Unexpected Reviews

When I started this adventure I’ll call burgeoning award-winning-novelist, I never imagined it would take me across the country, promoting my books. Frankly, I never imagined there would be a plural, books.

Writing novels was never on the dream board. It wasn’t on the roadmap. Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a bit of an extravert. I’ve been on stage, solo’d, was an extra in a few movies, and dipped my toes in the stand-up pool many moons ago.

Writing, however, was never really my “thing”. Sure, I enjoyed telling stories. Tell a joke or two. Be the first to respond with a snarky or smart-ass response. But, sitting down and actually writing a story? Chapter after chapter? Compile hundreds of thousands of words?

Just wasn’t in the cards. I wasn’t that guy. I wasn’t that cerebral. And if you’ve read my work, you know, I’m still not that cerebral, but I’m working on it.

Periodically, I check my reviews on line. People seem to enjoy my work, and my review count continues to increase monthly, which surprises me, but I won’t complain.

What I love most, though, is discovering international reviews. People outside my country, USA, who’ve spent their hard earned money, and purchased my novels. Then, take the time, to write a review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.

Here’s a recent nugget I found, while surfing the web, I thought I’d share. It’s from Amazon Australia, a country on my bucket list, and hope to visit one day. I find it ironic, that while I’ve never stepped foot in the “land down under”, my book has.

This is from Anna W. whomever she is.

(5.0 out of 5 stars) What follows is a sweet story of first love set in the 80’s

Format: Kindle Edition

Verified Purchase

This book had me from the first page and by the end, I was an emotional wreck. In 1987 a young man meets a girl called B. What follows is a sweet story of first love set in the 80’s. The story is told entirely from the boy’s (we never learn his name) point of view and is refreshingly innocent and at the same time very real.
It’s a coming of age story of first love that is beautifully told. Vega is a talented writer who doesn’t put a foot wrong. The main characters are both real and sympathetic. This book is an easy read that will carry you along as B and the young man discover love, friendship and growing up. There is also the added bonus of the time period, I love books and films set in the 80’s so, for me, this was a great piece of nostalgia. Vega throws in references to films and music (and using pay phones) that really set the mood.
Without giving anything away, this book has some really emotional parts, you’ll need a tissue.
Loved it!

Thank you, Anna W. whomever you are. I enjoyed your review, and appreciate you spending the time to read my novel, and your hard earned money. I hope you enjoy the rest of my work.

Manhattan Book Review: Last Exit to Montauk

Four Stars

“There is definitely an air of the kind of romantic fiction embodied by Nicholas Sparks or John Green with Vega’s Last Exit to Montauk…”

Last Exit to Montauk is a story of first love, one young readers, as well as lovers of the romance genre, will find quite satisfying. Vega is able to pace his novel quite well, leading readers through the interior life of the unnamed protagonist with ease. Since the perspective is that of the narrator, readers enjoy a very casual, conversational prose tone that occasionally wanders off into reverie but soon returns to the details of the story at hand. However, one can allow a certain air of whimsical remembrance when recounting first love. There is definitely an air of the kind of romantic fiction embodied by Nicholas Sparks or John Green with Vega’s Last Exit to Montauk, from its use of flashback (the vast majority of the novel) to its somewhat twist ending.

What makes the story unique is we are seeing through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old Hispanic boy experiencing his first slice of adulthood. This, combined with the casual yet vivid descriptions of the North Shore of Long Island during the late-1980s, gives readers a heartfelt glimpse into the development of a young man. Vega seems to draw on his own experiences in dealing with the casual racism of the era in creating the antagonist, Kyle Ferguson, the ex-boyfriend who makes no attempt to hide his racial contempt of the narrator who is daring to date outside what Kyle feels is his class and culture. This aspect really does push the novel into territory less explored by many and most romances, but it’s one a keen reader of new adult and young adult fiction will appreciate.

For more cynical readers, there may be too much reminiscence in Vega’s novel and not enough meaningful introspection. However, one doesn’t read new adult or young adult literature for crushing existential realizations, nor does one read romantic comedies for their insularity. Rather, novels like Last Exit to Montauk exist so we can share in a personal and emotive moment, something that allows us to increase our own empathy and depth of understanding. In this way, Vega succeeds in creating a moving story exploring not just puppy love but how friendships develop, are nurtured, and mature. It is rare for an earnest novel like this to actually achieve its goals without relying upon exhausted tropes or standard clichés and thus provoking indifference in readers. In Last Exit to Montauk, Vega avoids those pitfalls, delivering a substantial novel that still feels light while not sacrificing impact.

Reviewed By: Daniel Casey

Manhattan Book Review, @booksmanhattan, @Manhattan-Book-Review, @vman216, @thewordverve

Favorite First Line?

