AUTHOR: Chris Mendius
PUBLISHER: Anything Goes Publishing
GENRE: Urban Fiction
Laden with sex, drugs and violence, Spoonful
is a look into the life of a heroin addict. The main character, Michael, is a low-life with potential, and I started the book with high hopes for redemption. While Chris Mendius’ writing did not captivate me, the dialogue was real and the scenes were almost too believable. At times funny and most of the time shocking, each chapter ended with a cliffhanger that goaded me to keep reading.
However, the cliffhangers were quick fixes: once the scene was resolved, another disconnected plot element sprung up. Halfway through the book, I began to get bored. Sure, the stories were entertaining, but it was the same thing over and over again. Although each chapter ended on a page turner, the plot simply did not develop.
That’s when it hit me: Spoonful
is entirely too real. Being addicted to drugs isn’t a fantasy, it isn’t pretty, and it goes nowhere. It makes smart people act stupid and the only thing that matters is the next fix. The plot meandered similarly: all that mattered was the next chapter, not the overall plotline. The book was one long downward spiral. If that’s what Chris Mendius was going for, he succeeded.
Nevertheless, I found myself slightly disappointed when I finished the book. I wished that it had been shortened and condensed to portray a single plotline, and although I rooted for Michael throughout, I never completely connected with him.
If you’re ready for an intense trip that leaves you unsatisfied and asking for more, pick up Spoonful
. Or, you could just shoot up and experience it for yourself. Spoonful
might be the safer option, though. It goes without saying that this book isn’t suitable for a younger audience.
LINKSSpoonful on AmazonAnything Goes Publishing If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Hidden In Darkness
I’ve been drugged. It’s the only sane explanation for why the floor seems to be pulsing as if it is alive. My head is heavy and I swallow, trying to keep the acid eating at my insides from rising up and singeing my throat.
I peer around the dark room and shudder as the cold creeps through the walls – its tentacles raking across my skin. I attempt to sit up, but the room rocks back and forth like a ship on a violent sea. Slamming myself against the wall, I pray the blow will drive the dizziness away.
As I straighten my body, a piercing pain runs up the length of my arms and I look down to see my wrists tied together with heavy, sharp rope. I begin to twist and turn, trying to release the knot, when a pitying laugh echoes through the room.
“Who’s there?” I cry.
A harsh voice answers. “Don’t move around too much. The drug needs time to wind itself out of your system. Just relax. You’re going to be here a while.”
The creaking of weight shifting in a chair comes from the far end of the room. I turn my body in its direction and hear heavy, thick breathing. Squinting into the shadows, I try to look at the dark figure but the effects of the drug descend again. I press my back against the wall’s sharp exposed stone and urge the pain to overtake the nausea. Once steady again, my eyes sweep the room.
Light trickles in from two small windows etched into the corner of the far wall. Faint outlines of grass outside, press against the glass. I realize I am in a basement. I search the corners for more clues. To my right, I can just make out a pile of old quilts and a wooden spinning wheel. Behind it is the burnt out remnant of an old coal stove.
Fear overrides all my senses as I recognize where I am and know that no one will ever find me. I could scream until the last gasp of air exits my lungs — no one would hear. I could claw against the mortar in the walls, but never dig myself out.
This is the perfect place to store me away. A rancid hole that will keep me hidden in darkness until they can pry the secret from my grasp.
The third step on the back stairs always gives me away. It creaks and cracks like an old man’s bones making it impossible to move with any stealth inside my century year old home. The decaying wood groans under my weight as I descend the final steps. My boots hit the floor with a distinct thud and I stop waiting to hear my father’s deep, southern drawl.
When there is only silence to greet me, I tiptoe through our small, cramped kitchen easing around the battered farmhouse table that covers most of the room. I reach up and grab my mother’s worn barn jacket off the peg next to the door. My hand slides over the Fray insignia and familiar code just beneath her name. When the tarnished handle of the back door slides into my palm, I begin to relax. I turn the knob anticipating my freedom when his voice booms from behind me.
“Going somewhere?” my father asks.
I jump and then inhale a sharp breath bracing myself for battle. When I turn, I am struck by the ever-increasing gray at his temples and the sharp downturn of his mouth. The war over whether he’ll approve my Creds to cross the boundary has been raging for weeks and it’s taking a toll on both of us.
