Beyond the Tolbooth: A short story of Human Resilience by Stephen Parkes Review

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

Author Stephen Parkes once again takes readers on a journey through one of the strangest 18th century cases you’ll ever read about in the short story, “Beyond the Tolbooth”. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

A short story of human resilience. 18th-century Margaret Dickson hangs for her crimes and lives to tell about it.

The Review

What fascinated me about this story was the way the author delved into the tricky notion that not all history is set in stone. Exploring Margaret’s story, readers will instantly see the way rumors and half-truths led to the tragic circumstances of Margaret being sent to prison and later executed for them, only to survive the ordeal. It’s really a telling story, as back then a woman could be imprisoned and even executed for something as simple as concealing a pregnancy. The truth behind her story is not fully realized, and the author pinpoints these inaccuracies and allows readers to come to their own determination about who Margaret was and whether or not she truly was guilty.

The Verdict

A unique story of fighting for the truth, pinpointing historical fact from assumption, and the shocking reality that nothing is foolproof in the criminal justice system, and Margaret is one of the few people to have ever survived the most popular form of execution, a public hanging. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of Beyond the Tolbooth by Stephen Parkes today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Stephen Parkes (1960 – ) was born in Detroit, Michigan. Stephen earned a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of law and a Ranger tab from the U.S. Army. He is a former Weapons platoon leader with the 2d Ranger battalion. He is one of very few individuals to experience a long-drop hanging (in his case more than eight feet) and live to tell about it. He was twice convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon, a knife, and spent four and one-half years in federal prison and county lock-ups. Stephen was certified by the State of Florida as a habitual violent felony offender in 2008. These days, Stephen is an honorable man and husband. These days, Stephen lives free and prospers.

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The Donut Hypothesis: A Cop. A Criminal. And Their Donuts by Stephen Parkes Review

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

In a unique origin story, author Stephen Parkes takes readers on an informative and humorous journey to discover the history behind the preconception regarding police officers and a certain breakfast pastry in “The Donut Hypothesis”. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

A short story about a cop, a criminal and their donuts.

The Review

In just a couple of pages, (5 to be exact), the author explores the secret history of the donut, from it’s original name that never stuck, to the way it was incorporated into the image of police officers. What’s most fascinating about this story is that the author takes such a simple and strange story concept, and in just a few pages makes it entertaining and fascinating all at once. Readers won’t be able to help being intrigued and by the books end, will find themselves chuckling as they read the author’s final words.

The Verdict

While a short read, the story itself was unique and very entertaining. A fun story that delves into one of the criminal justice systems most underrated secret histories, readers will instantly fall in love with this story. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy of Stephen Parkes short story “The Donut Hypothesis” today!

Rating: 8/10

About the Author

Stephen Parkes (1960 – ) was born in Detroit, Michigan. Stephen earned a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of law and a Ranger tab from the U.S. Army. He is a former Weapons platoon leader with the 2d Ranger battalion. He is one of very few individuals to experience a long-drop hanging (in his case more than eight feet) and live to tell about it. He was twice convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon, a knife, and spent four and one-half years in federal prison and county lock-ups. Stephen was certified by the State of Florida as a habitual violent felony offender in 2008. These days, Stephen is an honorable man and husband. These days, Stephen lives free and prospers.

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The Devil’s Agent: A Most Unusual Story of Crime and Punishment by Stephen Parkes Review

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

Author Stephen Parkes takes readers into one of the 18th century’s strangest executions to ever occur in the justice system in the short biography, “The Devil’s Agent”. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

A short story of 18th-century crime and capital punishment. William Duell lives and dies and lives again.

The Review

In just a few pages, (23 pages total), the author brings readers one of the most vile criminals and one of the most fascinating trial and punishment phases within the 18th century. The author goes into detail regarding the crime and the long process inside prison, most notably death row, as well as the process a criminal goes through traveling from prison to the gallows for public executions. 

What makes this story so unique however is the way the story ends, which will have the reader in shock as they discover one of the strangest cases of capitol punishment gone wrong. It’s a vivid and informative short read, and packs quite a punch.

