Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fight Game by Alistair Hendrie

Today's author interview on the GSMC Book Review Podcast is a little different from previous interviews because the book falls into a genre I don't normally talk about:  Sports Non-Fiction.  Which, frankly, is awesome.  I keep saying as I go through this process that I enjoy being exposed to and reading books I might not otherwise read. Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain by Alistair Hendrie isn't necessarily a book I would pick up for a little light reading.  I actually watch MMA, Women's MMA in particular.  I didn't used to.  I'm not a huge sports fan, and Mixed Martial Arts didn't seem like something I would ever watch.  Then I got married to a man who did Martial Arts and boxed in college and who watched a variety of combat sports.  I started watching it with him, and while I'm not sure I would watch it on my own, I have grown to appreciate many of the women who participate in the sport, and I am learning about the strategy involved in this complex sport.

But enough about me.  When Alistair contacted the Women's MMA Podcast about possibly doing an interview to promote his book, Tate (the host of the WMMA and MMA Podcast) and I readily agreed.  We asked if we could put the interview on all 3 podcasts, and had a really great time chatting with Alistair from his home in Reading, UK, even though we had major Skype technological problems.

When Rosi Sexton fought Alexis Davis in 2013, she made history and became the first British woman to compete in the UFC.  FIGHT GAME reveals how Britain's female fighters broke down barriers, offering interviews from stars such as Sexton and the UFC's Joanne Calderwood.
With its intimate take on the grow of the scene, landmark moments and the personalities within the sport, FIGHT GAME is an inspiring tale of dedication, sacrifice, and, ultimately, acceptance. (Source)
As I said, this isn't my usual genre, but I do always love learning new things, and I was amazed at what my brief foray in to the world of Women's MMA had already taught me.  You can tell Alistair is passionate about this sport through his writing, and Fight Game gives a great overview of Women's MMA in Britain, especially showing how the earliest women to join the sport had to struggle to gain a foothold. The book details the evolution of MMA as a sport as well as the evolution of the roles of women fighters within that sport.
  • Sports
  • Non-Fiction
  • Women's MMA

What I enjoyed:
  • How Alistair's passion for the sport and the people involved in the sport clearly shows in his writing.
  • Learning more about a group of fighters I was not that familiar with.
  • Learning more about the evolution of MMA as a whole, Women's MMA more particularly, and Women's MMA in Britain most especially.
Who should read Fight Game?
  • Fans of MMA, especially Women's MMA.
  • Even if you aren't currently a fan but are curious about the sport, this book would give you a good introduction to the world.
  • Fans of Sports Non-Fiction.
    • "Whenever I asked Britain's earliest female fighters about their MMA debuts, I heard variations of the same response - they didn't have a clue what they were doing.  British women were still working out the sport but more crucially, the sport was also struggling to find its identity."
    • "The women's scene was still growing and as Sexton attested, women would suffer from lack of competitive, sustainable matchups, which in turn led to inactivity.  'In order to get picked up by an international promotion, women needed to have a record against decent opponents.  Accumulating that was a real problem because you'd have limited people to fight.  You'd have girls where, if they were a male fighter with the same level of dedication, commitment and training, they'd be 6-0 or 7-0. But simply because they were female they might have struggled to get their first or second fight.'" -Rosi Sexton
    Where you can find Alistair online:

    If you want to read an excerpt of the book and learn a little more you can do so here:

    Twitter: @allyh84
    Author Bio:
    Alistair Hendrie is a freelance sports journalist with experience writing for publications such as Boxing News,, Fighters Only and MMA Plus. (Source)

    Monday, January 29, 2018

    In Wolves' Clothing by Greg Levin

    Episode 52 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast has me chatting with Greg Levin about his newest book, In Wolves' Clothing.

