I have a new reader to share with you today. Mrs. N is a friend from Goodreads and a blogging friend that I’ve gotten to know this year.
I’m sorry that I’ve been a little behind on posting this series lately, but my schedule hasn’t been going as planned. I hope you enjoy!
I’m always looking for friends on Goodreads that have similar tastes. I like learning about new books and discussing them with others, so I decided to experiment with a new idea and thought it would be neat to find readers that I’m friends with on Goodreads and share them with you. Maybe they might be someone you’d like to add too. As I find readers with an interest, I’ll introduce them.
Meet the Reader Series
Today’s Featured Reader:
Q: Did you enjoy reading as a child? If so, what were some of your favorite books?
A: I loved reading as a child. It started when my parents read to me. Their own love of reading got me excited to read. Every Saturday, I’d go with my mum to the library and we’d spend most of the day reading, discovering new books and checking out as many books as we could carry out to the car. As I grew older, books taught me about life, love, kindness and great adventures.
Q: What are some of your favorite books this year or last?
A: I have the extreme pleasure to read books for a living and as such, get to read some incredible books. To garner the status of favorite book of the year, the story, characters and setting have to be so incredible that I cry when it’s over. Three books this year (so far) have that coveted status. They are:
Only a Hero Will Do (The Heart of a Hero Book 1) by Alanna Lucas
The Life and Times of Ichabod Brooks by Charles E. Yallowitz
Rule #1 Don’t Be #2 by Daniel Milstein
All captured my heart in their own way and I highly recommend them.
Q: What are your favorite book genres?
A: Ugh! I really hate this question. I’m a voracious reader and my tastes vary from children’s books to mystery to romance to nonfiction to even erotic romance. My library consists of a lot of romance (all sub-genres), fantasy, mystery, suspense, biographies, sports and motivational books. If I could only choose one genre to read for the rest of my life, I guess I’d choose paranormal romance. I’m a huge romantic at heart and love a happy ending, especially with a little magic thrown in.
A: Currently? According to Goodreads, it’s 257 but there are so many I need to add that it’s more like 300. I told you I like to read.
Q: What’s an emotional book, or one you won’t forget that you’ve read this year or last?
A: I’d have to say the one book I’ve read this year that’s had the most impact on me personally is Rule #1 Don’t Be #2 by Daniel Milstein (above). It inspired me to continue going after my lofty dreams, no matter what others may think. It gave me the emotional kick in the arse I needed.
Q: Is there a book you really didn’t enjoy this year or last?
A: There have been many and honestly, they’ve all been recommended to me by fellow readers and bestseller lists. I won’t name the one book I read that was so horrible I threw it out the window this Summer. Lol!
Q: They say to never judge a book by its cover, but just how important is the book cover to you?
A: Covers are just as important as the story itself, in my opinion. I’ve been known to pick up quite a few books I normally wouldn’t read because I loved the cover. The cover has to grab the reader, entice them to take a second look and capture the whole story in one frame. It’s hard to get it right but when it does, it’s pure magic.
Q: Have you written anything? If not, have you ever thought about writing your own book?
A: Yes, I’m one-half (MR N is the other half) of the award-winning N. N. Light. We’re a husband-wife writing team and we’re about to publish our fifth book. It’s a daily inspirational book called, N.N. Light’s Book of Daily Inspiration and it will be released November 21, 2017. Our other books are romance, paranormal romance, youngadult and love poetry.
Q: Which do you enjoy more, ebooks or physical books? How about audiobooks?
A: I used to be a physical book snob but I see the value in e-books and audiobooks. I need e-books for reviewing but for personal use, I much prefer physical books. It’s all in the touch and smell, especially old books. You can’t get that from an e-reader. I don’t listen to audiobooks but I did when I was a manager at a bookstore because my commute was over an hour each way.
Q: Where do the majority of your books come from? (Library, bookstore)
A: My local library is too far away so most of the books I read I get from Amazon or used bookstores. I’m also on Netgalley so I get a lot of ARCs to read from publishers before publication. I swear, I’m a kid in a candy store while perusing Amazon or Netgalley.
I had the pleasure of reading James J. Cudney’s debut novel Watching Glass Shatter last week and what a treat it was! You can read my review of the book below and also check out my interview with this incredible author. You’ll learn more about James J. Cudney as a reader and writer as we discuss the book and also his plans for the future.
