“Peter and the Whimper-Whineys” by Sherrill S. Cannon

Peter and the Whimper-Whineys
Sherrill S. Cannon
Strategic Book Publishing (2010)
ISBN: 9781609115173
Reviewed by Lydia Dehning (age 6) for Reader Views Kids (7/2020)

“Peter and the Whimper-Whineys” by Sherrill S. Cannon is the story of a boy bunny who only whined and complained all day, every day. Peter’s mom tries to talk to him to make him be nicer, but when he keeps complaining and whining, he got sent to his room. His mom had told him that if he didn’t stop his whining, then the “Whimper-Whineys” would come for him and take him away with them. Peter was lying in bed thinking about what his mom had said, and then he found himself outside on a path. It’s not a good idea to be outside by yourself, especially when it’s dark, but Peter found himself outside of his room and was looking at a strange-looking man. The man was a Whimper-Whiney and was there to take Peter! Peter found out what it’s like with the Whimper-Whineys and how it’s not much fun. I hope that this experience has changed Peter and will make him nicer all of the time.

My mom says that I whine sometimes, but I’m glad that there aren’t really Whimper Whineys around. If you believe that they are real, then this book might be a little scary, but I thought it wasn’t and was fun to read. There are still too many words on the pages for me to read by myself, but with my mom reading it to me, it goes by fast. I like the pictures in the book because they show what’s going on in the story; there are dark pictures when Peter is out at night, and brighter ones when he’s doing things during the day. I think kids of any age will like this book because kids of all ages whine and complain.

Note from Mom: This is an amazing book to read to your kids – on many levels. Through appropriate illustrations and easy-to-read rhyming text, this can be used for manners. Peter observes what it looks like to be rude, loud, and obnoxious, which helps him to be able to change his own ways. This can be a great reminder for kids when they start acting unappreciative or selfish – they  will remember the Whimper-Whineys, and what “could” happen to them if they don’t shape up. This story can be used by parents, teachers, and counselors – anyone with interaction with kids and those trying to remedy bad behaviors. I would recommend this book to everyone! 

Posted in Book Reviews, Childrens Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Luke E. Fellows – Author of Snatch 2&20

SNATCH 2&20

Luke E. Fellows
Independently Published (2020)
ISBN 9798639785795
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (05/20)

Luke Fellows is a forty-something recovering hedge fund manager. Born in London, and educated at St. Paul’s School and Oxford University, he sacrificed his love of Classics for a Wall Street career, moving to New York City in 2000. After a sojourn at Harvard Business School, he made the leap to Silicon Valley, where he co-founded a technology-focused hedge fund, retiring as soon as his partners could practicably get rid of him. Despite his best efforts to escape the bubble, he still lives with his wife and three daughters near Palo Alto, CA. Snatch 2&20 is the first novel he is admitting to.

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Hi Luke, thank you for joining us today at Reader Views. What is Snatch 2&20 about?

Snatch 2&20 is about a financial analyst called Giles Goodenough and his journey to self-discovery as he navigates the corrupt, shallow, and, frankly, bizarre worlds of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. It’s about the people he meets on the way, in particular Peter Silver, a sociopathic hedge fund billionaire, and Egon Crump, a desperately needy tech entrepreneur who hides his self-hate behind his bravado. And it’s also about Giles’ relationships with his father, a cold, arrogant man, who has never shown him the love he needs, and with his wife, a sweet ex-stripper named Cherry, who keeps him sane and ultimately shows him there’s more to life than just fame and fortune.

What was your motivation for writing this story?

At the deepest level, I wanted to make a point about how broken our financial system has become. It’s a system that encourages greed, speculation, and immoral behavior. Over the last thirty years, hedge funds (but also private equity and venture capital) have created multibillion dollar fortunes for people who in aggregate haven’t performed that well, all based on a dysfunctional incentive system that allows them to gamble in a heads-we-win tails-you-lose casino. The direct result of all this has been the creation of a corrupt plutocracy that controls the political agenda in its favor, silences complaints, and has left America with the greatest disparities in income and wealth since the Gilded Age. That’s not to say there aren’t good people who are investors. It’s just that there aren’t that many of them. I wanted to let people know what’s going on out there by creating a satire funny enough to engage an audience in what otherwise is a pretty dry conversation. My point is that even if just a shred of what you read in the book is true, everything has gone badly wrong. My suggestion is that far more than a thread could be true. I hope people come away amused but shocked.

I love the title. What does the saying, “Snatch 2&20” mean?

It’s homage to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, the satire that inspired me to try satire. In the context of my novel, it relates to the “2&20” fee structure that predominates amongst almost all hedge, private equity, and venture capital funds: 2% management fee and 20% of profits. That’s a lot of fees they’ve “snatched” (i.e. undeservedly taken) from their investors!

If you have room to go deeper, let me run some numbers for you. Let’s take a hedge fund manager who runs a pretty average $2B fund. To run a fund that size most of them will hire around 10 investment professionals. Let’s take a year when the market is up 20%. If they do no better than the market, no better than your basic S&P 500 index fund, they will take home $40M + $80M = $120M! In one year. For performing in line with the market! And their expenses are minimal…an office, some research costs, legal fees, support staff. Maybe $20M at the absolute maximum. So that leaves $100M in pure profit.  The head guy takes home half of that, and the rest goes to the analysts depending on how “well” they’ve done. Just think about it. $50M in take-home pay for doing nothing better than most people did in their retirement accounts. And what’s worse most of that is taxed at just 20% federally because of a loophole that allows them to regard their winnings from gambling with other people’s money as “capital gains”, even though they had none of their own capital at risk in the fees they took. There’s more complexity than that, of course, but that’s the basic scam. As Holton, Peter’s COO, says in the book: “It’s jerry-rigged extortion, and all the one-percenters are in on the game. It’s a brilliant con to be honest.”