    On his best days, Zero Slade is the worst man you can imagine. He has to be. It's the only way to save the Lost Girls.
    During his seven years on a team fighting child sex trafficking, Zero’s become quite good at schmoozing with pimps, getting handcuffed by cops and pretending not to care about the children he liberates. But the dangerous sting operations are starting to take their toll on his marriage and sanity. His affinity for prescription painkillers isn’t exactly helping matters.
    When the youngest girl the team has ever rescued gets abducted from a safe house in Cambodia, Zero decides to risk everything to find her. His only shot is to go rogue—and sink deeper into the bowels of the trafficking world than he’s ever sunk.
    It’s the biggest mission of his life. Trouble is, it’s almost certain death. (Source)
    Given the rather heavy subject matter, and the fact that it was billed as dark comedy, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book.  It's really good, though.  I was immediately sucked in, I found the humor to be appropriate with just the right level of snark and sarcasm, and following Zero on his journey was oddly satisfying.  Yes, Zero's job sucks.  Greg's details of the child sex trafficking world are never gratuitous or overtly graphic.  They are used to further the story and also raise awareness of the issue within the context of the story.  The book is really more about Zero's journey as he struggles to come to terms with things he's been ignoring or denying for too long in his life, including his relationships and addiction.  Like every book in every genre, this one isn't for everyone, but don't skip it because you aren't sure of the underlying subject matter.

    Also, if you want to read the book AND help the cause you can!  January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and Greg is donating 100% of his profits from the sales of In Wolves' Clothing to Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that works on anti-child trafficking efforts throughout the world.  (The organization that Zero works for in the book is based on OUR)

    • Dark Comedy
    • Crime Fiction (Noir)
    • Transgressive Fiction

    What I enjoyed:
    • The humanness of Zero as a character.  He's a hero, an anti-hero, and something in between. 
    • The witty humor.  Is it dark?  Yep.  Is it sarcastic?  A lot.  Does it fit the tone of the book?  Perfectly.
    • The secondary characters surrounding Zero, especially his wife and his colleague Caleb.  Caleb brings some much-needed lightness to the book, and is unintentionally hilarious.  Zero's wife, Neda, is fierce and loving and a force in her own right.
    Who should read In Wolves' Clothing?
    • Fans of transgressive fiction.
    • Fans of crime fiction, especially in the noir genre.
    • Fans of books that raise the consciousness but still allow for a measure of hope.  (as opposed to some books that I've read that have raised my consciousness so far I simply want to curl up in the fetal position and weep for eternity)
      • "The point is, you'd be hard-pressed to find a finer, fiercer group of failures than the crew we've managed to assemble. Not to brag."
      • "When your life bears a resemblance to a trailer park following a Category Five hurricane, you  don't want to be depended on to bring out the best in others."
      • "There's nothing better than being the bad guy.  Long enough to do some good."
      • "It's why you rarely hear of anyone breaking into a Zen center or a yoga studio in search of a mindfulness fix.  It's why nobody ever sells family heirlooms or their wedding ring or their body for thelatest instructional CD by Thich Nhat Hanh."
      Where you can find Greg online:
      Facebook: @greglevintheauthor
      Twitter: @greg_levin
      Instagram: @greglevinauthor

      One more website:  Greg is currently hosting an autographed novels giveaway for fans of transgressive fiction and dark humor.  The prize is a package of four book from authors Chuck Palahniuk, Monica Drake, Craig Cleven, and R.D. Ronald.  Click the link for more information:

      Author Bio:

      Greg is an award-winning author of transgressive thrillers with a dark comedic tinge. He’s gone from being read merely by immediate family and friends to being read also by extended family and Facebook acquaintances.
      Greg’s novel The Exit Man was optioned by HBO and later by Showtime for development into a TV series, and won a 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award (a.k.a., an “IPPY”). He earned a second IPPY with his next novel, Sick to Death, which Craig Clevenger (The Contortionist’s Handbook) called “a tour de force dark comedy.” Greg’s new book, In Wolves’ Clothing, was just published in October 2017 and is his most dangerous work to date. He wrote much of it during a ten-week-long workshop led by the great Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club and lots of other books Greg sleeps with at night).
      Greg resides with his wife, daughter and two cats in Austin, Texas. He is currently wanted by local authorities for refusing to say “y’all” or do the two-step. (Source)
      To listen to the episode with Greg please click here.