I’ve come to know James over this past year through our blog communications and he quickly became an inspiration to me as well as a friend. I follow his blog @ thisismytruthnow and enjoy every post I read from his book reviews to the 365-day challenge and I can’t forget his dog Ryder’s Monday posts. He’s such a wonderful writer and I was so excited to learn that he was publishing his first novel. It seems to have happened so quickly and I’m just so proud of Jay and ecstatic to be part of the blog tour! I hope you’ll enjoy reading this post about his new book.
Blurb: The wealthy Glass family lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. Olivia receives a very unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family.
Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia must figure out which boy Ben refers to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney searches for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. When Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her. Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life-altering, but she will not rest until her family is reunited after Ben’s untimely death.
We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re all a mix of quirky personalities. Will Olivia be able to fix them or will the whole family implode? What will she do when she discovers the son behind Ben’s secret? Check out this ensemble cast where each family member’s perspective is center stage, discovering along the way who might feel the biggest impact from all the secrets. Welcome to being an honorary member of the Glass family.
Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney is one of the best books I’ve read in 2017. It’s a debut novel about a family with secrets. These secrets have the potential to tear the family apart.
The matriarch of the family is Olivia. Her husband Ben, the patriarch, has just died unexpectedly and she is left with their five grown sons, their families, and her sister Diane. She’s also left with a secret from Ben regarding one of their sons. Olivia decides to take some time to spend which each of the boys and in doing so, she discovers that each and every one of them has their own little secrets they’ve been hiding.
I was sucked into this story as soon as I started reading it. A worry that I had was that with all the characters in the book, I would get confused and lost because each of the sons have their own family members as well, but not once did I have an issue with it. The characters are so well detailed and described. After reading about each one, I felt that I knew this family and they all felt so realistic to me. I think overall my favorite character was Diane, but as the story moved on, it became Olivia. In the beginning, I almost couldn’t stand Olivia, but she begins to change. As she discovers so many new things about her sons and their spouses, she starts to realize that she’s too much of a control freak and needs to let people make their own decisions. I loved this transformation, although it may not have been complete, she becomes more understanding, more kind, and less judgemental which I admired. The boys…where can I start? Each one is unique in their own way. I loved all of them, but my favorite son was Ethan. I had issues with Zach and a certain situation between him, Teddy and his wife, but it came together in the end which was unexpected. I couldn’t wait to find out whether the Glass family would heal or simply fall apart. I was literally astonished by this book because it has many twists and turns. You just won’t know unless you read it from beginning to end.
I follow Jay’s blog and conversate with him from time to time, so I already knew he was a good writer, but this writing to me is even more delightful, the plot was so unique and the book was put together perfectly. Readers know that it takes more than just a good writer to offer a great book and everyone has their own opinions on this. Some say they need to be captivated and that the characters need good development. Others say they really want to ‘think’ or be taken on an adventure, but a good book to me is one that makes you feel, and this book did that for me. I had a myriad of emotions. I laughed, became shocked, cried, jumped for joy, and got angry at times throughout the book. It’s truly heart-wrenching at times! I can’t remember the last time I was this emotionally involved with characters. It’s definitely been a while!
As far as the end, I liked it, but I expected something different. I wasn’t sure if I was happy with Olivia’s choices, or Rowena’s choice for that matter, but it turned out that I was pleased with it.
Overall, I loved this book and I’d recommend this book to anyone. What a ride. I can’t wait for the next book! Every star for Watching Glass Shatter!
I had the pleasure of reading The Frightened Little Flower Bud last month, a children’s book by Renée Paule and Godfrey R. Hewitt. Below, you can see my thoughts on the book and also read the interviews with Renée and Godfrey.
Blurb: The story begins with a seed landing in a pretty garden where it begins to grow and eventually forms a little flower bud. But, the little flower bud becomes frightened of things she ‘hears on the wind’; such as the sun that might scorch her petals, the rain that might spoil them, the wind that might blow them away – so the flower doesn’t want to bloom. However, all flowers must bloom, and as the little flower bud opens her petals she overcomes her fears one by one.
The more we think about our fears, the more they overwhelm us. This book teaches children (of all ages) that fear is just a feeling that holds them back from living their lives to the full.
To add to the fun and develop observational skills there’s a ‘Did You See’ activity page at the back with objects from the book that children may not have noticed whilst reading it. There are also some simple questions that can be asked of children, encouraging them to think about what they’ve read. The skill level required is ‘easy’.