The Verdict

Overall this is a fantastic short story that fans of the true crime and biography genre will thoroughly enjoy. A story of the horrors inflicted by the worst of society, and the inescapable truth that sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, no matter how final they may seem. If you enjoy true crime stories then pick up your copy of The Devil’s Agent by Stephen Parkes today. 

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Stephen Parkes (1960 – ) was born in Detroit, Michigan. Stephen earned a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of law and a Ranger tab from the U.S. Army. He is a former Weapons platoon leader with the 2d Ranger battalion. He is one of very few individuals to experience a long-drop hanging (in his case more than eight feet) and live to tell about it. He was twice convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon, a knife, and spent four and one-half years in federal prison and county lock-ups. Stephen was certified by the State of Florida as a habitual violent felony offender in 2008. These days, Stephen is an honorable man and husband. These days, Stephen lives free and prospers.

https://amzn.to/2V8Shkg

Interview with Author Lorna Brown

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

I always wanted to write, I don’t remember a particular time when the feeling came to me- it was always there. I started my first book at around 11 and it was an orphan Annie story that really disappointed me for the lack of originality. I thought ‘I have nothing to write about’ and I believe that’s when the yearning for travelling came. I talked about that all the time. After studying psychology and working for a year, I left Ireland. I worked in Australia, Japan, Boston and traveled South East Asia and New Zealand for three months alone, and South America for six months with my husband who I met in Japan. Eventually I came back to Ireland and I was nearing 30 when I finally started writing full time, with my husband’s support.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

This collection has been a while in the making. I’d been writing novels, breaking every rule in the book too as I tried to figure it out, and when I moved the States with my husband and three daughters, I started writing the stories. I wanted to write about how society views certain people, which make it difficult for them, like Lou and dyslexia, or Marcus marrying and trying to hide that he was gay, or Ester getting it wrong when her friend moves in with an older man, all these mistakes we make about people because it is impossible to know the whole truth about anyone. After I knew the characters, I put them together in the village I grew up.   

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

I think through all the stories is the idea that we never truly know what’s going on with other people, while also addressing the fact that society can be tough. ‘In Taste of Salt’, when the group of kids come into the room with Lou, I write, they didn’t really know him but it was easy to forget this, to accept their wariness as reasonable, because there is the idea that we become how society views us. It is so hard to break from the mold. But there is also through the stories an idea of second chances, or being able to rise above it, and I think the ending of ‘White Trout’ is good for that.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I started short stories because I wanted to understand them and see how it was done. It took a good while for me to learn what they were about and how to write them.  This year I finished my second collection ‘It Is Good We Are Dreaming’ which is about that moment when people realize something about their live never known before, or that moment when we are forced to grow up, and I loved writing the stories, as well as the stories of Treading The Uneven Road, because they really made me look at the world around me. Writing a novel is a lot more insular I think. At least I tend to focus on the world I am creating, but when I am working on a collection I really look at what’s going on around me. The second collection most of the stories are taken from news articles and my ideas of what was behind them while Treading The Uneven Road was more about society and its biases.  

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

Hard one, I like Dick for his dreaminess, but I really like Patrick from ‘Amends’ for his sense of humor. Eilish is a funny one, so stern and upright, but there is some softness to her that I’d like to see, Ann, would be interesting, I’d imagine sitting in her small kitchen with the view of the bay and that I wouldn’t get a word in edgeways. I’d probably ask her if she wished she’d knocked on that hotel door. (You have to read the collection to get see what I mean)

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

I really don’t like social media, and I don’t use it much. But I love all the reviewers, such as yourself, who have been willing to review my book after my request with a synopsis. It’s fantastic that you spend time helping authors get known. I have to give it to the book bloggers sites.

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

To accept feedback with gratitude because it is impossible to get better or learn without it. To be able to erase your words, none written is a waste of time. They lead to the destination, but not all are meant to stay. Read and write as much as you can and believe in your talent and ability no matter what anyone says, or how long it takes.

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

I have a lot of projects on the horizon. Fomite has my second collection. It Is Good We Are Dreaming. I secured an agent with my novel, Patient 55. But I finished my re-write of Hinterland soon after and we both agreed it was a stronger one to start with. It took eight years for me to get all the pieces right for Hinterland.  I was glad that he thought it stronger because I’d like to think my books get better with each one. I recently finished my latest novel Our Wandering, and I was planning to write a short story collection with Irish folklore in present day setting. I love doing short stories between novels. They are so different. But with the Government shut down and everything that’s happening here, I realize I need to write something about that. I’m reading now and in the planning stages. I write a lot and am always thinking of stories.

