. Examining the political nature of wars from a non-political character’s POV was an inspired choice, highlighting who the real “winners” and “losers” are in a war, where power and money take precedence over family and loved ones. The futuristic setting and the character’s more personal interactions really gave the novel the entertainment and theme that this story needed to feel balanced.

The Verdict

A heart-wrenching, memorable, and engaging novel, author Craig DiLouie’s “The Warfighter” is a must-read of 2021, and a perfect sequel. The balance of narration from the author in the present and the memories of this horrific war from his past really made this feel like a soldier’s experience of warfare in the future. Readers will be enthralled with this narrative of a real soldier’s experiences in the chaos and struggle of war, and how little we understand when we haven’t had to face the choices they have. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, Craig’s novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film. He is a member of the HWA, International Thriller Writers, and IFWA.

http://craigdilouie.com/

The All-Night Sun by Diane Zinna Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young teacher reeling from the loss of her parents a decade before finds herself in an unusual friendship with one of her students, and travels to Sweden during the summer to experience the Midsummer’s Eve, and in the process discovers a dark side to her student in author Diane Zinna’s “The All-Night Sun”. 

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The Synopsis

A lonely young woman gets too close to her charismatic female student in this propulsive debut, culminating in a dangerously debauched Midsommar’s Eve.

“Memorable and meaningful.”—Claire Messud, New York Times bestselling author of The Burning Girl

Lauren Cress teaches writing at a small college outside of Washington, DC. In the classroom, she is poised, smart, and kind, well-liked by her students and colleagues. But in her personal life, Lauren is troubled and isolated, still grappling with the sudden death of her parents ten years earlier. She seems to exist at a remove from everyone around her until a new student joins her class: charming, magnetic Siri, who appears to be everything Lauren wishes she could be. They fall headlong into an all-consuming friendship that feels to Lauren like she is reclaiming her lost adolescence.

When Siri invites her along on a trip home to Sweden for the summer, Lauren impulsively accepts, intrigued by how Siri describes it: “Everything will be green, fresh, new, just thawing out.” But once there, Lauren finds herself drawn to Siri’s enigmatic, brooding brother Magnus. Siri is resentful, and Lauren starts to see a new side of her friend: selfish, reckless, self-destructive, even cruel. On the last night of her trip, Lauren accompanies Siri and her friends on a seaside camping trip to celebrate Midsommar’s Eve, a night when no one sleeps, boundaries blur, and under the light of the unsetting sun, things take a dark turn.

Ultimately Lauren must acknowledge the truth of what happened with Siri and come to terms with her own tragic past in this gorgeously written, deeply felt debut about the relationships that come to us when things feel darkest–and the transformative power of female friendship.

The Review

A truly powerful and gripping tale of friendship, loss, and grief, author Diane Zinna has crafted a masterful and emotional novel. The protagonist perfectly captures the raw and heartbreaking reality of losing one’s parents and the feeling of loneliness and heartbreak that comes from it. The whirlwind friendship she develops with Siri and the sudden connection she develops with Siri’s brother Magnus helps to lay the foundation for the shocking and crumbling world Lauren has built herself, and how grief can block us from the world as it moves on without us.

Yet it was the balance of atmosphere and culture that really grabbed my attention as a reader. The setting not only of Sweden but of the events of Midsommar added so much history and culture to not only the narrative but the character’s backgrounds, while the atmosphere and the blend of quick friendship with sudden isolation really captured the fragility that grief can create in us all, especially when trauma begins to block out memories along the way.

The Verdict

A remarkable, emotional, and heartfelt story of painful losses and the path to finding hope and friendship again, author Diane Zinna’s “The All-Night Sun” is a must-read novel! That author does an incredible job of capturing the heart and soul of the protagonist’s internal struggle while layering a mystery behind the fate of the young woman who brought Lauren back out of her grief into the narrative. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Diane Zinna is originally from Long Island, New York. She received her MFA from the University of Florida and has taught creative writing for over ten years. She was formerly the executive co-director at AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which hosts the largest literary conference in North America each year. In 2014, Diane created the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, helping to match more than six hundred writers over twelve seasons. Diane also has a degree in Psychology and leads a popular grief writing class every Sunday for writers of all levels of experience.