How does your experience in the financial world translate into your fictional stories through the characters and/or events?

Well, let me say from the outset that the on most dimensions Snatch 2&20 is obviously a gross exaggeration of what is actually happening. There probably aren’t too many hedge fund titans running orgies in the dungeons of their castles…though who knows? It’s not meant to be a tell-all, just a reductio ad absurdum of the kind of behavior I’ve witnessed and the kind of people I’ve met. In the same way, Giles is only partly based on me. I actually had a wonderful father who died recently, for example. Giles’ father bears no similarity. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of me in Giles. As with the rest of the story, I leave it to the readers imagination to guess how much is true. There’s more than a kernel to be sure.

Are there certain parts of the story where you took more creative liberties than others? Perhaps some things readers will laugh at in the book but if they thought too hard about, they just might cry? Can you share an instance or two?

The story is teeming with creative liberty. I stuffed myself on it. But you are right that the extent of my deviation from reality varies scene by scene. The description of the tech conference, for example, is pretty close to the truth, sadly. As is the description of what a lot of these funds do. But orgies, violence, and Silicon Valley shenanigans are mostly just figments of my very warped imagination!

Your characters are amazing, I had so much fun with them! Which one of your characters did you take the most pleasure in creating? Is there a certain character you relate to most?

Thanks! I really enjoyed creating them. They aren’t very deep because it’s satire, and I think you can lose your readers if you try to be funny and profound at the same time. Character exploration requires focus on the small moments in life, and I wanted to concentrate on the big moments. You won’t be surprised to hear I relate the most to Giles- a privileged guy that has been lucky in life and isn’t really sure he deserves any of it. Like Giles, I quit the industry in part because I just found the endless pursuit of money so soul-destroying. That said, like him, I’m not a saint nor a particularly virtuous person. I wish I were.

How did you create your characters? They seem awfully familiar…

Yes, I guess I can’t claim to have hidden them that well! They aren’t quite anyone in particular, but they aren’t quite no one in particular either. They are stereotypes of people I’ve met, people you’ve heard of, and people we all know.

You say that Snatch 2&20 is the first novel you are admitting to – is that true? Do you have other work out in the world you aren’t owning up to? When did you decide to take the leap and become a published author?

Luke Fellows is a pseudonym, as you might have guessed. I have written a couple of other novels under different names, but never published them because they seemed to take themselves a little too seriously, and, as you can tell from Snatch 2&20, I hate things (especially people) that take themselves too seriously. I guess I decided that with Snatch 2&20 I’d found a way to write something that meant a little, without claiming to mean a lot. In a way, the author himself is a bit of a hypocrite in the background. After all, he (me) has been part of the world he describes and has benefited from its corruption to some degree. Any novel in which I come out as a pretty lousy individual is a novel I can get behind.

How long did it take you to write Snatch 2&20?

Longer than I’d have liked, shorter than it should have, probably. Six months, including iterations. I’m pretty quick once I’ve got the basic structure in place. If I had an agent, who knew me and the genre well, I could probably have come up with a better finished product. There are definitely improvements that could have been made, no doubt. But I felt it stood by itself “warts and all”, and apart from basic editing I never changed it much, which is why it didn’t take me too long. That and the fact that most of it takes place in a world I’ve inhabited.

What was the most challenging part of your story in terms of research?

I fortunately didn’t need to do much research because I’ve lived a less outrageous version of it for the last fifteen years! That said, I did have to research things like Cherry’s Iowan idiom, and some of the places that feature in the book. Hopefully, I didn’t completely mess it all up, though I’m sure I did!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

A couple of things. First, how much I love to write. I always knew I enjoyed telling stories and have read a lot of great novels. But I never guessed how much dopamine you can generate in creating something of your own. It’s like having a baby- no matter what reality says, you are sure that it is just the most perfect little creature in the world, and you love every blemish and bad smell. Second, how much I’ve come to despise the world of finance. I knew that I was in recovery when I left, but only by writing the book did I realize how rotten the addiction had been. It has made me a lot more progressive, a lot more cynical, and a lot more introverted, which is impressive because I always scored pretty high on all those dimensions.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you started out?

How much it would take out of me. I live and breathe Snatch 2&20. And it can be pretty exhausting, especially dealing with criticism, which has never been a strong suit of mine. I just want to be loved, okay? How much is that to ask? Please, go and buy a copy and make my day!

What do you like to read and which authors have inspired your own work as a writer?

Ok, this is a fun question, because everyone loves to talk about what has inspired them, and I’m no different. So, I’m going to sound like a misanthrope, but in novels I’ve always loved anything that has a cynical take on people’s motivations and the human condition, satire or otherwise. Crime and Punishment has always been my favorite “great” novel, just because it goes so deep into the dark side of the human psyche. I love Conrad and Hardy for the same reason, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald too. In Satire, I already mentioned the influence that Catch-22 had on me. It’s no coincidence Snatch 2&20 starts in a hospital. Then all the Vonnegut novels are brilliant and hilarious. But some are really dark too- like Slaughterhouse-Five, which is probably my favorite. Among contemporary authors, I love stuff by Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk. They are so unredeemingly jaundiced and sardonic.

