“Emotive” Kevin Laymon

Emotive is a tale of life, love, compassion, and the pursuit of happiness as told through the eyes of the story’s narrator, Linus. Linus is a puppy living in a small city located in the rolling hillsides of upstate New York. When the abnormalities of his owner Sam are all he knows since birth, he gains a perspective of unyielding acceptance and love towards the man who feeds him, takes him to the park, and murders women in his basement.

I AM LOYAL. I AM TRUSTWORTHY. 

I AM POWERLESS

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When I read the summary of “Emotive” it immediately piqued my interest. I have a huge soft spot for books narrated by animals. Since I also love a good thriller, “Emotive” was a must-read for me and boy am I glad I did. I was glued to this book from the first sentence of the first page. I literally read this entire book in one sitting. Well, I read it in the bath but you get the idea.  I can’t believe I let it sit on my shelf so long unread. I feel like I’ve offended the book gods by letting such a story sit unattended. My apologies, please don’t smite me!

Fair warning, this book will rip your heart out. Don’t worry it’ll return it eventually but holy moly is it one hell of a ride. Of all the murders in this book, I have to admit the cow was the hardest. After all Linus had been through, I had tears streaming down my face as I read those pages. How alone he must of felt. How betrayed by humans. How completely hopeless he must of found it all.

Sam will boggle your mind. He’s a total psycho, of that I have no doubt, but he also has one glimpse of remorse for poor Linus. I had a bit of hope for our little K9 hero but that hope was quickly dashed when Sam fell deeper into his obsession and paranoia. It was hard to see Sam discard Linus from his affection. It was hard to see Linus’ basic needs not be met and realize how animals must feel when us humans don’t make them a priority. When we forget to feed them on time or their water bowl doesn’t get refilled or we make them wait hours and hours on end before we let them out to potty. It was eye opening to see how emotionally devastating it is to animal kind to be at the absolute mercy of someone else’s compassion……or lack there of.

It was incredibly hard to see humans fail this one dog over and over again. This is a sight of our kind that will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and a brand new perspective. As I read, my own two dogs lay next to the tub and I caught myself looking at them multiple times wondering just what they were thinking and what they thought of me. I didn’t expect to be so affected. As a pet owner and human in general, this story will inspire some introspection and I was definitely not expecting that when I began to read.

The climax is cleverly crafted and brings everything full circle. Laymon has written a masterpiece. I strongly suggest you read it.

5 stars

The Technical Data:

Title: Emotive | Series: N/A |  Author(s): Kevin Laymon  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 4-5-2016 |Pages: 194 (Print) | ISBN: B019YT5UIY |Genre(s): Thriller / Novella / Serial Killers / Psychological  |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 8-20-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

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“Emotive was a unique read full of interesting perspective. The storytelling through the eyes of a dog created deep emotions & connections with powerful characters. The writing was strong & visual.” – Amazon Customer

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“Emotive” Kevin Laymon – Book Spotlight

Emotive is a tale of life, love, compassion, and the pursuit of happiness as told through the eyes of the story’s narrator, Linus. Linus is a puppy living in a small city located in the rolling hillsides of upstate New York. When the abnormalities of his owner Sam are all he knows since birth, he gains a perspective of unyielding acceptance and love towards the man who feeds him, takes him to the park, and murders women in his basement.

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What reviewers are saying

“I absolutely loved this book. I stumbled upon it on accident while I was on the Goodreads site. I shelved it and waited anxiously until it was available for purchase on Amazon. Being a huge dog lover is why the cover sparked my interest. The description interested me a lot, even though I knew it was probably going to be a grim book. I love how the book is told from the dog’s point of view. It really makes you think about the emotions dogs probably really do feel, but can’t communicate to us. This book went in directions I didn’t expect. I was kept at suspense and enjoyed how it all played out.” – Kaylee

“Emotive was a unique read full of interesting perspective. The storytelling through the eyes of a dog created deep emotions & connections with powerful characters. The writing was strong & visual.” – Amazon Customer