The All-Night Sun, her first novel, was longlisted for The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and the Cabell First Novelist Award. In 2020, Diane received the ArtsFairfax Artist Grant, and her work appeared at Electric Literature, LiteraryHub, Brevity, and Monkeybicycle. Diane lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband and daughter. 

http://dianezinna.com/

https://www.instagram.com/dianezinna/

https://www.bookbub.com/books/the-all-night-sun-by-diane-zinna

Parrot Talk by David B. Seaburn Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two siblings discover their estranged mother has passed away, and go on a journey of exploration as their mother’s friends encourage them to come to Pittsburgh and deal with her estate, including her grieving parrot, in the powerful novel “Parrot Talk”.

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The Synopsis

Lucas and Grinder are more than a little surprised and confused to hear that their mother, Millie, who they haven’t heard from in over thirty years, has died. Now her best friend wants them to come to Pittsburgh to take care of their mother’s effects, chief among them being Paul.

A road trip ensues with memorable stops at a Racino, a Pittsburgh landmark greasy spoon, and finally a ride on an incline trolley to meet their mother’s friend, Janice. They are taken aback when she introduces them to Paul, an African grey parrot in the depths of grief, who has things to say that will change their lives. And so a transformative adventure begins.

The Review

This was quite an emotional yet humorous read. Anyone who has ever gone through loss or a tumultuous if the not nonexistent relationship with a family member will be able to identify with this narrative easily. The brother’s chemistry is fun to watch unfold here, as each reacts in their own way to the loss of their mother. Yet it is Paul who steals the show, revealing not only a great deal of humor and wit in the amazingly smart bird but also connecting the brothers to their mother, whom neither had gotten to know, as Paul recites and brings the words of their mother to live on their journey of discovery.

The sometimes dark yet relatable and funny chord and balance the author found within this narrative’s deeper themes was a truly inspiring thing to read. The heartbreaking reality of abandonment and parenthood and its effects on children over time was seen as the brothers struggled with the idea of not knowing their real mother. Paul’s quick wit and the reflection on their mother’s personality in life not only cut the tension in these scenes but brought their mother to life as well, something a lot of readers will be able to identify with.

The Verdict

A remarkable, charming, and emotionally charged narrative, author David B. Seaburn’s “Parrot Talk” is a must-read novel. The engaging way the author weaves this story in such a short amount of time is incredible, while the breathtaking journey of two brothers seeking to find acceptance in the lack of relationship with their mother, and the knowledge that in her own strange way, she did hold love in her heart, will really resonate with readers everywhere. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

David B. Seaburn is the author of seven novels with his eighth, Broken Pieces of God, being released in September 2021.

David’s first publication was a series of poems when he was in seminary at Boston University (1972-75). He continued writing while serving a church for six years, mostly short stories, plays, songs, essays and two manuscripts of inspirational prose.   

He entered the field of marriage and family therapy in 1986 and was Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center where he did extensive academic writing.  During this period, he co-authored two professional books and wrote over 60 papers and book chapters.

He started writing fiction in 2000, completing his first novel, Darkness is as Light, in 2001. It was published in 2005. 

Since then, David has been busy: Pumpkin Hill (2005), Charlie No Face(2007), Chimney Bluffs (2012), More More Time (2015), Parrot Talk (2017), and Gavin Goode (2019).

He has also written and co-written numerous non-fiction pieces some ofwhich are listed on the Other Publications Page.

www.davidbseaburn.com

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/going-out-not-knowing

A Season in Lights by Gregory Erich Phillips Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two people who dream of glory through their musical and theatrical careers learn the sweetness of new love and the painstaking process of chasing one’s dreams in author Gregory Erich Philips novel “A Season in Lights”.

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The Synopsis

Passion, ambition and escape in the colorful artistic underworld off-Broadway, Cammie, a dancer in her mid-thirties, has just landed her first part in a show since coming to New York City. Yet the tug of familial obligation and the guilt of what she sacrificed to be there weigh down her dancing feet. 