Being an author is a full-time job these days. What do you enjoy most about the process?

That’s a tough one. I’ve enjoyed being my own boss and thinking about the business side of writing more than I expected- the advantage of self-publishing is that you really have to learn the process from beginning to end. Someday it might be nice to have someone do all the heavy lifting for me, but at the moment I’m still getting a kick out of thinking about cover designs and click-through rates. I’ll soon be itching to get back to the creative process no doubt, when I’ve chased every last potential reader out of their hiding places.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Self-doubt, 100%. When I’ve laid out the plot, the characters, and the settings, and started to fold them together, it’s all sheer joy. The batter tastes great. But then I have to take it out of the oven, and it usually doesn’t look quite right, smell quite right, or taste quite right. Then self-doubt takes over. Did I get the measurements wrong? Did I mix it wrong? Or does nobody even want my lousy carrot cake? Who puts nuts in a carrot cake anyway? Or do they? Actually, maybe the nuts are the best bit and the rest is awful. Should I have made a red velvet sponge cake? You get the idea. I’m not sure that fear of failure will ever completely go away. But perhaps that’s the healthiest part of the exercise.

Describe how you felt when you first held a copy of your novel in your hands.

Like I did when I held my first finished carrot cake. Proud and hungry to make my next one. Convinced that it was pretty cool, even if everyone hated it.

How does your family support your writing career?

I’m not sure they do yet- mostly my fault, as I’ve been hiding it from them. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’m scared the little ones will read some of the filthy jokes and insalubrious scenes I’ve thrown in there and be permanently scarred. Perhaps I’m worried my wife will think I need to up my dose of antidepressants, or realize she’s been sold a bill of goods. Wasn’t I supposed to be making a ton of money rather than spending it on a hobby I’m now calling a career? How selfish! If I do get a readership, I guess I’ll have to come out more openly. For now, I’m still at risk of my being frogmarched into conversion therapy.

What do you like to do outside of writing? What are some of your other passions?

Generally, I spend most of my time in an obviously futile quest to find something that I’m not dangerously mediocre at. So far, no luck. I play guitar and bridge, do crosswords, play golf and swim, read, grumble, and complain. Actually, on second thoughts, I’m scratch at the latter two. It’s just hard to build a passion out of them. Perhaps I should take up tiddlywinks? I’m going to buy a set tomorrow.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, as a writer or regarding life in general?

My grandma always told me not to take life too seriously. She should have added “or people.” It’s so true. Life is a joke, not always a funny one. So are most humans, yet so many are convinced they actually matter. I’m determined never to think I am anything more than an irrelevant cog in an irrelevant wheel. Fortunately, I’ve never done anything to disprove that assumption, so I have that going for me, which is nice.

So, what’s next? Are there more novels in your future?

For sure. The good thing about writing is that it’s between you and the screen. If you want to open up your relationship to others you can, but you don’t have to. At the very least, the screen and I will be spending more quality time with each other. Whether anyone else gets to see our copulation is very much tbd. I’d first have to see significantly more evidence that people can stand my flippant cynicism for more than a handful of pages. If they can, they may want to keep it to themselves, or risk being swamped in a deluge of hyperbolic invective against all the other hypocrites and frauds out there. Politicians, activists, religious leaders, and TikTokers beware! You might be about to get swamped in slander unless people stop reading this nonsense. Your only hope lies in the fact that they’d have to start first to stop.

What advice can you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t take advice from anyone who is basically just an aspiring author themselves. That’s most authors by the way. Myself, obviously, included.

Do you have a website? Where can readers connect with you on social media?

Lukefellows.com will tell you what you already know. I wish I could tell you more about me, but you’d find me less interesting that way and it might hurt sales. To have a social media presence would require me to come out. I’m still very deep in my own closet. Perhaps I’ll have one sometime soon, but I’m already taking a Xanax just envisaging the hypothetical comments section.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Only if there were still someone reading.

Luke, thank you so much for joining us today on Reader Views – it’s been amazing getting to know more about you and your work!

Read the review of Snatch 2&20
Visit the Author’s Website

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“Daniel Kossov: Pictures of an Outstanding Musician Part 3 – The Calling” by Rosemary Tingley

Rosemary Tingley
Advance Press (2020)
ISBN 9780987478313
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (06/2020)

Rosemary Tingley brings her distinctive trilogy to its conclusion in, “Daniel Kossov – Pictures of an Outstanding Musician Part 3: The Calling.” While this story will most certainly be enjoyed by enthusiasts of the classical music world, it’s also an inspirational story that will be enjoyed by fans of biography and memoir.

Daniel Kossov is a creative genius. Born into the music world – music is the very essence of his being. Kossov holds himself and others to impeccably high standards. His instinctive ability to know how any given piece of music is supposed to sound leaves him prone to dissatisfaction as he endeavors toward perfection, often succumbing to deep depression. He is the very definition of being misunderstood and his attempts to enlighten others often create strife in his personal and professional relationships.

In this final book of the series, Tingley seeks to dig deeper into the psyche of Daniel Kossov. Who is the man behind the music? It’s clear from the very start this is a formidable challenge as her subject is not an easy man to get to know or even very approachable at times. Given that Tingley is a personal friend of Kossov, one might think it easy to write about him. Yet, while reading, I found myself relating to Tingley’s task at hand as figuratively trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. Even so, Tingley’s gentle manner and sheer admiration for Kossov enables her to indeed, give us a glimpse inside the man, and it is because of her relationship with Kossov that she is able to provide the reader with a unique perspective.