“I absolutely loved this book !!! Blunt and straight to the point, a quick read that moves right along and delivers. A fresh point a view from the main character that I found myself rooting for and falling in love with. This story takes off like a bolt of lighting right from the starting line. I’m an avid reader and though this story is brutal it is well written and I found that I could not put it down and felt quite satisfied with the ending which was heroic to say the least. I give this book a solid rating of 5 stars. This is the second book in Kevin’s line up that I have read and I can eagerly say that I am looking forward to reading his next publication. He’s a new and young writer who shows a lot of promise. I highly recommend this book as well as his first ( FUTURE WINDS )” – Don B.

Have you read this book? If so, do Mr. Laymon a solid and give your two cents by reviewing it on Amazon or Goodreads! 

We loved this book and will tell you all about it in our review in a few days! Keep an eye out but in the mean time give it a look yourself and see what all the buzz is about!

 

Book Review “Fox In The City” Daniel Cabrera

This is the story of a fox–a fox named Tom. A fox who couldn’t in his wildest dreams imagine what it would be like to stand up on two. To behold and experience all the wonders of the world of man. The lights that light up the ground: The hum of the engines that roar and the fervor that engulfs everyone in the impassioned pursuit of happiness. Could he understand that the most amazing part is not in what we built?

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“Fox In The City” is the first book I’ve ever read that’s from a Fox’s perspective. The first part of the book was the most interesting to me since it goes through the daily struggles of being a wild animal left to his own devices. It was odd looking through that lense and I wish that part of the book was a bit longer. One, because I was really wrapped into it when it abruptly changed course and two because I’m just genuinely curious to see the author take it a bit further.

Tom meets Nora and she changes his life. Nora is a beautiful character and I loved everything about her. She was wise beyond her years and incredibly kind for all she had been through. It takes a special person to rise above hardship and thrive. Nora thrives and lightens the path of all around her. Her brutal honesty keeps Tom on his toes and gives him a thread to hold when all starts falling apart.

Tom’s introspection goes deep into what it means to be an animal but also what it means to be a human. Cabrera balances these sections well with his action scenes. One does not overwhelm the other and they exist in a nice harmony to keep the stories meaning as well as keep the reader engaged in the plot.

The only complaint I have about this book is it’s language is a bit choppy. Most of the story is very formal and it doesn’t flow the way it should. There was a time or two the choppy language pulled me from the story and damped my enthusiasm.  I would like to see Cabrera do another edit and smooth out some of the unneeded words and replace them with conjuctions to allow the story to flow much more smoothly.

Other than my one complaint, I very much enjoyed the story and loved how it appeals to such a huge age group. 4 stars!

4 star

The Technical Data:

Title: Fox In The City | Series: N/A |  Author(s): Daniel Cabrera  |Publisher: LULU.com / Publication Date: 7-17-2017 |Pages: 193 (Print) | ISBN: B0749S2XGW |Genre(s): Fantasy / Novella / Fable |Language: English |Rating: 4 out of 5 |  Date Read: 8-15-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

Fox in the city Cover“The protagonist is well-imagined and its development will interest readers in many ways. It takes a lot of skill to create a story featuring compelling characters that readers can relate to, but it takes genius to write a fable that speaks straight to the heart of the reader, and Daniel Cabrera has just that. A very inspiring and entertaining story!” Five Stars—Reviewed By Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite

“Naveed – Through My Eyes” John Heffernan

The explosion jolts him awake. He sits up, gasping for air, heart thumping.

Was the blast real? Perhaps it had only happened in his head, a bad dream. Demons of the dark, his father had called them. ‘Push them away. They’ll only poison your thoughts. Seek the light and they can’t hurt you.’