“Just for a ride. Thought I would go the meadow,” I say hoping it’s enough of an answer to ease out the door without incident.
“Sadie,” he breathes out. “How long are you going to avoid me?”
“Until you change your mind,” I reply sharply.
His face turns hard. The look in his eyes reflect his disappointment in my inability to be the young woman he wants me to be - quiet and compliant. You would think after seventeen years he’d realize those things aren’t woven into my DNA.
“We’ve been through this,” he says pulling down on his dark beard. “The Empire is not an appropriate place for a young woman. Their moral code goes against everything you’ve been taught. The crime rate is rising every day and I can’t in good conscious let you go.”
“How am I supposed to find my way in the world if you hold me prisoner here?” I spit out unable to hold back. “If Mom was alive, she’d let me go.”
My words are like a slap to his face and he flinches as I evoke the memory of my mother. Her death the only thing that links us now in a sad camaraderie of grief.
“You will not speak to me like that,” he says. “You must follow the law and respect my decisions.”
I make every attempt to stay calm, biting my lip to contain my anger, but the wrong words jump from my mouth again before I can catch them. “Why are you treating me like a child?” I shout.
Peter Thomas Senese is a bestselling author, filmmaker, and public speaker. His books include Den of Assassins, Cloning Christ, and War on Wall Street. He is also a social activist combating international child abduction and human trafficking.
BRIAN: Peter, welcome to the Underground. This is the first interview where I have been torn as to what to ask the author. In most cases I discuss a writer’s inspiration, books and background. The subject matter of your novel Chasing the Cyclone is so compelling it keeps drawing me in. We could spend hours just talking about how your ordeal inspired you to create Chasing The Cyclone. However, can you briefly tell us a little about your life, specifically your writing life, before the events that inspired Cyclone swept you up?
PETER: I am primarily a historical fiction writer concentrating on topical issues that are important and of interest to society today. My novels evolve around global topics such politics, science, religion, and parenting, though I have also had published several non-fiction books. But as a storyteller, I enjoy using historical facts and information in order to create an entertaining and educational story that will have meaning to my readers.
BRIAN: Chasing the Cyclone is a novel inspired by your trials trying to find your young son after he was abducted by his mother, your ex-wife, and taken across the world. It was obviously a life-altering event. How long after your ordeal did it cross your mind to write Chasing the Cyclone?
PETER: I, like every other parent who is forced to contend with this issue became immediately aware that the challenges a targeted parent faces is extreme.
Federal International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act, along with various state laws. And it is child abuse. So when a person thinks that a child can’t be abducted when they are with one of their parents, they are dead wrong.
My own big-bang book moment, if you will, came when I realized just how flawed the system was and my desire to educate other parents about the taxing system. My desire to share these issues was rather quick; however deciding to write Chasing The Cyclone came after my family’s ordeal ended.
BRIAN: Please give our readers a little background on the issue of international parental child abduction, specifically those that flee across international borders. How big of a problem is this?
Your child is missing, whisked away to the other side of the globe by a former spouse. The most precious thing in your life has been reduced to a helpless pawn by someone who can’t see beyond the rage they feel toward you. The government will not help you. The courts cannot help you. You’re alone, running out of money and hope. Now you learn your child is in a country rife with child slavery and prostitution and could forever vanish without a trace. In his fictional novel Chasing the Cyclone
Peter Thomas Senese details a frightening odyssey closely inspired by his own personal story.
Paul Francesco’s ex-wife goes rogue, violates the law, and abducts their young child. The drama begins with a series of court sessions where all the ugliness of a child custody case is laid bare. Soon, Francesco’s ex is permitted by an indifferent judicial system to take the child to New Zealand. Once there, her and the child vanish in the company of an international human trafficker. The story repeatedly lifts the reader with hope Francisco will recover his boy, only to deliver crushing disappointment with another false lead, another missed opportunity, another legal roadblock. Senese takes us to the brink of hopelessness as Francesco plunges into the sordid underbelly of Macau desperately searching for his boy. Chasing the Cyclone
is well-written, but starts slowly in a series of snap-shot moments strung together into a stiff narrative. Initially, it feels like the author rushed to get critical elements on paper. Some of the characters surrounding Francesco are a little hard to follow as the author only paints them with cursory strokes before moving on. What kept me reading was the sense I was only a page turn away from the storm. Senese did not disappoint. About a quarter of the way into the book the prose and narrative warm up and Cyclone
becomes an emotional rollercoaster.