The way Tingley presents her story, offering narrative that is as personable as it is informative, endears the reader to Kossov. Tingley relays her message through vignette type stories, each chapter recalling a particular time in Daniel’s life that exposes more of what drives him. I enjoyed the firsthand experiences and found myself in awe of Kossov’s instinctive abilities. Tingley’s writing style is genuine and charming, every word connecting the reader personally with her subject. Also interspersed throughout the biography are original poems by the author that further support Kossov’s story. The beginning of her poem, Pledge, sums things up perfectly:

“I must have meaningful work to do
Or my life is worthless
To do what God would have me do
To follow the Spirit rich and true
My secret heart does know it.”

The final section of the book is the most gripping, in my opinion. Kossov and Tingley have a heart to heart and connect in a way they seemingly had never done before, its authenticity bringing the trilogy, “Daniel Kossov: Pictures of an Outstanding Musician” to a most satisfactory conclusion.

As an aside, I learned much about the author as well through her interactions with Kossov.  Perhaps she might consider writing her memoir one day.

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Interview with Sarah Cullen and Carmen Ellis – Authors of Nellie the Narwhal

Nellie the Narwhal
Sarah Cullen and Carmen Ellis
Majestic Whale Encounters (2020)
ISBN 9780648849803

Carmen Ellis and Sarah Cullen are the authors of this delightful book, Nellie the narwhal. Not only are Carmen and Sarah sisters but they also have a company that takes people swimming with whales in beautiful places all over the world called Majestic Whale Encounters. Nellie the Narwhal was created to spread joy and hope to all the ocean loving kids and parents around the world. 

Carmen has 3 young daughters and Sarah has 2 little boys. Every night for as long as they can remember, they have read the kids bedtime stories and it is a dream come true to be able to read their own book to the kids. 

We have loved every minute of creating this book and look forward to many more to come in the near future. We hope your kids enjoy Nellie’s adventures as much as we do.’ 

Hi Sarah and Carmen, Welcome to Reader Views Kids! We’re delighted to talk with you today. First, tell us a bit about “Nellie the Narwhal,” your debut picture book.

Thank you so much, we are delighted to be here. Nellie the Narwhal is a rhyming picture book for children aged 3-7. We follow Nellie as she finds herself a little sad with no one to play with so she heads of on an adventure to find her friends. She comes across a juggling octopus, a cheeky turtle, and a tail splashing whale. 

What was your inspiration behind the story?

Between the two of us we have 5 kids and it may sound cliché but they have always been our biggest inspiration. This story teaches children that they do not have to look the same to be able to play and we feel like all our kids have been really good at including everyone and making people feel special. We feel the most important thing in life is the way we treat people, so therefore it was such a natural first storyline for us. 

For those that might not know, what is a Narwhal?

This is so interesting! We had no idea before we wrote Nellie that a lot of people don’t know what a narwhal is. The best way to explain this to children is that it’s like a unicorn of the sea. A small sized whale with a huge tusk. It’s definitely not one we will be swimming with though! ?

What kinds of challenges does Nellie face and how will young kids relate these challenges to their everyday lives?

Nellie struggles to fit in with each friend she finds on her travels. She wants to play with them all and is very excited to try but each new friend tells her she’s either not big enough and doesn’t have the same skills or attributes that they possess. Nellie is imaginative and persistent and helps her friends to realise that in fact size doesn’t really matter when it comes to playing with friends and with a little imagination and will power there are other skills and contributions she can make to their games and friendship.

What a special treat for a child to receive a copy of your book when they go on a Majestic Whale Encounter with their parents!  What has the response been from such an offering?

Yes, this has been really special for us, the driving force of the book actually. Due to corona, we have been unable to run our tours this year, but our future guests are aware their kids will get a copy of our book and they are so stoked.

What is the most important message you hope young readers take away from “Nellie the Narwhal?”

The most important message we’d like the young readers to take away is that we don’t all have to be the same. Everyone can look different or have a different up bringing but we can all find things in common.

How did you find your illustrator, and what was it like working together to bring your story to life?

We did a lot of research on our illustrator as we really wanted a specific and professional look to the book. We found the Illustrators from an online search, and we are so glad we did. They are not only extremely talented but kind, honest and so easy to work with. They will be doing the illustrations for all our future books.

What is the biggest challenge writing for a young audience?

We did so much research on this topic. Children like books that are simple, repetitive, and have engaging pictures. The challenge for us was to keep the story rhyming but also making sense and trying not to rhyme just for rhymes sake. You also have to keep in mind that you are writing a book for children but marketing to the parents, so that will also be a challenge for us, but we love challenges!

So, what’s next? Do you have another story in the works?

We sure do, in the next book Nellie and her friends will be coming across a human dumping rubbish in the ocean and she will show them how they can take care of the ocean.

Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging picture book authors?

I think that a lot of people put their dreams of writing a children’s book in the ‘too hard’ basket. My advice not only for writing, but in general for following your passions is to just do it. You will need to do lots of research and put in a lot of hard work, but when you love something, the hard work doesn’t seem quite so hard.

Sarah and Carmen, thank you so much for joining us today on Reader Views Kids!

Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to spread the word of Nellie to more young readers.

CONNECT WITH SARAH AND CARMEN!