Naveed is sick of war – of the foreign powers and the Taliban, the warlords and the drug barons that together have torn Afghanistan apart. He’s had to grow up quickly to take care of his widowed mother and little sister, making what little money he can doing odd jobs and selling at the markets. When he adopts Nasera, a street dog with extraordinary abilities, he has a chance to help rebuild his country. But will a new friend’s betrayal crush his dreams of peace forever?

From the winter of war comes the spring of hope.

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     I found this book while browsing the kids chapter books at my local library. It was one of those books the librarians shelve cover out so it caught my eye rather quickly. I picked it up and after reading the summary decided it sounded like a book I should read and maybe later add to my kids homeschool reading list when they are the appropriate age. I often grab a chapter book along with the younger kids books and if they sound like something that would interest my four year old now, I read them to him. My four year old is much too young for this book but it’s absolutely a book I’ve added to our reading list for later years. 

“Naveed” offers two unique perspectives that, as an American, I don’t often get to see. An Australian solider and a young Afghan boy. Naveed may be a child but his struggles are anything but small. Naveed’s mother relies on him to provide for the family and Naveed works hard to do so. He also provides for his younger sister who, due to a bomb, has lost her legs. Naveed carries a heavy load of responsibilities but it’s clear that he carries them with love. Naveed’s love for his family is beautiful. He has known nothing but war and it’s touched every single piece of his young life.  

After a bomb took away his father and severely injured his sister, Naveed’s family lives in a hovel and their situation is precarious. The land lord is a bad man who has even worse friends and cares for no one but himself. He sets his eyes on Naveed’s mother and I held my breath with worry about Naveed’s family and how or if they would find a way out of that nasty man’s reach.

Naveed is adopted by Nasera (the dog) and his life takes on a whirlwind of change. By chance he meets Jake and opportunities open that he never thought possible. Naveed’s world is almost broken by a relative (whose really broken himself) and for a time, everything is thrown into chaos once again.

I want to talk about that chaos for just a minute. In the west, we are so quick to see a terrorist and dehumanize them. We don’t think of all the things that built up and turned this otherwise unassuming person into an extremist. Heffernan brings humanity back in this tale and gives us a look into what goes into the makings of a terrorist. It’s not harped upon but Heffernan gives us a window into a world I don’t think we discuss or even acknowledge nearly enough.

Kudo’s to John Heffernan for doing his part to put a very human face on a very ugly war. May his stories enrich our lives and encourage us to find peace with one another.

5 stars.

5 stars

The Technical Data:

Title: Naveed | Series: Through My Eyes |  Author(s): John Heffernan  |Publisher: Allen & Unwin / Publication Date: 9-1-2015 |Pages: 216 (Print) | ISBN: B00YVBQO8Q |Genre(s): Middle East / War / Historical Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 8-05-2017 |Source: Copy from library.

 

“Growth and Change are Highly Overrated” by Tom Starita

Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated is a classic coming-of-age story that takes a unique and comic look at what we all fear— having to grow up and abandon our dreams.

For a charismatic man like Lucas James, life is a breeze because everyone else provides the wind. This man-child front man for a mediocre cover band has been mooching off of his fiancée Jackie for years until she finally decides she’s had enough. Faced with the reality of having no income to support his carefree lifestyle, Lucas James abandons his principles and gets a job working in the stockroom at, “That Store.” How does he cope with this new found sense of responsibility?

He casually steals…

In a life spent bucking authority how will Lucas James deal with his manager, ‘Victor the Dictator’? How long can he survive Ralph, a starry-eyed coworker who desires nothing more than to be best friends? Will Lori, a twenty-something cashier, be like everyone else and fall for his charms? Will he ever find a place to live? And is “growing up” just another way of saying “selling out?”

With this hilarious and engaging novel, author Tom Starita perfectly captures a character we have all met and perhaps some of us know all too well.