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Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown Review

Author L.M. Brown delivers a powerful collection of short stories that explores the connected lives of several people living in a small village in Ireland during the 80’s and 90’s in her upcoming book, Treading the Uneven Road.

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

Author L.M. Brown delivers a powerful collection of short stories that explores the connected lives of several people living in a small village in Ireland during the 80’s and 90’s in her upcoming book, Treading the Uneven Road. Here’s the synopsis.

The Synopsis

The stories in this linked collection are set in a small village in the Northwest of Ireland in the early 1980’s and 90’s. A by-pass around the village has rid them of their once busy traffic. The residents feel forgotten by the world. The need to reach out and be heard is explored in every story, from the young woman who starts to have phone conversations with her husband’s gay lover, to the dyslexic man who confronts his cruel teacher years later. 

The collection is not only about the characters need for salvation but it is about a society that is unraveling. In Amends, we hear about the Bishop who has fathered a child. A priest is beckoned by a dying man to be mocked. The world inside and outside the village is changing. In every story the characters need to make a choice on how they might carry on.

The Review

This is a fantastic short story collection. Filled with heart, passion and fantastic character development, the story flows naturally and makes for an even paced series of stories that build this village’s life in unique ways. Exploring this unique time period and showing off some of the many problems people living in Ireland faced on a daily basis was an inspired choice, highlighting the changing world around them and how some people accepted this change, while others fought it wholeheartedly. 

From the hostility towards anyone who comes out or is found to be gay in a very religious community to the trouble that comes from  parenthood and how some people aren’t made to be mother’s or father’s. Exploring marriages, friendships and everything in between, this emotional roller coaster of a short story collection is truly unique and brings some heartfelt struggles to life.

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The Verdict

This upcoming collection is a must read 2019 book. An interesting journey of individuals with their own personal struggles and how those struggles affect others really shone brightly in the novel. Amends in particular is one short story you won’t want to miss, as the story takes readers into shocking directions and forces the reader to ask themselves how our elders prejudices affect us, and how they can affect others. If you haven’t yet, be sure to preorder your copy of L.M. Brown’s “Treading the Uneven Road” today (or grab your copy of the book if it’s already released)!

Rating: 8/10

https://www.amazon.com/Treading-Uneven-Road-L-Brown/dp/194438880X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548732149&sr=1-1&keywords=9781944388805

Momentary Illumination of Objects in Motion by Jason Arias

A series of short stories captures the reader’s heart and challenges societal norms in author Jason Arias novel “Momentary Illumination of Objects in Motion”. Here is the synopsis.

The Synopsis

Momentary Illumination of Objects In Motion is the debut short story collection by Jason Arias. Focusing on life and death, race and identity, change and resistance to change. They’re stories of growth, both in the moment and over a lifetime. 

“Jason Arias will break your heart, blow your mind, make you laugh and bring you to the edge of everything that matters.” 

– Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water, and The Book of Joan

“Inspired, challenging, heartbreaking, and uplifting—the stories of Momentary Illumination of Objects In Motion are an after midnight bar story, a foxhole prayer, a graveyard shift confession. Jason Arias confronts masculinity and identity and memory and authority—as urgently needed as anything in fiction today.” 

– Matthew Robinson, author of The Horse Latitudes

“It’s a book that makes you feel whispered to and pulled in close. It’s a book that makes you wince your eyes and re-see things you thought you knew.” 

– Rita Bullwinkle, author of Belly Up

“…homes in on powerful imagery, revelatory metaphor, and vibrant characters who are fascinating to watch evolve from one story to the next.” 

– Samuel Snoek-Brown, author of Hagridden and There Is No Other Way to Worship Them

“At once, both funny and stark. A kickass debut.” 

– Margaret Malone, author of People Like You

“… Arias finds flashes of humor in the wreckage, as well as rare moments of beauty when humans transcend their limitations to become their best selves.” 