Facebook: Nellie the Narwhal

Instagram: nellie_the_narwhal

The Illustrators website

Read the Review of Nellie the Narwhal

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Interview with Christine Sunderland – Author of Angel Mountain

ANGEL MOUNTAIN

Christine Sunderland
Resource Publications (2020)
ISBN 9781725259805
Review and Interview by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (06/2020)

CHRISTINE SUNDERLAND serves as managing editor for American Church Union Publishing and holds a BA in English literature from San Francisco State University, Cum Laude. She is the author of six award-winning novels about faith and family, freedom of speech and religion, and the importance of history and human dignity. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and an amazing tabby named Laddie.

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Hi Christine, Thank you for joining us today at Reader Views! Tell us a bit about your latest novel, Angel Mountain.

Angel Mountain is set in the present day, 2018, against a backdrop of earthquakes, firestorms, and lightning. A holy hermit, a Holocaust survivor, a literary librarian and a Christian geneticist search for peace and happiness in a culture of chaos. The jacket gives a short summary:

“Hermit Abram, eighty, and his sister Elizabeth, eighty-four, escaped the Holocaust in Greece and made it to America as children. Elizabeth retired from teaching high school Western Civilization, and Abram, who retired from teaching classics at U.C. Berkeley, converted to Christianity and retreated to Angel Mountain to pray with his icons for the world and preach from the mountainside.

Elizabeth hires Catherine, thirty-three, to sort her home library. When Gregory, thirty-seven, a geneticist supporting intelligent design, falls from the mountainside and is rescued by Abram, these four lives are changed forever. The earth quakes, fires rage, and lightning strikes, as antifa protestors threaten the hermit and his friends. Angels bridge Heaven and Earth, and eternity intersects time. Is this the end of the world? Is the kingdom coming?”

What inspired you to write this story?

For some time I’ve been troubled by our culture of grievance, depression, and suicide. The mob violence so prevalent on college campuses seemed an acting out of this great unhappiness. How did we get to this dark place? And what is the antidote? How do we heal as a culture and as individuals? And so I open my story with a question posed by my hermit on the mountain: “What is happiness?” The answers worked their way (gently, I hope) into the tale of Angel Mountain.

Angel Mountain is quite a page-turner – fascinating story! How involved was the research since the setting is local for you?

The major themes—ideas—all required considerable research: Western Civilization, what it means, should we abandon it, should we fight for it; free speech and the dignity of the individual; evolution and intelligent design, the latest scientific understanding of Darwin’s natural selection theory; the compatibility of faith and science; the importance of teaching true history to understand the present day; the relation between genetics, eugenics, and the Holocaust, and future ethical challenges; the theology of Heaven and the last days for each of us as individuals. I did a great deal of reading!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Angel Mountain?

The beauty of every person, the intrinsic value of every life, became strikingly clear as I developed my characters. Every human being, regardless of gender, race, or handicap, is fascinating in their own unique way. Also, as a tangent to this idea, the beauty of the natural world that we take for granted—the sun, the moon, the earth, the universe; our immensely complicated bodies and how they work; the cell and the genome and the magnificent elegance of our tiniest parts. There is an ongoing miraculous glory to creation that can be seen anytime, propelled and enlivened by love of the creator. We simply need to pay attention, or, as thy say, be mindful. And we need to be thankful for life and all life around us. We need to pause and breathe deeply the air that fills our lungs and sends oxygen to our brains.

Was there a real hermit living on Mount Diablo at one time?

Not that I am aware of. Native Americans living in the area considered the mountain sacred and would go on pilgrimage there. The name Mount Diablo was a misnomer coming from the Spanish settlers. How the mountain was named is described in the novel, another bit of intriguing history.

You really have some magnificent characters in your story. How do you create your characters?

My characters are based on people I have known, I have read about, and my own life experience. I use bits and pieces from biographies and memoirs, all part of my research. I want my characters to be intelligent and eager to find answers to their personal challenges, so that the reader can find answers too, can follow them on that path.

Which character do you relate to most? Is there a bit of you reflected in any of the characters?

I’m in all of them, to be sure: Abram’s love of icons, Psalms, hymns, and prayer; Elizabeth’s love of history and passion for teaching it to the next generation; Catherine’s love of books and libraries, and her desire to know herself; Gregory’s wonder at all creation and his courage to state the truth. What we love defines us. We are to “order our loves” according to St. Augustine, and echoed by C.S. Lewis, to find happiness, a constant endeavor throughout life.

I hope I’m not too present in the antagonist, Malcolm, but I have known a number of folks who thought as he does. I’ve read about many who acted as he acts out in the story. Many like Malcolm are organizing and implementing today’s riots and the burning of our cities. Unfortunately, my novel has arrived in the midst of this grief and unrest—pandemics and revolution and hatred for America. My characters saw it all coming. Angel Mountain foreshadows it. And it is usually the poor, the innocent, who lose their livelihood if not their lives in these terrible times.

Mount Diablo
Mount Diablo

What was your biggest challenge writing Angel Mountain?

Trusting that the story would reveal itself. I had created thorough backstories for the characters, time consuming but highly recommended. Then I created outlines and threw them out and restarted again and again. Finally, I just began writing, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Themes and characters were clear but I wasn’t sure about the ending. I began thinking the geneticist—Gregory—would be the main character, but as things progressed I realized everything pointed to the hermit and his sister, the Holocaust survivors. They would need to meet the other two characters on the mountain, Angel Mountain, and be threatened by my antagonist. The Berkeley student chapel, St. Joseph of Arimathea, in the novel is a real place, a block from UC Berkeley, that I attend, and I prayed for direction as to how to end my little novel. Soon I saw that the secret to the ending was in the chapel itself and on the mountain behind our house. That was about a year ago. I returned to writing and finishing, had several readers look at it as well as my local editor, did another draft, and submitted to publishers by the end of the summer.