Even though it was inspired by true events Senese makes it clear this novel is a work of fiction. However, it reads so much like a personal account I had a very difficult time keeping this in mind. I was somewhat uncomfortable by the vivid detail of the court scenes and was concerned the novel might devolve into a loosely veiled personal vendetta. Thankfully, it didn’t. Senese doesn’t name the fictional female antagonist and never makes her the center of this story. She is described frankly, but never maliciously and I couldn’t help but pity her at the end. In the epilogue, the author discusses the importance of reconciliation and the role of both parents in a child’s life following the trauma of parental abduction. For me, this enhanced the novel’s credibility.
It’s clear Peter Thomas Senese is a crusader, a man on a mission to never let this happen to another child. Chasing
is more than a fictional drama, it’s part textbook and part compilation of personal lessons learned. Every so often a character monologues important facts regarding parental child abduction. The final section is a compilation of resources for what Senese calls ‘Chasing Parents.’ Cyclone
reaches out to Chasing Parents with critical information to guide them through the coming maelstrom.
More than anything else, Chasing the Cyclone
is about one father’s relentless love for his child. While slow to build speed, it is a powerful story and earns 85 out of 99 cents.
99 Cents Worth of Peter Thomas Senese Links: www.peterthomassenese.com
www.chasingthecyclonebook.blogspot.comIf you enjoyed this review follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Brian Braden on Facebook and Twitter and buy his book, Carson's Love.
If you want to read a sample of Amy's writing, vote in the 'comments' section of this blog post. In order for your vote to count, you must have an email subscription to the Underground. If Amy gets ten votes by next Friday (April 27th) we will post her first chapter on Underground Book Reviews.
Katie here. I'd like to take a moment to introduce Amy Grossklaus. I first met Amy at the Algonkian Writer's Conference in New York and have since worked with her on Author Salon. Amy is a hard-working mom who is completing her YA Alternate History novel The Defiant
. I am very excited to have her here on the Underground. Welcome Amy.Katie:
You are currently finalizing your Young Adult Alternate History novel The Defiant
. Tell us a little bit about the book. Amy: The Defiant tells the story of seventeen-year-old Sadie James whose southern nation is part of
a divided America. Her nation, known as The Fray, has co-existed peacefully with The Empire (The North) and The Glut (The West) since just after the Civil War. But now, rebellion threatens that fragile peace. A group called The Defiant is rallying Fray citizens to fight back against their cruel and corrupt leaders who hold all the power with hopes of uniting America once more.
For Sadie, rebellion is only a whispered myth until a series of mysterious and shocking events bring her face-to-face with The Defiant’s leader - someone she knows all too well. Overwhelmed by a deep sense of betrayal, Sadie fights her ties to the rebellion until she and Theo, a young rebel soldier, uncover the sinister truths of her corrupt nation.
But before the Fray’s lies can be exposed, Sadie and Theo’s connection to the rebellion is discovered. In a desperate showdown, that will have deadly consequences, Sadie and Theo risk itall to protect those they love and safeguard the future of an entire nation.Katie:
Alternate History is an interesting genre. What are some of the challenges of having to rewrite history in a novel like this?Amy:
I think the biggest difficulty is making the “what if” scenario believable. It can’t be so over the top that your reader gets caught up in the premise and misses the core of your story. They have to believe that the world you’ve built could have been possible under different circumstances. In order to pull this off, you have to do a lot of historical research so certain real elements can be woven into your idea.Katie:
I know you used to work for Ingram Book Group. What did you learn in that job that helps you now in your current pursuit of publication? Amy:
I learned that the key to any successful book is getting the buy in from booksellers. A great deal of my time was spent supervising the writing and editing of the “new release” publications that went into the buyer’s hands at the bookstores. It was critical to make every book seem like the next bestseller in just a few lines and that idea taught me how to edit down my own synopsis and pitch.