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I’m going to start this off by being honest and admit that it’s been a week since I finished reading this book. I was way too emotional after I finished to write a fair review. This is one of those few times where not only do I not particularly like the main character, I loathe him. I may even hate Lucas James. However, not being fond of the main character and reviewing a book do not go hand in hand. Just because I didn’t like the main character doesn’t mean the book itself was bad. Lucas James is a grade A jerkface but the fact I’m feeling such strong distaste for a fictional character let me know I needed space from the story to think it through. 

Starita’s writing is introspective and thought provoking at times and others a bit long winded. I enjoyed the introspection but at times there was so much of it that I found myself annoyed and side tracked from the meat of the story. My advice is to cut down on some of Lucas James’ rants and avoid drawing your reader so far from the core story.

I’m all for deep thinking characters but Lucas James’ rants tend to be more of a self validation tirade than philosophical. 

Jackie is another character that I down right do not like. I don’t like how she handled the break up and I don’t like how she handled herself during the relationship. She was an enabler and proceeded to throw a fit about the consequences of her enabling. 

Come to think of it, the only character I like is Ralph. He’s the only one who had any redeeming qualities left. I don’t like how he is treated by literally everyone and I don’t like how unappreciative Lucas James is of Ralph’s friendship. 

To me, this story is about a selfish man-child who refuses to grow up and uses his “dream” of becoming a “rock god” as an excuse to use people. If he really wanted to gain any ground in the music world, taking 548,965,943,207,504,827 naps and putting in minimal to no effort does not a musician make and I don’t think he actually wants to hit it big.

Another issue I have is that there is no real climax or conclusion. Lucas James is the same asshole he started out as. He’s gained no ground and has not evolved into anything else. There’s no real plot line and that needs to be addressed ASAP. I don’t get what the story is about other than Lucas treating everyone like crap and getting away with it.

Overall, I think this story needs some editing and another look at what the purpose of the story is supposed to be. Remove some of the long winded rants and really look at what is trying to be said.

3 stars.

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The Technical Data:

Title: Growth and Change are Highly Overrated | Series: N/A |  Author(s): Tom Starita  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 12-15-2016 |Pages: 234 (Print) | ISBN:  B01N2SW2K8 |Genre(s): General Humor |Language: English |Rating: 3 out of 5 |  Date Read: 7-20-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

“That Book I Wrote About Me” Sarah Buchanan

After three ex-husbands,

              two successful novels, and one disastrous book she’d rather forget ever having written, Fiona Fields has hit a wall. Days once filled with critics gushing over her latest masterpiece have given way to endless hours spent lying on her living room floor in Lakeview Valley, the tiny North Carolina mountain town of her youth, and staring at her ceiling. 

But after Fiona’s agent calls with an opportunity intended to drag her back into the land of the living, Fiona finds herself inspired by her ex-step-daughter, Karen, and she’s soon off and running with a brand new idea for a book and a brand new lease on life (sort of).

What Fiona doesn’t anticipate is long-buried family secrets revealing themselves and threatening to upend her newfound momentum. As she struggles to make sense of revelations about the life she thought she knew, Fiona will find that the past often shows up in the present in very unexpected ways, and that, try as she might, she’s not exempt from the 215-year-old Lakeview tradition of long-forgotten secrets coming to light in spectacular fashion.

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Sarah Buchanan Author Pic     Sarah Buchanan grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She has worked as a waitress on a dinner train, a radio DJ, a preschool teacher, a journalist, and a technical writer. She now lives in Southern California with her husband and their cats. 

Her first completed work was a play written when she was 9 that was performed by several classmates and the fish puppets they made in art class.

Sarah’s debut novel, That Book I Wrote About Me, is the first in a series of novels about the fictional small North Carolina town of Lakeview Valley.

“That Book I Wrote About Me” by Sarah Buchanan

After three ex-husbands, two successful novels, and one disastrous book she’d rather forget ever having written, Fiona Fields has hit a wall. Days once filled with critics gushing over her latest masterpiece have given way to endless hours spent lying on her living room floor in Lakeview Valley, the tiny North Carolina mountain town of her youth, and staring at her ceiling. 