      Thursday, January 25, 2018

      Meet Me in Milano by Mariuccia Milla

      Episode 51 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast is a conversation with author Mariuccia Milla about her debut novel, Meet Me in Milano.  It is the first in a planned set of 5 novels that will intersect between locations and some characters, although they won't be a series per se.  This first book tells the stories of Jonathan and Melinda, a former couple who have both come to Milan for different reasons. Their social circles and lives begin to intersect in various ways throughout the book and both of them learn more about themselves through the communities in which they become involved.

      Meet Me in Milano is about a young architect who leaves her boyfriend and New York to look for a job and a new life in Milan, Italy. But her ex is not giving up so easily, and follows her there. The people they meet, the places they visit, and the things they learn about themselves during their separate adventures will bring you right there with them as they navigate the Milanese scene. The reader will meet successful and charming Milanese men like Alberto and Pierpaolo, the wise Lella, the beautiful Elena, and aspiring creative types who, like Melinda and Jonathan, have come to Milan to realize their dreams. Meet Me in Milano weaves Italian culture, food, language, and personalities into a delightful mosaic. Weekend trips for work and play in the beautiful Italian landscape provide deeper dives into the conflicts and opportunities that bring the characters together...or make them change direction. This is a book about the discovery of life and of self, through connection with place and other people. (Source)
      I've never been to Milan, or even Italy, but Mariuccia does a really wonderful job of describing not only the places, but also the people and the culture.  This is a travel book in the sense that the 2 main characters move from New York to Italy for a period of time, but it's more than just a book that shows another place.  The reader truly gets to experience what it feels like to be a newcomer/outsider living in an unfamiliar place and learning to navigate the people, culture, traditions, and geography of that place. 

      Melinda and Jonathan are young and still finding themselves.  Mariuccia presents them as fully human, with flaws and contradictions.  Melinda is both incredibly brave, and remarkably timid.  Jonathan tends to fix things and situations around him, but can't seem to fix certain aspects of his own life.  They are multi-dimensional characters, and I found myself both liking them and being frustrated by them in turns, pretty much like any relationship.

      • Travel
      • Romance
      • Urban Fiction

      What I enjoyed:
      • What Mariuccia calls "Italy porn."  Nothing in appropriate, just the things you expect from a book about Italy:  Food, beauty, art, architecture.
      • Watching Melinda learn and evolve in a way that was relatable and human.
      • The incredible variety of secondary characters who make up a rich tapestry of community which surrounds Jonathan and Melinda.
      Who should read Meet Me in Milano?
      • Fans of romance.
      • Fans of books featuring travel.
      • Anyone who wants to go to Italy or has already been and wants to relive some of that experience.
      • Fans of risotto.  No really, there's a lot of risotto made and eaten in this book and it all sounds fantastic.  (also fans of gelato and cappuccino)  I was hungry for most of my reading.
        • "A parade of dull gray bins marched through the black fettuccini curtains, loaded with shoes and phones and Clinique free gift sets  This was her limbo between New York and the rest of the world."
        • "She was attracted to his pluck, thinking it might be contagious."
        • "Italians have an expression, gallina vecchia fa buon brodo, old chickens make good broth."
        Author Bio:

        Mariuccia Milla had a dream of going to Italy. After her first post-college job in New York City, she bought a one-way ticket and set out on her first adventure. Mariuccia stayed in Milan, where she worked in the field of architecture and interior design, for ten years. Afterward, she lived in Tuscany, and later near Lago Maggiore, before returning to the USA for graduate school after a total of eighteen years abroad.
        Mariuccia is currently living in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, and plans to split her time between there and Italy.
        Trained as a designer and a landscape architect, Mariuccia is particularly tuned in to the physical environment and how it influences people and their relationships.

        To hear the interview with Mariuccia please click here.

        Saturday, January 20, 2018

        The Fairies of Glendaren Hills by Susan Cupples-Munger

        I'm so behind this week on posting, but I did do an interview for the GSMC Book Review Podcast.  I spoke with Susan Cupples-Munger about her children's book, The Fairies of Glendaren Hills

        I love how I come to some of my interviews, especially this one.  I don't personally know Sue, but I used to work with her daughter, Alison, when I lived in Texas.  So when Alison posted on Facebook a couple of months ago that her mom's first book had just been published I sent her a quick message to ask if her mom might want to be on the podcast.  Alison checked with Sue, introduced us via email, and voila! a podcast was born.