What kind of reaction to your writing do you most seek from your reading audience?

I would like my readers to become absorbed and not bored, to keep turning those pages. And I would also like to provoke some self-reflection as to how our country can preserve the good and reject the bad, how we can respect persons of every race and religion, gender, and class.

What do you like to read?

History. But also, good fiction, well-crafted and compelling.

Tell us about the authors that have inspired your own work as an author?

C.S. Lewis and his vision of Heaven in The Great Divorce; Michael D. O’Brien and his apocalyptical novel, Father Elijah. I learned a great deal from the mysteries of P.D. James in terms of craft and character development. Her futuristic Children of Men touched on some of my own cultural concerns. Also, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go encouraged my interest in the future of science, genetics, etc.

In the last few years, I was deeply touched by Yolanda Willis’ memoir, A Hidden Child in Greece, Rescue in the Holocaust, and her story influenced the creation of the character Elizabeth. Andrew Klavan’s memoir, The Great Good Thing, a Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ added depth to the backstories of Elizabeth and Abram Levin. Francis Collins’ The Language of God, a Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief inspired the character of Gregory. Eric Metaxas’ Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and Why They Can Change Your Life explained the key concepts of Intelligent Design theory and what science has learned in the last few decades supporting it.

Which book has most influenced your life?

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis gave me rational reasons to believe in the claims and creeds of Christianity. My life made sense after that, regardless of the ups and downs.

What do you like to do outside of writing?

Read. My husband and I once traveled a great deal, but in our gentle years we have become homebodies. I read newspapers and journals—print and online—from both liberal and conservative points of view, in an effort to make up my own mind with facts. As an example, I’ve been following the pandemic numbers on the CDC website (Center for Disease Control) since there appears to be some media controversy as to the facts. I’m a culture watcher (okay, sometimes warrior), concerned that Americans are losing their freedoms, especially free speech and its cousin, freedom of religion. My stories gestate in my head—those interior conversations—and are born as expressions of how I see our world. I find that the reading, studying, reflecting, and creating are healing, helping me to organize my thoughts about life and keep me sane.

Angel Mountain just came out recently so I’m sure you’re busy getting the word out! Has your marketing plan changed at all in this time of social distancing? What is your favorite way to promote your work?

“Man plans, God laughs,” is an old Yiddish saying. In February I hoped (the publisher decides) for an Easter release, which would be good timing given there is a resurrection theme. In March we began sheltered in place, I wondered what that would mean to my novel’s release. But Eastertide is a long season—five weeks to Ascension Day. Surely we would be over the lockdown by then? Easter services were virtual in April and my novel was released two weeks later. I was beginning to see there would be no signings, no readings, no public gatherings in the near future.

Being an introvert, this was secretly good news to me. Other writers agreed: we get to stay home and write and not feel guilty. But there are obligations to market the novel as best I can, and I’ve used the online venues that have been useful in the past. Reader Views is one of those, so thank you.

I’ve entered a few awards programs and contacted reviewers in media and academia who might like Angel Mountain. My email newsletter, Novel News, continues to connect my doings with interested readers. I shall do an Amazon giveaway at some point and of course my favorite, social media, although I’m a newbie in that world. I’ve noticed that local bookstores where I have done events in the past are doing online events now with authors through Zoom, which still seems artificial and stilted. We shall see.

My husband has a saying, “Do what you can when you can,” and this has served me well, especially when I feel I have no control over events, which is usually the case. Now that the pandemic has segued into protests and riots, bookselling and book buying seem “nonessential,” and yet books are probably more important than ever, for reading offers simple, inexpensive pleasure while sheltering. Reading stimulates the mind, heart, and soul. It feeds the imagination. There are silver linings and rainbows still. And Angel Mountain depicts a world not unlike today’s—mob violence, firestorms, book-burnings, a hermit sheltering in sandstone caves.

How soon after you finish one project do you begin another? Do you have another book in the works?

I dedicate a year to marketing a title, but I allow myself to jot ideas and quotes down, even make some files for clippings. I clip news articles and highlight Kindle copies—creating files of thematic material for the next book. I had so much material in my head for Angel Mountain, I gave up on outlines and just wrote it. I don’t recommend this, but sometimes you do what you can when you can. It might be interesting to do a sequel involving a pandemic. Not sure. We shall see.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as it relates to writing and what recommendations can you make to up-and-coming authors?

Don’t quit your day job. Writers—even famous ones—rarely make a living at it and most are in the red. The rewards of writing are the writing and creating itself.

Observe life around you, where you are placed at any moment. Live life fully present. Love those in your life—family and friends, even enemies. Jot down descriptions of scenes and people. Describe thoughts and feelings and motivations. Good fiction faces our fallen human nature, our sufferings and imperfections. But good fiction does more than reflect reality—it offers catharsis, a chance for the reader to go through the darkness and come into the light. Offer hope and even joy. We are a mystery, each one of us a glorious creation. Be courageous and say what needs to be said to our culture. Offer a peaceful way forward.

Read good writers so that the rhythm and syntax of the English language dance in your mind. Pray the Psalms and sing the hymns (the best poetry there is) and show others how to dance with angels under stars.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a sincere thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking questions.

Thank you Christine, for sharing a bit about yourself and your work with our readers!