The story is about a little flower bud who is afraid to bloom because of the rumors she’s heard “on the wind” about how she might be scorched by the sun, drenched by the rain, blown by the wind, and stung by bees. She also worries if she’ll be good enough and asks herself, “Will I be beautiful like the other flowers?” As time moves on and she continues to change, everything that she worried about becomes a thing of the past and she blooms into a beautiful flower until it’s time for her to pass on her seeds for new flowers the following season.
The book’s crucial message couldn’t have come at a better time. In this day and age, our children are becoming more influenced by their peers, the media, and even family. Passing some of our own negative fears and beliefs to our children is also possible as we ourselves, at times, are dealing with our own set of stresses and negative emotions. The story reminds us that we don’t need to harbor these negative thoughts at all. By the time I got to the end of the book, I realized this has to be one of the best children’s books I’ve read with powerful messages for all ages. What were some of the messages we took away from the book? Don’t ever be afraid because of something you hear. No matter what somebody else says, don’t let it get in the way of your goals and live your life to the fullest. Most importantly, be yourself!
The book can be read by children entirely on their own, but really strikes up good conversation and for younger children, I believe it’s best read with an adult. It’s very thought-provoking and children will begin to think about some of their own fears. I think school teachers can incorporate this into their curriculum as well. My children who are ages four, six, nine, and eleven, all enjoyed it and even my 17-year-old enjoyed discussing it with us.
We thoroughly admired the bright, colorful, and detailed illustrations. These illustrations give us a nice sense of nature which is something many of us have lost touch with as our lives have become electronic and sometimes disconnected from Earth. There’s even a section for young readers to go back throughout the book with a ‘look and find’ list of animals and children will learn about a what type of flower the frightened flower bud is.
I appreciated the addition of the authors’ notes in the back of the book where you can read about the authors’ thoughts on the book and also learn a little bit about them. I’m so pleased to have this added to my home library and believe this book should be in every school and library so that all can enjoy it, not just children, as it’s a book for all ages!
My rating for this book is 5*****
You can find this book on Goodreads and Amazon. There are two different spellings. Find the British spelling book HERE and the American spelling HERE.
Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: RPG Publishing; American Spelling edition (September 27, 2017)
A few illustrations from the book:
Did you enjoy reading as a child? What are some of your childhood favorites?
Renée – I never read much as a child – I found the task tedious and preferred to remain with my own thoughts.
Godfrey – I enjoyed reading Enid Blyton amongst others. My favourite children’s books have always been ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ by A. A. Milne.
What influenced you to write this book?
Renée – Like with most people, the idea just popped into my head and Godfrey and I developed it from there. There are some beautiful places to see in Co. Leitrim and lots of flowers coming and going. The symbology is always clear (life is a cycle).
Godfrey– I was invited to co-write and illustrate it – so I thought ‘Why not?’
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Renée – As you know, I usually write for adults so had to start thinking about how a child would receive this book and whether or not the ‘bees’ or ‘dying’ image would scare them.
After speaking to teachers, we were reminded of the horrors that our children read all the time – such as ‘The Three Little Pigs’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ – so what we were tackling was mild in comparison.
Godfrey– Knowing when it was finished and needed no more tweaking.
How long did it take you to write it?
Renée – It took six months to get it just the way we wanted it – the illustrations are intricate.
What message would you like people to take away from The Frightened Little Flower Bud?
Renée – Never be afraid of anything, particularly your own thoughts.
Godfrey– Things are never as bad as they appear to be.
What do you think makes a great children’s book?
Renée – One that can reach them and encourage them to think for themselves – better still, a book that encourages them to think for themselves and leaves them feeling happier than they were before.
Godfrey– One that children can get lost in – the return to reality is a disappointment. One that stays with you all day and you look forward to getting back to reading it. One that leaves you with a great sense of loss when you turn the last page.
Was anything edited out and did you have alternate endings for the book?
Renée – An image of a mole was removed because we wanted to keep the book Irish and there are no moles in Ireland – we replaced it with a rabbit.
Godfrey– There was no possible alternative ending.
Who designed the illustrations and cover?
Renée – we worked on the illustrations together. Godfrey did most of the landscapes but also helped me with expressions and ideas. We work very well together. Godfrey designed the cover.