Someone I follow on Social Media recently posted a question, “What’s your favorite first line from a book?”

I thought, “Hmm…great question.” There are so many.

  • “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Moses, Genesis (?)
  • “Call me Ishmael.” Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

And what about movies and music? There are certainly many classics there too, no?

  • “Hello darkness my old friend” Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence (1964)
  • “I, I wish you could swim” David Bowie, Heroes (1974)
  • “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.” LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
  • “Rosebud” Citizen Kane (1941)
  • “Please sir, I want some more.” Oliver! (1968)
  • “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Goodfellas (1990)

As a writer, I understand the importance of a first line. It captures the audience. Draws them in. Makes them want to keep reading, listening, or watching as the story unfolds.

It’s like walking into a bakery and smelling that intoxicating scent of fresh baked bread. The hint of cinnamon, garlic, sugar, or warm chocolate. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

What do our favorite first lines say about us? Do they define us? As an individual? As a society? Who’s to say? There are as many lists out there as there are first lines.

What about you? What are some of your favorite first lines? To a book, song or movie? There are no wrong answers. Certainly the short list I posted are merely a sliver, a snippet, a morsel of my favorites.

I look forward to reading your favorite first lines…

Unexpected Surprises

“Surprise!!” I can still remember hearing those words shouted at me when I turned 14. My older brother took me to the same mall featured in my novels, Last Exit to Montauk and The Captain & the Queen, the Smith Haven Mall.

After hitting the Herman’s Sporting Goods Store, Sam Goody’s and the Arcade for $10 worth of video games, which was a lot back in the 80s, I came home to a surprise party.

I was greeted with, “Surprise!!”, as I opened the front door. And how did I react? I squeaked, immediately panicked and shut the door. I stood on the outside, panicking, while on the other side of the front door, I heard laughter.

After composing myself, or rather, after my older brother shook his head, and shoved me inside, I had the best time ever.

So, imagine my surprise when I turned the corner on a recent business trip, and saw this staring image back at me. When people ask me what my goals are regarding my writing, my typical response includes, I want people to enjoy my writing. I want to help change the narrative on how people view Hispanics in today’s world, which is why all the Hispanics in my novels are and will always be white-collar professionals.

Lastly, I’d love to see my work adapted to the big or small screen someday. Hollywood, I’m talking to you! @SofiaVergara‏, @EvaLongoria, @salmahayek, @jessicaalba, @NHMC and @rosariodawson I’m talking to you, too!

I hope you have a Blessed Day! When I saw this, I certainly did!!

What is Romance?

How do you define romance? Is it flowers for your loved ones? A heart-shaped box of chocolates? How about a puppy with a bow and card that reads, “Will you be mine?” Who doesn’t love puppy breath?

Over the last two years, since undertaking this new venture, published novelist, people have asked, where do you get your ideas? Why write about love?

Well, the former is easier than the latter to answer. Ideas simply come to me, in a flash or a vision. I’ll be working on something, driving to the office, listening to music, doing yard work, or simply watching television, and images and ideas begin to fill my imagination with a story.

The entire plot plays out in my mind’s eye and if it stays with me, I’ll start writing the manuscript. So far, since 2017, I’ve started and developed close to thirty manuscripts.

I have a roadmap for the next four books I plan on releasing unless an idea comes to me that will supersede all others, taking me well into the next decade and beyond.

I write about love because it’s universal. Regardless of where you go on this planet, everyone can relate to love. The love a mother has for her child. The love a husband has for his spouse. The love a child has for her pet. The love a dog has for his owner.

Have you ever come home from a long day’s work, and had a dog greet you at the front door? Tongue out, tail wagging, darn-near jumping out of its skin with excitement that you’re home!

There’s nothing better than unconditional love! That’s my wish for you today. Valentine’s Day. May you experience Unconditional Love and may it transform you, permeate your body and soul, causing you to shine as bright as the sun!

San Francisco Book Review

The Captain & the Queen
If you want a fun romance filled with reminders of what it was like to be young, look no further.

$2.99

The book opens with a ninety-year-old man lunging for our protagonist’s throat with a steak knife, threatening to kill him. Hooked? I certainly was. That’s the sort of opening my writing teachers always told me about: the kind that catches your attention and establishes character at the same time.

That, though, is just the prologue. The real action happens years earlier, when our protagonist and the older man’s daughter are both in high school. Even that action begins with a bang: Calista Christos steps out of a black Mercedes and knocks our protagonist, Mateo Nelson, speechless. That begins a whirlwind romance between a lower-middle-class Latino boy and a Greek girl who’s rich enough that she might as well be royalty.