CONNECT WITH CHRISTINE SUNDERLAND!

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Website:  https://christinesunderland.com/
Twitter: @chrisunderland
Facebook:  @merebelief
Instagram: @christinesunderlandnovels

Read the review of Angel Mountain

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“Angel Mountain” by Christine Sunderland

ANGEL MOUNTAIN

Christine Sunderland
Resource Publications (2020)
ISBN 9781725259805
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (06/2020)

“Angel Mountain” by Christine Sunderland is a captivating contemporary novel encompassing issues relevant in today’s world along with the timeless conflict of good versus evil, all wrapped up in a message of grace, love, and hope.

The story follows four characters whose fates intersect on a mountain – Mount Diablo, a magnificent landmark in the San Francisco area. Abram Levin is an 80-year-old hermit who lives in a cave on the mountain he dubs Angel Mountain. It is on Angel Mountain where Abram preaches the words of happiness, love, and grace. It’s also where he meets and rescues Gregory, a Christian geneticist who falls off the mountain trail while hiking one morning. Elizabeth, Holocaust survivor and Abram’s older sister, lives on an estate at the foot of Angel Mountain. Elizabeth hires Catherine to sort and catalog her extensive home library. Brought together by fate, circumstance, and divine intervention, the short time spent together on Angel Mountain changes the course of these four lives for eternity.

“Angel Mountain” is a fascinating, thought-provoking novel. Rich in Christian influence, fans of Christian fiction will devour this story. Its comprehensive passages also offer teachings of the faith for those interested in learning more about the message of Christianity. What I enjoyed most are the different elements Sunderland introduces, such as science, suggesting that faith and science go hand-in-hand and should be considered together. One example is an incident considering the source of light coming from the hermit, Abram’s cave: “Uncreated love, the energy of creation. Light in the darkness. Even the Big Bang, the forming of the stars and constellations, the sun and the moon. Uncreated energy. Uncreated love. We don’t have the words – theological or scientific – to describe the indescribable.”

Sunderland writes with a flair that inspires readers to dig deep within themselves to consider alternate views, beliefs, and opinions with respect and without judgment. Such an important message in our current volatile era.  From immigration and individual freedom, to the choices we make, to observations about heaven and eternal life, “Angel Mountain” by Christine Sunderland hosts issues inspiring people to be their very best through vivid imagery, endearing characters, and an enticing plotline. Highly recommended reading!

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Nuclear Option by Dorothy Van Soest

NUCLEAR OPTION

Dorothy Van Soest
Apprentice House Press (2020)
ISBN 9781627202923
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (05/2020)

“Nuclear Option” by Dorothy Van Soest is an exciting suspense thriller wrapped around historical events surrounding early testing of nuclear bombs, the nuclear disarmament movement of the 1980s and the ongoing issues surrounding nuclear technology in today’s volatile atmosphere.

Sylvia Jensen, a longtime activist in the nuclear disarmament movement, considers herself, at age seventy-seven, to be finished with that world and lifestyle.  But she is unwittingly pulled back into the throes of the action when she meets Corey, the son of her former lover-and-fellow-activist, Norton Cramer. Corey is angry with the world and ready to avenge his father’s death at any cost. Sylvia and her friend, investigative reporter J.B. Harrel are caught in a race against time as they work to bring a dark, deep buried secret to light before it claims even more lives.

Wow. When I finished reading “Nuclear Option,” I literally sat motionless, stunned by what I had just consumed, thinking how is this the first novel I’ve read by Dorothy Van Soest? This is a novel of excellence, written by an author gifted with extraordinary talent. The story moves seamlessly back and forth in time, Van Soest anchoring the reader through razor sharp imagery of the characters, the social and political atmosphere, and the pressures of each era. The contrast of accepted norms between the generations is staggering – the similarities even more frightening.

The plot is rich with drama and excitement, as entertaining as it is terrifying, proving once again, the truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Van Soest sheds light on an unconscionable secret atomic veterans were forced to keep, the outcome of this catastrophic time still bleeding into society today. I guarantee you will want to learn more about nuclear technology after reading this story.

Van Soest also draws the reader in with her characters and you can’t help but invest in them, cry with them, feel their angst, and grow with them. Moving through the story with Corey as he develops brings out the nurturing parent in readers (well, this reader anyway).  My “mama-bear” instincts out in full force, my heart leaping and breaking often within moments of each other as Corey faces his demons and moves through them in order to get to the other side. So many great characters endear the reader as you bear witness to all sides of their individual stories.

Conspiracy, cover-up, addiction, betrayal, loss, and revenge, “Nuclear Option” by Dorothy Van Soest is the perfect blend of character-driven and plot-driven motivation, in a story conceived from the annals of one of darkest periods in American history kept secret for decades.

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The Last Settlement by E.W. Bonadio

THE LAST SETTLEMENT

E.W. Bonadio
Independently Published (2020)
ISBN 9798636072737
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (05/20)

“The Last Settlement” by E.W. Bonadio is a fantastic story set during the tenth century in England.

This was a period when religions were clashing as Christianity tried to take over the area. A pagan village is forced to flee their land when Viking marauders attack. They leave and go in search of a safer place to live. The group’s leader, Haldair, decides to take a chance and moves his people into an abandoned village in spite of warnings from a mystical dwarf about a deadly creature inhabiting the area. The Vikings have some internal conflicts going on as well, and things get really out of hand when their presence wakes up the creature, who sets out to destroy the people who killed his creator.