Do you have future plans to write more children’s books and can we expect more illustrations?
Renée – Yes … saying no more at this stage. I am, however, also working on another adult’s book so time is precious right now.
Do you have any favorite children’s book authors and do any influence your writing?
Renée – We’re influenced by everything we read whether we want to be or not.
Godfrey– As I said above, I always loved Enid Blyton’s books – also Roald Dahl, Kenneth Grahame, Philip Pullman and others too numerous to mention.
How do you publish and market your books?
Renée – We are taking it into garden centres, schools and book shops – and anywhere else we can think of – and pushing it ourselves. It’s a hard slog and why time is precious right now. This book was rejected by 16 odd publishers and also by distributors, even though they enjoyed reading it. We still have a lot to do.
Do you have any advice for others on publishing and marketing?
Renée – Never give up. Never take ‘No’ for an answer. If you believe in what you’re doing don’t allow others to reject it in your own mind.
Godfrey– I agree with Renée. It’s also important to have your book edited. If you self-publish be prepared to work hard and get your book known – there’s a lot of competition!
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Renée and Godfrey – Thanks for the chance to talk about our book. We had a lot of fun putting it together.
I’d like to thank Renée and Godfrey for taking the time to complete this Q&A.
Last month, we took a trip to Barnes and Noble and picked up The Unicorn in the Barn. We were instantly attracted to the title, cover, and blurb. I had the pleasure of reading The Unicorn in the Barn with my younger children and you can see my review and author interview with Jacqueline K. Ogburn below.
For years people have claimed to see a mysterious white deer in the woods around Chinaberry Creek. It always gets away.
One evening, Eric Harper thinks he spots it. But a deer doesn’t have a coat that shimmers like a pearl. And a deer certainly isn’t born with an ivory horn curling from its forehead.
When Eric discovers the unicorn is hurt and being taken care of by the vet next door and her daughter, Allegra, his life is transformed.
A tender tale of love, loss, and the connections we make, The Unicorn in the Barn shows us that sometimes ordinary life takes extraordinary turns. – Goodreads
Have you ever seen a Unicorn? Eric has, and now his life may be changed forever.
Eric’s grandmother isn’t well and has been put into a nursing home. Her house is now being occupied by someone new, a girl named Allegra, and her mother, a veterinarian. One day, Eric stumbles upon Allegra pounding in a “No Trespassing” sign on the tree where his treehouse resides: his favorite place to be. They don’t seem to like each other, but Eric doesn’t know yet that Allegra may not be as awful as she seems.
As Eric spends more time around the woods and farmhouse, he begins to discover magical creatures, including a white and glowing animal he first thinks is a pony. Soon, he realizes this beautiful pony-like animal is a unicorn: the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. He soon observes that she’s living in the old barn near the farmhouse which has been converted into a vet practice by Allegra’s mother. The unicorn was meant to remain a secret, but Eric is inquisitive and must find out everything he can about this magnificent creature.
We absolutely loved all the magical creatures in the book, especially Moonpearl, the majestic unicorn. The talking animals reminded us of another favorite children’s story-Charlotte’s Web. The human characters are memorable and even though it’s an imaginary story, it felt real. The relationship between Eric and his grandmother is heartwarming and we admired how Eric and Allegra’s friendship developed over time.
There were a few events in the book that we needed to stop and discuss that dealt with loss and mourning and not everything unfolded the way we wanted it to. Overall, this story was beautiful and something I would’ve loved reading as a child. We fell in love with all of the illustrations and found ourselves wanting more. My kids did enjoy it and I’m happy to have it as part of our home library.
My rating on this book is 5*****
You can find this book on Goodreads and Amazon as well as many other bookstores.
Age Range: 10 – 12 years
Grade Level: 5 – 7
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (July 4, 2017)
Author Interview with Jacqueline K. Ogburn
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A: I didn’t really start calling myself a writer until after about my third picture book. By then I began to believe it was something I was good at, not just a fluke. I had always written things – poetry, journals, letters – starting when I was around 8 or 9.
Q: What made you decide to write children’s books?
A: My path was a bit unusual. I had moved to New York City in my early 20s because I wanted to work in book publishing. My first job was in children’s books, and it made me remember how I fell in love with reading. I wrote my first picture book when I misunderstood a book title. I thought it was The Noise Lullaby, but it turned out to be The Norse Lullaby. Not nearly as intriguing a title, so I wrote a manuscript to go along with the incorrect one.