        Spoon and Myrtle have long entertained their grandchildren with tales of fairies living in the hills that surround their home. And no matter how intriguing the stories, the children know they’re not really true…or are they?
        While visiting their grandparents, Alison and Leah decide to discover the truth about the fairies once and for all, and they are delighted to discover the fairy kingdom nestled deep in the forest of Glendaren Hills. Their wonder is short-lived, however, when they realize the kingdom is threatened by plans to build a railroad. Mavin, the ruthless railroad builder, has enlisted the town mayor to help him force residents to sell their land. And Magog, a fairy-turned-sorcerer banned from the kingdom for using black magic, has his own plans to destroy the kingdom.
        Will the fairy world disappear just as Alison and Leah have found it? Or will they be able to save their new friends and the kingdom from certain destruction? (Source)
        This is a really sweet book about a loving, close-knit family.  It also happens to be about fairies.  And, of course, there is some drama and danger, so what's not to like?  It is a fun read, and while it is a children's book, I enjoyed reading it as an adult.  As I mention to Sue in the interview, I wish my nieces were closer so we could read it together because I think they would enjoy it.

        One thing that fascinated me was Sue's story about seeing the name Glendaren Hills on a roadside and starting to make up a story about that place and the fairies who lived there, while driving home from Ohio.  She never intended to be an author, but the sign sparked an idea and the idea became this book, which is the first in a series about the creatures and humans who live in Glendaren Hills.

        • Children's Fiction
        • Fantasy
        • Fairy Tale

        What I enjoyed:
        • The Wotherspoon family and their loving quirkiness.
        • Fairies.  I'm a big fan of fantasy, as I'm sure you know if you're a regular listener/reader, so introducing children to fairies and fantasies in a way that is fun and accessible makes me happy.
        • The intergenerationality of the book.  I loved how Alison and Leah come to know about this world that their grandparents already know about, and how eager the are to embrace it and share the experience with family.
        • That my friend Alison has a character named after her in the book (as do her siblings)
        Who should read The Fairies of Glendaren Hills?
        • Sue recommends it for ages 9-12.
        • Families who love to read together.
        • Fans of fantasy, fairies, and family stories.
          • "[Flossie and Cricket] love to hide and watch the mortals and have concluded that some are bad, while others are good.  Spoon and Myrtle are two of the good ones in their opinion."
          • "Spoon and Myrtle love the land as much as fairy folk, so they are accepted as true friends.."
          • "Suddenly, the rolling pin flew up into the air and began striking Mavin on top of the head.  To their disbelief, the men saw coffee cups and plates floating from the house in mid-air.  They were mesmerized by the sound of the bells.  They looked up in wonder, just as the dishes crashed over their heads and shoulders."
          Author Bio:
          Susan Cupples-Munger lives in Newton, Iowa with her husband, Dave.  She enjoys gardening, bird watching and writing.

          To hear the interview with Susan please click here.

          Tuesday, January 2, 2018

          Asleep From Day by Margarita Montimore

          On today's installment of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I spoke with Margarita Montimore about her debut novel, Asleep From Day, which comes out on January 10th. Mary Ann Marlowe introduced us, and I'm so glad she did as the book is great.