Hailing all the way from the shores of Cypress, the Underground is proud to welcome science fiction and fantasty writer Chrystalla Thoma. Welcome, Chrystalla!Katie: Rex Rising
has such a unique premise: parasites have infected humanity with some interesting and disturbing results. How much research into the nature of parasites did you do to write Rex? Chrystalla:
Parasites have interested me for a long time. I always mention Parasite Rex
, by Carl Zimmer, as one of my inspirations and sources of information. It’s a great scientific book for the lay public. I read all the scientific articles I could find, and I was especially intrigued by two parasites which influenced the story of Rex Rising
. The first one is Toxoplasma gondii
, a parasite we humans often get from cats, and which can influence our behavior in startling ways, ways we are often not even aware of. The second one is Wollbachia
, a parasite which transfers parts of its genes to its host and can completely change a population (of insects in this case), transforming all of them into females and only allowing the birth of females. In fact, the parasite takes over its host so completely (and its whole generation of hosts) that it cannot reproduce if it is not infected with Wolbachia – or in some cases it starts reproducing asexually – like the race of the Gultur in Rex Rising
The cover art for Rex
is fantastic. Where did you get such an intriguing and highly professional cover? Chrystalla:
Oh, thank you! I made this cover. I bought a stock image, cut it in half, added blue to the eye and the effect of scales on the cheek (with the help of my wonderful husband Carlos). A friend, Marion, taught me how to use Photoshop and I used it to create the titles. I am very glad you like it.Katie:
The world you create for Elei is vast and robust. Algae ponds, giant mushrooms and the seven islands all draw us in to a new and exciting world. What did you use to help you envision the place where Elei lives? Chrystalla:
I live in Cyprus – an island with almost no drinking water. It rarely rains and I know what a precious commodity drinking water is. That meant in my world water wouldn’t be used for cultivating edible plants. But the sea was around the islands, and I knew that certain algae are very nutritious. Spirulina, for instance, which is a blue-colored algae, was cultivated by certain African kingdoms but also by the Aztecs in ponds and lakes for food. As for the Seven Islands... Their existence and the nature of this isolated world in the ocean will be explored in the two sequels.Katie:
The sequel to Rex Rising (Rex Cresting)
is already out. This is a fast turnover for a sequel. While so many of us struggle with finding time for writing, what is your secret? How do you find time in a busy schedule to make writing a priority? Chrystalla:
There are a couple of reasons for this quicker turnout, none of which are secret. One reason is that Rex Cresting
is book two in the series, therefore the world-building, the characters and the idea for the story were already in place since book one. Another reason is that last summer I quit my full-time job due to health reasons and have been working as a free-lance translator ever since. This is a mixed blessing: in theory I can take a month off to write. In reality, if I have work, I may have to work day and night for a month to finish before the deadline the customers set and not have time to write a word of fiction. But, yes, in general I do have more time to write now.
is the story of Elei, a young man tormented by the parasites inside him. Elei, a sympathetic character if one has ever been written, arrives on the scene after fleeing the murder of his employer and mentor. He has one thought as he loses time and blood: get to Aerica, the last thing his mentor was able to tell him. Once on Aerica he finds Kalaes and Maera, a young couple who take him in and patch him up. Little does the group know the Gultur, the violent female rulers, are after him. They will stop at nothing to get the secret Elei carries inside.
The fantastic world that Thoma creates in the Elei Chronicles
will not leave fantasy readers disappointed. The seven islands are home to a race of infected humans. The parasites that inhabit the humans change and enhance their bodies, but can also kill them. I found myself fascinated by the seemingly in-depth research that went into creating these complex parasites and their effects. Don’t get me wrong, this book is not a boring analysis on parasitic life. The story is jam-packed with action from beginning to end. Teens will be turning pages to the end. Rex
is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters are well-built and realistic; the world is creative and unique without being too foreign to leave us lost. Thoma’s pacing and structure kept tension on every page. The cover itself is stunning and I was pleased to note that Thoma designed it herself. My one critique would be I longed for a broader look at the life and culture of this new planet. Since Elei spent most of his time on the run or in hiding, we missed out on the broad landscape that might have really enriched this world for me. One can only hope that we see more of that in the sequel, Rex Cresting
, now available on Amazon.
My recommendation is this book will please anyone who likes a good adventure into a new world. It is well worth the $2.99 price tag and while you’re at it you can pick up the sequel as well.
You can find Chrystalla Thoma on her blog
or her Amazon page.
You can find Rex Rising here.
The Independent Book Blogger Award is run by Goodreads, a fantastic website for anyone who likes books. At the Underground, we just assume that you like books. Why else would you be here?