But after Fiona’s agent calls with an opportunity intended to drag her back into the land of the living, Fiona finds herself inspired by her ex-step-daughter, Karen, and she’s soon off and running with a brand new idea for a book and a brand new lease on life (sort of).

What Fiona doesn’t anticipate is long-buried family secrets revealing themselves and threatening to upend her newfound momentum. As she struggles to make sense of revelations about the life she thought she knew, Fiona will find that the past often shows up in the present in very unexpected ways, and that, try as she might, she’s not exempt from the 215-year-old Lakeview tradition of long-forgotten secrets coming to light in spectacular fashion.

that book i wrote about me Cover

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Sarah Buchanan’s debut novel “That Book I Wrote About Me” is bursting at the seams with classic small time charm, beautifully flawed characters and a story that will make you wish Fiona were your best friend.

Fiona has been through a lot but she always rises above. It may not be without some pushing and shoving but nothing keeps Fiona down long. She’s strong, but not so much in your face about it. She makes mistakes. Drunken, hilariously awkward mistakes…..but her oopsies make her all the more lovable since she really means no harm in her blunders. She’s real and honest and raw. Unlike her mother and the stereotypical small town woman, Fiona lets the world see who she really is. She doesn’t hide the proverbial crazy.

My favorite thing about Fiona is her golden heart. Those she loves, she loves hard. Ex-husbands, ex-step daughters….everyone. She genuinely gives a crap about their lives. Even when, by all rights she could walk away completely. She’s that ex that becomes the friend that made you fall in love with her to begin with.

There is a part of the book where Fiona tapes up a picture of her first ex that sticks in my mind. First loves are a whirlwind of emotion that lingers no matter how things end. Probably more so when there’s no real closure. Watching Fiona comb through her past and work through old hurts really resonated with me. We’ve all thought “What if”. We’ve all sifted through our past with plenty of cringes and a boat load of sighs. Experiencing those alongside Fiona was therapeutic in a way books like this usually aren’t. I think it was the authenticity of Fiona’s character. It was the authenticity of her resentment and bitterness. It was the healing and forgiving of everyone…..especially herself. It takes a lot of bravery to analyze yourself and admit that you messed up. Especially when your mistakes cause other people more pain than you initially thought it would and you find yourself face to face with the consequences others are facing from your blunder. Fiona faces this with as much grace as a hang over will allow but she means what she says and that right there is enough to make you love her. Apologies are just words unless you can really see that the person who messed up is filled with regret and remorse.

To see such strong work from a new author is exciting to say the least. What’s more exciting is “That Book I Wrote About Me” is the first novel in the “Lakeview Valley” series. Buchanan hooked me with this book and I am staying on the line to find out what’s next for our bumbling Fiona as well as the whole of Lakeview. I strongly recommend you hop on the hook and join me.

5 stars!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: That Book I Wrote About Me | Series: Lakeview Valley |  Author(s): Sarah Buchanan  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 6-9-2017 |Pages: 234 (Print) | ISBN:  B071PBSMNP |Genre(s): Contemporary / Women’s Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 7-14-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

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“The Breeders” Katie French

When you’re an endangered species, it’s either LIVE or LOVE. 

Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world’s last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches-moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders’ long reach. The Breeders control everything and they’re hunting Riley. 

 
When the local Sheriff abducts the adult members of her family, Riley and her brother Ethan are left to starve. Then Clay arrives, the handsome gunslinger who seems determined to help to make up for past sins. As Riley’s affection for Clay grows she wonders can she trust Clay with her secret and risk her freedom? The three embark on a journey across the scarred remains of New Mexico. When Riley is forced into the Breeder’s hospital, she learns the horrible fate of her mother-a fate she’ll share unless she can find a way out.

Over 75,000 downloads so far. More than 400 four and five star reviews. Top Ten in Free Kindle Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction Dystopian Romance. Winner of Kindle Book Awards 2014 Semifinalist. 

