Connecting with Life by Martin Summer

The simple writing style belies the message of how our connection with nature improves our health and life holistically. Summer shares ideas of how to make that connection, ideas that are part common wisdom, part niche urban nature guru, part natural home guide. It’s worth it to learn as much as you can about the subject, especially if you’re not inherently outdoorsy, or have lost the tenuous connection due to work, living environment, or lifestyle choices. I received this lovely book from the publisher Summer Press through NetGalley.

Interview of me by Brian Paone, Editor of Flash of Words 2, which includes my story Let Me Win

Today here at Fiction Writing, we are featuring author Lael Braday, whose story, “Let Me Win,” is included in this group’s anthology, “A Flash of Words 2.”

Is it based on a true story? Let Me Win harkens back to my childhood, when my big sister would demand that I play Monopoly with her. She wanted to win, but she didn’t want me to let her win. So we’d play for hours. I learned to be subtle in my losing tactics and pretend heartily to care that I lost. It was exhausting.

Do you write in the same genre as your reading preference, or do they differ? The bulk of my stories are speculative, a blend of horror, fantasy, and soft sci-fi, but I tend to prefer reading historical fiction and magical realism.

What are your biggest inspirations to write (other than music)? Most of my short stories originate in dreams or real life.

What/who is one of your favorite books/authors? An Indie author I will always read without needing a summary is Brian Barr, although he writes in genres and on subjects I don’t normally read, because his storytelling talent is phenomenal.

What kind of taco is your favorite? Trying to pick a favorite taco is like trying to pick a favorite breath. Honestly, it’s the current one, each current one, that’s keeping me alive, man. I love breathing.

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The Subjects by Sarah Hopkins

A mysterious benefactor rescues teenage drug dealer Daniel from his path to prison. The benefactor runs a “school” with unorthodox teaching methods, sometimes with deadly results. Hopkins creates beautifully flawed characters in an impossible situation at an already highly emotional time in their lives. At times belief must be suspended with a strong will, but this is still a story I recommend for its compelling storyline and sympathetic, vulnerable characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this award-winning novel from the publisher Text Publishing through NetGalley.

Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear by Matthew Saleses

A disturbing tale about assimilating in a country where the president incites violent prejudice, the main character Matt Kim feels himself slowly disappearing. Learning that there are other versions of his girlfriend and himself, he believes he may be transitioning to another dimension, perhaps to the one in which his doppelganger disappeared. Salesses describes the ambiguity of fearing and desiring being invisible, not knowing which could be safer. I highly recommend this novel for the storyline and for learning about different perspectives. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Little A through NetGalley.

The World Doesn’t Work That Way, but It Could by Yxta Maya Murray

This collection digs deep into humanity ensnared in the frustrations of the way things work, with compassion thwarted by bureaucracy, beauty tainted by facts of life, and thus forth. It’s not for the delicate. I highly recommend it for the pragmatic prose and storytelling. I was fortunate to receive this short story collection, reminiscent of the style of one of my favorite storytellers Steve Carr, also for the emotionally hardy reader, from the publisher University of Nevada Press through NetGalley.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Rachel Krall goes viral when her true crime podcast sets an innocent man free, prompting someone from a small town to reachj out to her regarding a trial for a golden boy accused of raping the police chief’s granddaughter. As she investigates, detailing progress on her podcast, she’s returned to the night her own sister disappeared through inextricable links to the present trial. Goldin expertly shifts the story back and forth, not only between the past and the present, but between the innocent and the guilty. This is a worthwhile read for the shades of gray characters, tension-filled storyline, and superb storytelling. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Pia Lange watches the 1918 pandemic rage through her Philadelphia community, taking her mother while her father is at war. Succumbing herself, she loses her twin baby brothers to a neighbor whose baby died of the flu, and she ends up in an orphanage. She spends her life searching for her siblings. This is a heart-wrenching tale of a young immigrant facing obstacles she never expected, yet pursuing her truth to find her family. I was fortunate to receive this well-written and well-researched novel from the publisher Kensington Publishing Corp. through NetGalley. I highly recommend it, but maybe not just yet…maybe after our own pandemic is tailing off to its end.

Crossings by Alex Landragin

Meant to be read in various ways, to gain the story through vignettes, or chronologically as three separate tales, this is a tale of a love story stretching romance throughout infinity through body snatching and searching for the one true love. I highly recommend this wonderful novel told in a unique style, rampaging through times and cultures, infinitely fascinating. I received a digital copy from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Sam contemplates leaving her job and her life when someone from her past becomes the new principal of her school. She remembers him as easygoing, but he’s changed, and not for the better. Center has a way with characters that makes them endearing, funny, and so real and relatable. When they finally face their challenges, readers yearn for them to succeed. She’s a must-read for me without even needing to see the summary. A new Katherine Center book automatically goes on my TBR list. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this heartwarming story from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

Ingredients The Strange Chemistry of Plants, Poisons and Processed Foods

Zaidan explores beyond the common wisdom of what’s healthy to put in and on your body, such as homemade cheese puffs and whether sunblock is bad for your skin (yes to everyday use, but good for you in long-term sun exposure). He spews humor like a middle-grade boy farting in his armpit, often funny, sometimes silly, sometimes gross. He also explains why studies contradicts studies and the rollercoastering of foods being bad for you one day, good the next, and reverse again. It’s definitely worth the read to shine the light on an unexpected perspective. Personally, my takeaway is to not worry about these things as much as I do, because honestly, much of it’s marketing apparently. I received a digital copy through NetGalley. (Is this the same book as “Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us” published by Dutton Books? Is this one self-published?)