So if you like books, and you like the Underground, go to the competition page
and put in your vote for us! If you don't already have a Goodreads account, you'll need to get one. But don't worry, it's free.
Thanks for your support,
-The Underground Team
Praise of Motherhood
may paint a picture of a young man trying to scrape together the last strings of his sanity, but don’t let the memoir fool you: Phil Jourdan is a multi-talented man with a wealth of knowledge. Phil is working on a PHD in Religion and Comparative Literature from the University of Warwick, is part of a grunge band called Paris and the Hiltons, writes the off-beat blog Slothrop
and is the co-founder of an emerging literary website and writing workshop called LitReactor
: Thanks for joining us today, Phil. Let’s start by talking about your memoir, Praise of Motherhood
. When did you decide to put your experiences into writing? Phil
: The very night my mother died. Simple as that. She died, and I wrote. What else was I going to do? I wasn’t sleeping alone in a suddenly very empty house. That wasn't pleasant. The dogs were there just looking confused. I needed a way out, and I couldn't really kill myself without feeling horrible about it the next morning, so I wrote. I was 21, I had unfailing self-confidence, and my mother was dead. "I'll write about this, I guess. Tell people about my pain."
Well, that's not quite how it happened, actually. I was 21, I had just lost my mother that evening, and yes, I was alone in her house. But the writing wasn't a "decision" and I never decided to put my experiences into writing. It was more something like this: "Good God, what am I going to do with myself to survive tonight?" And the answer was writing, but that only became clear later on. I wrote a lot of rambling pages that night. I kept starting over: "My mother died tonight, and like Camus, I cannot cry." "Mom's dead, by the way." And the opening line that stuck for a year or so before I decided to change it: "So my mother died and it was very sad." That felt honest. It was a very different book at first, and I'd say everything changed, as far as the writing is concerned, when I did
decide to write a "book" instead of just typing away to forget the pain. AB
: Praise of Motherhood
contains a lot of scenes that are improbable at best, and often simply impossible. You leave it up to the reader to decide what’s real and what’s in your head, if it’s imagined or simply a good metaphor. Why did you decide to write the book in such a surreal way, and still label it a memoir?
TITLE: Praise of Motherhood
AUTHOR: Phil Jourdan
PUBLISHER: Zer0 Books (imprint of John Hunt Publishing)
THE RUNDOWN Praise of Motherhood
is a memoir about the life and death of Phil Jourdan’s mother, who stood by him throughout his tumultuous childhood. As much as the book is about his mother, it is about him: the hallucinations and violent urges that hospitalized him and defined his youth. To me, the book is a psychological study. On the one hand, we have a well-read, analytical narrator who seems to have his wits about him. On the other hand, we have a psychotic young man who simultaneously hates and loves his mother. The reader must ask, how can these two people be the same?
There is a self-indulgent quality to the prose in Praise of Motherhood
that is so honest in its presentation that I, the reader, assumed the same tendencies. I read the book at a frenzied pace and had to fight to put it down. The book is unusual and intoxicating, with an intentional lack of attention to time or reality. The narrator, Phil Jourdan, is so unreliable in his storytelling that I wanted to label it a novel, not a memoir. And yet, it read unlike any novel or memoir I have ever read. Praise of Motherhood
lacks the ABC plotline that defines mainstream books. Other than some tangents that were slightly longer than necessary, the lack of direction in Praise of Motherhood
didn’t slow me down. I would describe the contents of the book as philosophy, not story. Phil Jourdan is well-read, citing Freud, Oedipus, Kafka and other great minds, challenging their thoughts and applying his own. His writing is introspective and honest and there are more than a few gems sprinkled throughout the text. With his spellbinding stream-of-thought narrative, which revolves around the life and death of his mother, Phil manages to gain my respect despite the fact that I acknowledge his experiences as unreliable at best.
Readers who enjoyed The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath will eat up Phil Jourdan’s book. It is not a light read, but it is a quick one. Something that you will devour in a short period of time and digest for years to come. If you are looking for a new perspective, a dark twist on reality, pick up Phil Jourdan’s book. Additionally, anyone with a close friend or family member who is suffering from mental trauma or psychosis may gain some understanding of their loved one’s predicament by reading Praise of Motherhood
. There are some mature moments which may not be suitable for a younger audience.
Find Phil on Facebook
Visit Phil's blog, SlothropIf you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.