Despite the class difference between them, this doesn’t always read like a star-crossed romance. It’s made clear multiple times that Calista’s father won’t stand for her dating someone either of Mateo’s class or his race, but Calista is more than happy to be involved with Mateo even so, as long as it’s kept a secret. Most of the book focuses less on the star-crossed and more on the romance, which is to its benefit. Mateo’s voice shines most when he’s wrapped up in his life, whether he’s worried about if his father might lose his job or thinking about his friends or Calista. He’s a football player, but he’s also a bit of a doofus in a way that only a high school senior can be. Everything’s either wonderful or terrible. The whole world might as well revolve around him. It hasn’t been so long since my own high school years that I’ve forgotten what it’s like, and Vega captures the mood perfectly.

I did have a couple (of) complaints about the novel. Mateo’s voice does get a little overwhelming at points. The novel’s written in (the) first person, and in some chapters(,) there’s some exclamation to show how Mateo feels. In moderation, this gives a very good sense of his character and what’s going through his head. At times, though, it became a bit much, almost to the point of being irritating. The other thing that bothered me was when some phrases were off, such as when a character “got up on” another’s grill when the phrase is “got up in.”

On the whole, however, this book swept me away. I got caught up in Mateo’s head, laughing with (and occasionally at) him, and I rooted for him and Calista all the way. If you want a fun romance filled with reminders of what it was like to be young, look no further.

Buy Book: Amazon

Article Link: San Francisco Book Review

Manhattan Book Review

Kindle: $2.99 
https://www.amazon.com/Captain-Queen-Phillip-V…/…/B07H7ZCSR8

The Manhattan Book Review recently reviewed The Captain & the Queen, 4 out of 5 Stars! It will post soon. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

“On the whole, this book swept me away. I got caught up in Mateo’s head, laughing with (and occasionally at) him, and I rooted for him and Calista all the way. If you want a fun romance filled with reminders of what it was like to be young, look no further.”

Reviewed by Jo Niederhoff
Manhattan Book Review

49 – Dress Rehearsal

An Excerpt from The Captain & the Queen

Our last night of rehearsals flew by. Before starting, Aaron gave us all a speech. He called everyone together—the stagehands, Corrine, Kevin in the booth—to take a seat.

“Okay, guys, this is it. Our last rehearsal. So, if you’re going to mess up, fall, or break something, do it tonight.”

Everyone laughed, grateful for the lightening of the mood.

“I want to thank all of you for your hard work. Listen, Shakespeare isn’t easy. And I know this is going to be the first time for some of you on stage. I want to assure all of you . . . you’re ready for this. You put in the work. Tomorrow evening, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday night will be a stroll in Central Park.”

A stroll in Central Park, huh? I just hope I don’t get mugged.

“For our three performances, I want you to leave it all on the stage. Do you know what I mean by that?” he asked. “I see by the look on your faces, that some of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Puck, you play football. Can you please explain it to everyone?”

Nothing like putting me on the spot, Aaron.

“Well, if you’re talking about leaving it all on the field, then you want us to ‘bring it.’ Take everything we’ve learned in practice and deliver it during our performance.”

“Exactly. I want you to bring it! I want everyone involved in this production to bring it, so that when we finish our final performance, we have nothing left to give. Because we’d left it all on stage.”

Nods all around.

“Okay, now, let’s get to work. I want to run through this twice tonight. No stopping. Even if you’re bleeding or dying on stage, we’re not going to stop. Understood?”

So much for lightening the mood.

Purchase links:

Chapter 35 – Who Are You?

Excerpt from The Captain & the Queen by Phillip Vega

As we settled in, I broached the elephant in the room. I had to know the
answer.
“So, um, Callie?”
“Yes?” she replied, flirtatiously raising her shapely eyebrow.
“Okay, now stop that.” I wagged my index finger at her, which she reached out for and . . . honked.
Honk! Stop what?” she asked.
She then ran her foot up my leg, causing me to jump in my seat, and her
to laugh.
Whoa!
“Okay, okay. You got me.”
She giggled wickedly, causing some stares from the nearby patrons.
Nothing to see over here . . . nothing to see.
“Anyway, so . . . uh, about last night at the diner. And before that, at school with your dad. What was that all about?” I asked. “Who are you?”
“Your girlfriend.”
“Cal-lie.”
She smiled and then looked outside the windows for a moment, as if she were collecting her thoughts. She wasn’t quite squirming in her seat but was clearly a bit uncomfortable.
“Hey, hey, it’s me. You can tell me anything. You know that, right?” I
asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s just—”
“It’s just what? You said you’d explained everything today.”
“It’s a long story.”
“Are you, like, a princess or something?”
She’d just taken a sip of her drink and, when I’d asked the question, she
did a spit-take, showering my face with her Seabreeze.

Available on Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/phillipvega