The Monthly Replay

This feature has a two-fold purpose: 1. To allow those recently added to our followers list to discover books they might have missed and 2. To make sure previously featured authors and their work aren’t forgotten. If you’d like to learn more about any of the books revisited here, simply click on the “Authors” page, then on that author’s name.

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“THE PORTLAND HOUSE,” BY JIM LANDWEHR.

The Portland House takes you into the lives of a widow and her six children as they put down roots in an average Midwestern house in 1970. It welcomes you to the crowded dinner table, where hotdish is a weekly staple and table manners sometimes take a back seat to kids being kids. It shoves you into raucous teenage parties when Mom is on vacation. It chokes you with the smoke of a small kitchen fire. Later you wander the neighborhood and the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota, with latchkey kids until the street lights come on. The house is full of love, teenage energy, and an adopted stray who walks with a limp. From the warmth of family on Christmas Eve, to the sadness of a losing a beloved pet, the Portland House is home to it all. So, come on in and experience life growing up in the era of disco, lava lamps, and Tang orange drink.

“THE RETROACTIVIST,” BY NATE RAGOLIA.

Writes Nate: “I wanted to write a novel that aped the standard plot line found in many popular dystopian science fiction books, like 1984Brave New WorldThe Hunger Games series, etc. while involving a world that was pretty clearly established as a utopia. Part of it, for me, was a belief in self-fulfilling prophecy. If we keep reading stories about how terrible and fascist the world MUST become in the future, we might actually manifest it… or at least accept it as it degrades because it feeds into a sequence of narratives we’ve already observed and consumed.

The other part was to write something that satirized present day society through the lens of the future. (I’m a big fan of classic The Twilight Zone and the optimistic science fiction of Star Trek.) Most of the systems that are in place today, for their flaws and the ways they are unfairly manipulated, are entirely human-made, which means they’re also all very changeable. This book is about anti-heroism, and about seeing the future for its potential, rather than for its potential pitfalls.”

“DAY OF ALL SAINTS,” BY PATRICIA GRACE KING

Martín Silva de Choc, childhood survivor of an army massacre during the Guatemalan civil war, and now a language-school teacher in Guatemala City, falls in love with his American student, Abby, and follows her home to Chicago on a fiancé visa. Days before their wedding, however, Abby goes missing, and on a Halloween afternoon Martín embarks on a search that leads from the ghost-strewn yards of Chicago’s North Side to the Lincoln Park Conservatory—and ultimately back to his violent past. A story about repressed secrets and the limits of love, Day of All Saints traces the effects of historical trauma on individual lives.

“AVIS HUMPHREY,” BY B.M. SIMPSON

Avis Humphrey has a great life. He likes his beat-up old pick-up truck. He likes fishing at his favorite stream with his best bud, Leo. He likes the occasional hook-ups he shares with some of the local women in Watermill, New Hampshire. And he really likes his Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Life is simple, and life is pretty darn good for Avis, and that’s just the way he likes it. Good quickly turns into chaos when Avis uncharacteristically buys a Powerball ticket. While sitting on his ragged old couch in his dilapidated mobile home, Avis is stunned when the numbers printed on the ticket in his hand, match the numbers just announced on his 19 inch-TV screen. The comfortable small-town life he enjoys so much slips instantly away as he finds himself hiding out in the New Hampshire woods from parents who long ago abandoned him, relatives he never knew existed, and the dozens of reporters who are dissecting every tidbit of what they consider to be his pitiful life. Between friends, family, and strangers banging at his door, calling his phone, and hunting him down 24/7, Avis struggles to survive winning the nine hundred and sixty-seven million-dollar Powerball jackpot and the fame of being the richest person in the history of the small town he loves and calls home. Now all Avis has to do, is figure out how to get rid of the ticket and the money.

“WAITING TO BEGIN,” BY PATRICIA O’DONNELL

From Patricia: “The book opens with me giving a talk about my life to young students entering the college where I teach. As I told them about dropping out of college, making bad choices, moving to San Francisco with a poet, joining a questionable theatre group/cult, finally moving back to Iowa where I became a single mother to two children and worked my way back to college, I realized I wanted to tell the story in a deeper, broader forum. The book describes my early tumultuous years in the 70’s and 80’s, and moves ahead to 2008 when I visit the sites of my youth in Iowa with my oldest child, Emma. At 31 years old, she meets her father during this visit, for the first time.

“Though the book describes relationships in my past—including one with an already married man, a story I could not help but tell—a central part of it is the story of how I was lucky enough to meet and fall in love with my husband, and how—against all odds—we manage to make our lives together work.”

“GUN, NEEDLE, SPOON,” BY PATRICK O’NEIL.

Before his life went totally off the rails, Patrick O’Neil was living the punk rock dream, working at San Francisco’s legendary Mabuhay Gardens, going on to become a roadie and then the road manager for such seminal bands as Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Subhumans, and T.S.O.L. But that was before his heroin addiction veered totally out of control. A junkie for eighteen years, O’Neil, the educated son of intellectuals, eventually turned to a life of crime, ending up the ring-leader of a group of armed bank robbers, all in an increasingly out-of-control attempt to keep himself and his girlfriend in drugs. Now, after a stint in prison and fourteen years clean off drugs, O’Neil takes a look back at the experiences—moving, calamitous, and at times both hilarious and terrifying—that led to his downfall and recovery. Told in sparse prose and graphic detail, Gun, Needle, Spoon examines the long road to redemption, and the obstacles along the way, demystifying the “criminal life” so often depicted in film and fiction, but seldom written about from the first-hand point of view of those who have lived it.

Published by

bridgetowriters

Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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