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“The Breeders” is a perfect example of post-apocalyptic fiction. French’s creation of this post-apocalyptic world is impeccable and I was hard pressed to put it down. Riley is a complex character who will draw you deep into this world and never let go. Her gumption and her wit make her a character that equals that of Katniss or Tris. Add her to the list of great heroines.

French’s world is the run away train of sexism. Where women are so undervalued and poorly treated until they become rare and needed. You would think that would make the treatment of them improve. Not a chance. Instead women are a commodity. A means to an end. Their worth measured by their ability to reproduce. Sounds a lot like another book I know. 

I think this theme is so popular in our society because for hundreds of years that’s the meat of how women are seen. Take a long look at some of the fundamentalist cults America houses. Women are tightly controlled. Their lives rigidly regulated. Sex is merely pleasure for a man and something to endure for women. In this world, the breeders are there for just that. To breed women. Think puppy mill….only with humans and the cages are a bit fancier…..until they aren’t.

World’s like French’s are important to note and learn from. This is what could happen. Fiction in all it’s forms is a learning tool. It’s a way to see where those extremist groups and views can lead. Let us take note of it’s horror and learn.

This book has a few inconsistencies that could use to be addressed with another good edit but other than that it’s a solid book that I enjoyed reading.

4 star

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The Technical Data:

Title: The Breeders | Series: Breeders Series |  Author(s): Katie French  |Publisher: Katie French Books / Publication Date: 2-18-2014 |Pages: 256 (Print) | ISBN: B008RH5MFQ  |Genre(s): Dystopian / Science Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 4 out of 5 |  Date Read: 5-27-2017 |Source: Copy from Kindle Unlimited.

 

Book Review “The Last Orphans” N. W. Harris

One horrifying day will change the life of sixteen-year-old Shane Tucker and every other kid in the world. 

In a span of mere hours, the entire adult population is decimated, leaving their children behind to fend for themselves and deal with the horrific aftermath of the freak occurrence. As one of the newly made elders in his small town, Shane finds himself taking on the role of caretaker for a large group of juvenile survivors. One who just happens to be Kelly Douglas–an out-of-his-league classmate–who, on any other day, would have never given Shane a second glance.

Together, they begin their quest to find out why all of the adults were slaughtered. What they find is even more horrifying than anything they could have expected–the annihilation of the adults was only the beginning. Shane and his friends are not the unlucky survivors left to inherit this new, messed-up planet. No, they are its next victims. There is an unknown power out there, and it won’t stop until every person in the world is dead.

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Prepare yourselves, this book moves fast. It’s non-stop action the entire read. There is never a good stopping point and every single time you have to close the book it will cause you literal pain!

Shane is a kid whose entire life goes to hell in a hand-basket far quicker than it has any right to. This book is a great insight into how quickly things really can fall the heck apart. The death scenes are brutal and horrific but I do have to give Harris kudos for his imagination. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a single bug again without thinking of this book.

Some of the realities of this story and the choices that the characters have to make was heart wrenching. No one thinks about tiny babies in these scenarios. Once that was brought up it stuck in my mind and still sneaks into my mind when I really REALLY don’t want it to. Because really, I would like to think that I would go house to house rounding up babies to take care of but……with the ever growing chaos and the continuing decline of older kids and safe places….it’s something to think about for sure.

Harris has created a world that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. I’m looking forward to continuing the series and getting more answers to exactly what is really going on. 

5 stars!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: The Last Orphans | Series: The Last Orphans |  Author(s): N. W. Harris  |Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing / Publication Date: 10-9-2014 |Pages: 277 (Print) | ISBN: B00NJCL302 |Genre(s): Teen / Young Adult  |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 4-25-2017 |Source: Copy from personal collection.