– Stevan Allred, author of A Simplified Map of the Real World

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The Review

The stories told within this collection are truly one of a kind and powerful. From the story of a young man confronted by death in the eyes of an innocent, to a young boy in love taking a leap of faith and even tales that challenge the notion of a definition of “masculinity” and the need to break societal norms, this collection has it all.

The imagery used in these stories really spoke to me personally. The emotional core of these tales that visited themes of love, loss, death and the possibility of a grim future came from these truly remarkable and relatable characters. It’s the kind of collection that highlights the struggles of the world, fusing humor and real life drama with characters that grow and evolve through their struggles.

The Verdict

Overall this was a truly creative, emotional and remarkable collection of short stories. It makes you stop and ask yourself whether or not you and the people around you are treating others the way they deserve to be treated, and whether or not you and the people around you are treated with the respect you deserve. It challenges the notion that we are defined by where we live, how we grew up, and who we love. It’s one of those rare collections that touch the heart and get your mind working, so if you haven’t yet be sure to grab your copy of Momentary Illumination of Objects in Motion by Jason Arias today.

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jason Arias’ stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Momentary Illumination of Objects In Motion is his first short story collection. 

He has worked as a hospital patient food courier, charter bus after-event cleaner, DMV records consolidator, lithography product deliveryman, one-hour photo developer, cashier, vinyl windows warehouse worker, UPS loader, EMT, paramedic, firefighter, LYFT driver, specimen collector, and sometimes a writer. 

Author’s Website: http://jasonariasauthor.com/

Author’s Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/jasonariasauthor/ 

Interview with Brandon Dragan

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I grew up Northeastern New Jersey and have loved writing for as long as I can remember. My mom tells a funny story of a third-grade teacher who said that during writing assignments most of the kids would come to her desk with a few sentences scribbled and ask if they had written enough, but I would walk up asking for more paper. So, there’s always been that desire to write and express myself, although for the better part of my life I had trouble really sticking with it. I ended up focused mainly on writing songs and actually pursued it for a bit in Nashville, Tennessee, but pretty quickly found that I wasn’t a good enough musician to really hack it there. Eventually, I think I was about 25, married and working a regular corporate job when the idea for a story hit me and I just couldn’t shake it. That idea would eventually become my first novel, “The Wages of Grace,” which will hopefully be out later this year.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
As far as the writing of my newest short story “Cast No Shadow,” again it was really just a thought that hit me between the eyes and I couldn’t shake it. I absolutely love complex characters who are capable of enormous good and repulsive evil. I think most human beings are capable of both, so I really wanted to explore the thought of a good, loving, respected family man who also has a propensity toward violence and aggression toward those he finds evil or criminal.
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3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I don’t particularly want to feed readers what they should they think, so I’ll be careful here. When art is compelling it’s because of what each person brings to it. If anything, I would hope that this story raises questions about the concept of “just” violence. Is there such a thing as “good” violence, or does it all just feed into a nasty cycle? “Cast No Shadow” does touch on several themes-many of which were not intentional when I initially wrote it, such as race, children with guns, the war on drugs, etc. It is a short story, but I feel like there is a lot of meat there and I hope everyone who reads it will come away with something to chew on.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I was drawn into this type of story mainly by my admiration for the work of Cormac McCarthy. After reading “No Country For Old Men” I always had the desire to write a kind of “modern western.” 
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
If I could sit down with any character, I think it would be Annabelle. Although she maybe comes across as a bit mousy at first, though that’s probably not the best description, I think we find by the end of the story that she’s the strongest character in it. I would love to explore her background and particularly ask why she allowed Beau his vigilante fantasy when it’s clear that was something she never wanted any part of.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I am, unfortunately, not quite a dynamo when it comes to social media, but as far as connecting with actual readers, rather than just followers, I would have to say Facebook has been most helpful.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
My advise for any upcoming or aspiring writers would be to do it for the love of it. Don’t expect a big pay day, don’t write to try to make a living. Write because something deep in you needs out and don’t give up on it. Write for you and be equal parts honest and kind to yourself.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I have got lots on the radar. My debut novel “The Wages of Grace” is complete, save one last round of nit-picky edits and cover art. I am hoping to release it in the fall or early next year. I’m also about 90% done with a rough draft on a work of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, which I’ll be sharing some details about soon. I’ve got another novel in the oven and lots of ideas, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again!