It takes a special young lady from the pagan group to stop the creature. This lady discovers that she is coming into some incredible powers that appear to be from her mother, who came from a mysterious background. When the dwarf sees her talent, he realizes that he knows a lot about her past and can help her with her training. While this is happening, the pagans unite with a Viking group to fight the incoming threat from the Christians. These were very difficult times indeed.

“The Last Settlement,” immediately captured my full attention as I started reading. The author did a wonder job of weaving together a story that includes history, complex cultures, and magic. If I hadn’t had a busy job, I would have read it in one sitting. I loved that Bonadio created a setting that was realistic for the times. He also took us inside the heads of the people so we got to see how they were influenced by their religious beliefs, although some were only after power and wealth. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and the incorporation of magic. It accented the story without overwhelming it, which actually made it seem more realistic. Describing each scene in vivid detail enabled me to feel like I was watching a show rather than reading words.

I highly recommend reading “The Last Settlement.” It will be enjoyed by readers who range in age from teens to adulthood. I think it would be a nice selection for a reader’s group. Thought provoking discussions are sure to follow. I truly hope that “The Last Settlement,” is planned for a series because I would love to continue to follow along with these people and see what adventures await them.

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Dark Descent into Desire by JJ Sorel

DARK DESCENT INTO DESIRE

J.J. Sorel
Independently Published (2020)
ISBN 9798638851774
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (5/2020)

“Dark Descent into Desire”, by J.J. Sorel, is aptly titled. There is a dark descent into desire here, and the author is the one to take you there.

This isn’t your average billionaire romance story, and to call it chick lit would be a gross disservice, although there are some chick lit passages and phrases. One might be tempted to search for similarities that echo “50 Shades of Grey,” but  “Dark Descent into Desire” is deeper and richer, thanks to Sorel’s wording and character-building skills. The characters are credible and seem fully fleshed-out; not just caricatures tossed into a Gothic romance salad. Penny and Blake are people you could know in your own life, and live with issues that you can relate to–a parent with substance use issues? Co-dependency? Dysfunction? Secrets? A yearning to escape and be loved?

But besides the interesting elements of the characters, the novel uses multi-faceted plot lines that are solid enough, but–and here goes my slight criticism–there are a couple of scenes that are borderline creepy and violent, but I won’t give spoilers here. Rather than the explicit sex scenes, I found myself more interested in how Blake and Penny slowly reveal themselves and their secrets to each other, and the thread of addiction in all its forms running through the fabric of the story. These frank scenes take nothing from Sorel’s wonderful writing, however, and the build of the couple’s relationship is suspenseful, the payoff well-earned.

The starving-artist-meets-damaged-billionaire aspect is appealing in its own right. After all, opposites do attract, and create conflict and drama, sometimes with devastating results. But it’s the way Sorel writes the story that keeps the reader invested. She has a poet’s way with words, a classical approach to language while using modern phrasing and situations, with stiletto attention to details and descriptions. Penny and Blake are so realized that you want to read more about them, and you aren’t happy that the story has to end, even though it must. It’s easy to get lost in this story. And isn’t that what a good romance should be about?

If you think you aren’t a fan of Gothic romance, you’ve been reading the wrong books for too long. Give “Dark Descent into Desire” a chance, and you will discover a new twist on an old genre hidden between the covers.

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Snatch 2&20 by Luke E. Fellows

SNATCH 2&20

Luke E. Fellows
Independently Published (2020)
ISBN 9798639785795
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (05/20)

“Snatch 2&20” by Luke Fellows is satirical novel so outrageous you know it has to be fiction, but its underlying ties to reality are such that you’ll either laugh out loud or just lay down and cry over the demise of humanity. Sounds extreme – and it is – delightfully so!

The story follows Giles Goodenough, a privileged man-boy living on a trust fund and skirting his way through life with his lovely wife, an ex-stripper named Cherry.  Coerced into a job by his father, Giles fakes his way through Wall Street as a research analyst, doing as little as humanly possible with a devil-may-care outlook. Life looks rather good for Giles, but that all changes when the billionaire founder of a hedge fund corporation hires him to spy on Zyxview, a tech company founded by the eccentric Egon Crump.  Power, greed, lust, and pure insanity drives readers at breakneck speed on a radical journey through the inner workings of the financial and tech industries.

“Snatch 2&20” is a story you’ll want to devour, but take some time and savor every single word, because each word adds value, if not wit, humor, and a healthy dose of sarcasm to the narrative. Exceptional writing places this novel among the top stories I’ve read so far this year.  I was captured by the author’s writing style immediately, loving the circular flow to his sentences and the overall structure of the story. One example, “By the time I arrived ten minutes early to the 3 p.m. event, I was already half an hour late, apparently…”  The story is so much fun to read and it is pure pleasure to experience the creativity of the author.

And, as much as I enjoyed the writing, the characters absolutely make this story. They are quirky, insane, eccentric, sleazy, greedy, sexy, over-the-top – I could go on all day.  None of them live in reality. All of them leave an impact. Giles is absolutely brilliant in his mediocrity. Sweet Cherry is oblivious in her self-absorption. Peter will make your skin crawl and Egon – there are no words – this guy is in a category all by himself. Spend a day with these characters and you just might question your own sanity. So fun.

“Snatch 2&20” is a remarkable debut novel by Luke Fellows and one I highly recommend.  If you’re looking for an entertaining escape and enjoy a little zing in your reads, this one scores off the charts in originality, entertainment value and excellent writing. Well done.

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