Her lover, Tom, an older piano player, came to the city as a young man in the 1980s with a story eerily in tune with Cammie’s own. Through their triumphs and failures, both learn the fleeting nature of glory, the sweetness of new love, and how a dream come true isn’t cherished until it passes. The bright lights of the stage intoxicate, while degradation and despair lurk close behind the curtain. 

Their sagas are marred by two pandemics, AIDS in the 1980s and COVID-19 today, which ravaged the performing arts community, leaving a permanent scar on those who lived through them. The poignant intersection of their stories reveals a love affair unbound by time, reaching across decades through the notes of a piano’s remembered song. 

The Review

A truly emotional and heartfelt, character-driven narrative. The author has done a masterful job of blending the backstories and backdrops of both protagonists in this narrative, mirroring their experiences and personalities as they grow not only as individuals but as romantic interests as well. The need to protect and care for a sibling, the pursuit of their dreams, and facing health crisis on a global scale mark the familiar paths both characters walk in this narrative.

What really stood out to me was the novel’s connection to New York City. The novel expertly delves into the nooks and crannies of not only the city itself but the people who live within it, painting a very vivid image of the novel’s setting in our own minds. It got to be like the city itself came alive and become a character, which I have found to be an enduring trait of some of the best New York-led narratives. 

The Verdict

A masterful, driven, and engaging read, author Gregory Erich Philips’s “A Season in Lights” is a must-read novel. The breathtaking scenery described in the author’s brilliant writing and the emotional impact of both character’s stories and struggles really made the narrative come alive, drawing the reader in further and further into the narrative. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

From a prolific literary family, Gregory Erich Phillips tells aspirational stories through strong, relatable characters that transcend time and place. Living in Seattle, Washington, he is also an accomplished tango dancer and musician.

http://gregoryerichphillips.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/books/a-season-in-lights-by-gregory-erich-phillips

Cenotaphs by Rich Marcello Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A tale of platonic love and redemption take center stage when two people meet in a small Vermont town in author Rich Marcello’s “Cenotaphs”. 

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The Synopsis

AFTER A CHANCE MEETING, AN OLD MAN AND A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN CHART AN UNCONVENTIONAL PATH FORWARD.

When Ben Sanna, a contemplative retiree with a penchant for helping people, and Samantha Beckett, a secretive New York City hedge fund manager, meet by chance in a small Vermont town, they enter into a tenuous relationship. Over several weeks, Samantha and Ben open their pasts inch by inch, sift through their futures consciously, and come to terms with the strength and depth of their bond. A meditation on redemption told in alternating chapters of musings and scenes, Cenotaphs is about platonic love; the ways we close ourselves off in reaction to pain and what happens when we open ourselves up again; and the deep, painful legacy of loss.

The Review

What a truly remarkable and memorable read. The author does a fantastic job of balancing atmosphere and pacing within this narrative, establishing the needful search for serenity and peace within both of the protagonists of this narrative while also peeling back the layers of their backstories little by little. I absolutely loved the setting of this narrative as well, capturing the haunting beauty of the northeastern portion of the United States, in particular the crisp atmosphere of Vermont, in a truly memorable way.

The character development of this novel was the cornerstone of the entire story. The complexity and emotional depths the author took these characters were gripping as a reader. Both characters proved to be flawed yet steadfast in their need for understanding, and their platonic connection showcased the importance of having someone to love and care for us all, even if that doesn’t translate into romance. 

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The Verdict

A heartfelt, engaging, and breathtaking story of connection, growth, and speaking our truths in order to find love, author Rich Marcello’s “Cenotaphs” is a must-read novel. The perfect story that reads like an Oscar-worthy, character-driven film that would compel any audience, the novel’s story is truly inviting and memorable. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Rich is the author of five novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, The Beauty of the Fall, The Latecomers, and Cenotaphs, and the poetry collection, The Long Body That Connects Us All. He also teaches creative writing at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, self-discovery and forgiveness. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet. For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts with his wife and Newfoundland Shaman. He is currently working on his sixth and seventh novels, The Means of Keeping and In the Seat of the Eddas, a follow-on to The Latecomers.

http://www.richmarcello.com/