David Smith – Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

David Smith is a British author who has now published four works under the Troubador imprint. His first novel Searching For Amber has been described as “A powerful and notably memorable debut” with a review describing it as “masterly and confident” and another as “Extraordinary, poetic, enchanting, sublime”. In addition to writing, he is currently CFO of a blue chip UK public company and lives near the South Coast in England with his wife and three teenage children.

https://www.davidsmithauthor.blog

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David Smith — Guest Blog

My Inspirations for Letters to Strabo

Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

My first idea for Letters to Strabo came from the memory of a trip I made twenty years ago to Olana, the amazing Catskills home of the painter Frederic Edwin Church. It was a truly stunning experience. Both the exterior but more importantly the interior of this Moorish extravaganza produced a complete sensory overload that day that has stayed with me ever since. I’ve long wanted to write a love story that starts with a visit to this house by a young writer, but for ages I didn’t have a good starting point.

However, as I researched further, I discovered that the name the Churches chose for their hilltop home overlooking the Hudson was originally derived from a quotation contained in one of the first English translations of a Geography written by the first century BC Greek scholar Strabo: “Olane, one of the treasure-storehouses on the Araxes River, with a view both of a fertile valley and of Mount Ararat where Noah’s Ark is said to have come to rest.”  Frederic’s wife Isabella had given him a copy of this work for Christmas 1879. I confess I knew nothing about Strabo (Geography’s Herodotus) but my next discovery sealed my idea. I found that Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens to use his real name) made a visit to the Church’s just a few years after this and that Twain had referred to Strabo many times in his early successful work The Innocents Abroad. Furthermore, both Twain and the Churches had been touring the lands described by Strabo at almost exactly the same time but had never met. The die, as they say, was cast.

Twain was accompanied on his visit to Olana by his family and by Grace King, the southern novelist. Her description of his two elder daughters, Susy and Clara “More entrancing characters I have never met in my life” sparked me to research deeper into the story of these remarkable young ladies. Their loves, dreams and the personal tragedies they endured gave me the inspiration for the backstory of my heroine Eve.  Further research provided me with neat links to Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Peggy Guggenheim and Homer amongst others.

Letters to Strabo is therefore both a love story and a coming-of-age tale, set in the late 1970s that takes the form of a fictional odyssey recorded with disarming honesty by my protagonist, an innocent young American writer called Finn Black. His adventures, both funny and evocative, follow closely the itinerary taken by Twain on his own périplus around the Mediterranean a century earlier and are structured around the seventeen chapters of Strabo’s great work.  The amazing places Finn visits, the art and cultures he comes across and most importantly the people he meets are faithfully described by him for Eve, the Olana archivist, now his long-distance pen-pal. Eve’s replies, her Letters to Strabo as she calls them, however, not only reveal to Finn her own hopes and dreams but increasingly disturbing glimpses of a tragic past; a past that echoes that of Twain’s two daughters.

This proved a complex project and I greatly enjoyed the research but ultimately any novel must tell a story that captivates the reader. I therefore hope my story will both intrigue you and provide an opportunity for reflection on the doubts and dilemmas of youth. It’s deliberately rich, emotionally charged and at times intense, but also, I hope, ultimately spiritually uplifting and life-affirming. What else should a true love story be?

Letters To Strabo Cover

Adam Finnegan Black, or ‘Finn’, an innocent young American who is insatiably curious about life, made a promise to his mother before she died: To find out what really happened to his father…

His ambition is to be a travel writer, like his heroes: Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and the ancient Greek ‘father of geography’, Strabo. His journey of discovery takes him through the radiant literary, cultural and picturesque landscape of the Mediterranean.

Following his heart and inspired by Letters to Strabo, written by his long-distance pen-pal Eve, Finn gradually learns more about himself but also about the woman he hopes will one day become his wife.

Funny, provocative, disarmingly honest, Finn’s story captures the excitement and mistakes of youthful energy and proves ultimately life-affirming in the emergence of new hope from personal tragedy.

Quite simply one of the best coming-of-age novels you will ever read: Letters to Strabo will appeal to lovers of literary fiction, good travel writing and the classic works of Ernest Hemingway.

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