          Astrid can’t remember the best day of her life: yesterday.
          A traumatic car accident erases Astrid’s memories of September 9th, the day she spent with an oddly charming stranger named Theo. Ever since, she’s haunted by surreal dreams and an urgent sense that she’s forgotten something important. One night, she gets a mysterious call from Oliver, who knows more about her than he should and claims he can help her remember. She accepts his help, even as she questions his motives and fights a strange attraction to him.
          In order to find Theo and piece together that lost day in September, Astrid must navigate a maze of eccentric Boston nightlife, from the seedy corners of Chinatown to a drug-fueled Alice-in-Wonderland-themed party to a club where everyone dresses like the dead. In between headaches and nightmares, she struggles to differentiate between memory, fantasy, and reality, and starts to wonder if Theo really exists. Eventually, she’ll need to choose between continuing her search for him or following her growing feelings for Oliver. Astrid might go to extreme lengths to find what she’s lost . . . or might lose even more in her pursuit to remember (like her sanity). (Source)
          There is so much to love about this book.  The writing is wonderful, first of all.  I highlighted so many well-written quotes and turns of phrases I'm not sure how I'll pick a couple for this post.  The story sucked me in from pretty much the first page and I kept reading because I wanted to find out what had happened to Astrid and to also keep up with the wide range of interesting/quirky secondary characters.  As I say on the podcast, I don't want to write/say too much about this book because I don't want to give anything away.  The joy of this book is following all of its twists and turns and going on Astrid's journey with her as she tries to determine what is real and what isn't.

          • Psychological
          • Suspense
          • Mystery
          • Romance
          • Upmarket

          What I enjoyed:
          • The writing, which combines humor, drama, and so much more.
          • The characters, which are compelling, interesting, quirky, and incredibly well depicted.
          • The ending.  Except that I hated the ending.  While also loving it.  But I actually hated it.  You're just going to have to read it to find out why!
          • Revisiting 1999 when I was of a similar age to Astrid (although living in Montana, which is so very NOT Boston).
          Who should read Alseep From Day?
          • Fans of suspense/psychological novels.
          • Fans of books that keep you guessing throughout.
          • Fans of stories that don't stay confined to one particular genre.
            • "'Why is it tomorrow?'  Good lord, what a question.  I sound like a- five-year-old having an existential crisis."
            • "Even something simple like the elevator ride feels fraught with danger and uncertainty--What if there's a power outage and we get stuck?  What if the cord snaps and we plunge to our deaths? Settle down, paranoia queen."
            • "I take in my surroundings before answering. It's like being in the attic of a crazy aunt married to a taxidermist (and possible seral killer), both of whom were hoarders."
            Where you can find Margarita online:
            Website for Margarita:
            Website for Asleep From Day:
            Facebook: @margaritamontimore
            Twitter: @damiella
            Instagram: @damiella

            Author Bio:
            After immigrating from the former USSR with my parents at age four, I grew up in Brooklyn. Learning English was easy thanks to Sesame Street and Wheel of Fortune (at one point in my childhood, I refused to answer to any name except for “Vanna White” because I thought it was the coolest name in the world). When I was seven, I coerced my parents into buying me a Hello Kitty diary, and I’ve been writing ever since.
            I majored in Creative Writing at Emerson College in Boston. After graduating, I moved to London, because why not, and lived there for a year-and-a-half, where I picked up a lot of goofy slang and a taste for tea. Back in New York, I worked at a literary agency (Trident Media Group), then at HarperCollins, which helped me accumulate a staggering collection of books. Later on, I held positions as social media lead at Marvel, Google, and MRY. In 2014, I decided it was time to follow the Big Dream and pursue writing full-time. After getting married in Vegas by Elvis (true story), I quit my job and moved out of NYC to the suburbs, where I now live with my husband and high-maintenace-but-loveable dog. I’ve worked on several novels since then and have have plans for many more. In 2015, a personal blog in which I transcribed my old diaries caught some national TV attention (it’s not every day you have Neil Patrick Harris reenacting your embarrassing teenage moments). I’ve also blogged for Quirk Books,,, and Google. Currently, I’m a book coach/editor at Author Accelerator.
            I write upmarket/literary fiction that tends to be left of center and flirt with multiple genres. I love all things dark, strange, and surreal, but I’m also optimistic—verging on quixotic—and a pop culture geek, so my work tends to incorporate all those elements to varying degrees. My first novel, Asleep from Day, will be out January 10, 2018.
            When not writing, I enjoy tackling that ever-growing book collection, hiking with Cooper, our diva White German Shepherd, listening to podcasts, knitting, playing video games that don’t require too much hand-eye coordination, and managing my overflowing Netflix and DVR queues. (Source)
            To hear the interview with Margarita click here.