A: Like many people, I started with poetry. I like playing with the rhythms and how intricate they could be. Writing a poem can be like solving a puzzle, finding how the pieces fit.
Q: What influenced you to write The Unicorn in the Barn and are any of your books influenced by your childhood?
A: My daughter sparked the idea, when she mentioned that unicorns might be hard for a vet to treat. The setting of the story is based on the farm in North Carolina near Charlotte where my grandmother and my mother grew up, and my uncle still lives. I tried to give it a Southern feel, but not in a stereotypical way.
My book The Jukebox Man was based on my grandfather, who had jukeboxes and pool tables at bars and restaurants throughout North Carolina. The illustrator, James Ransome, also used my house in one of the pictures.
Q: How does writing make you feel and does it come easy for you?
A: I hate starting a piece. Starting is so hard, trying to find a way in. Those first few sentences set up so much. Once I get past that, it is very absorbing. Picture books are so short that I can usually write a full draft in a day or two. I can hold the whole picture book in my head while I research and work out the plot or the structure.
Novels are hard because they have so much middle. Some many possible blind alleys and it seems to magically expand. Or you get stuck and aren’t sure how to keep it building towards the end.
Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
A: That’s like asking who is your favorite child. I love them all. I have published 10 picture books and one middle-grade novel. I love The Reptile Ball because it was a collection of poems. The Magic Nesting Doll was an original fairy tale. The Bake Shop Ghost because it is about cakes and a cranky ghost. Also because I got to write a musical based on it and see it performed, and it was made into a short film, which I got to see being made.
Q: What makes a great children’s book?
A: It’s easier to say what makes a bad one – a didactic approach, condescending tone, sugary sweet sentimentality, not respecting that children are people, stories that rote, routine and boring.
Q: Why don’t you illustrate your own books and what’s the process like for finding illustrators?
A: While I like to draw, I haven’t developed that talent. There are so many incredible artists out there, and I have been lucky in the ones who had illustrated my books. I don’t find the illustrators, the publisher does that, because they give a separate contract to the artist. I usually discuss the style of art the story needs with the publisher. Lots of artists have turned down my stories, for all sorts of reason – they didn’t like it, didn’t fit their schedule, etc. Once I met an illustrator years after he turned down my story. He did wonderful, realistic illustrations of children that were beautiful and intense. He remembered my story. He explained that he didn’t do it because the action took place inside, and he hated drawing interiors. He loved illustrating outdoor scenes.
Q: What’s the publishing process been like for you and how do you market your books?
A: I have been very lucky in my publishing career. I don’t have an agent, but have worked with several editors at three different houses. I have had several books rejected, and probably don’t market those enough. I do some online marketing for my published, but that is changing so rapidly that it is hard to keep up. I do some school visits, but I have a day job, so I’m not a true road warrior.
Q: Do you like to read a lot? If so, who are some of your favorite authors and are there any that heavily influence your writing?
A: I read constantly. I’m the type of person who reads the cereal box if there is nothing else around. For picture books, Margaret Mahy was an influence – she is very funny and whimsical and playful with language. For a novel, The Bridge to Terabithia was an influence.
Q: When it comes to writing, what tools do you use?
A: Pen for poetry, computer for prose.
Q: How long did it take you to write The Unicorn in the Barn?
A: More years than it should have – about 10. I didn’t work on it consistently. I would put it away for months at a time, then find myself thinking about the characters and work on it until I got stuck again.
Q: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
A: The middle kept growing, that there were more things I realized I needed to put in that weren’t part of the original outline.
Q: Will there be any other books regarding Moonpearl or the characters in this book in the future?
A: I have some chapters of a sequel, told from Allegra’s point of view. The main magical creature is a griffin, because I love the hybrid of lion and eagle.
Q: How did you come up with the character names in the book and are any characters or events based on anything true?
A: My daughter who gave me the spark, her middle name is Harper, so I used that for Eric’s family name. I did research by volunteering at the Piedmont Wildlife Center, so some of the details about the clinic are drawn from that, and the farm is based on the one where my grandmother and mother grew up.
Q: I appreciated that the book dealt with some harder topics like aging, death, and mourning which can be difficult for children to cope with. Did you make any major edits to the book or have other endings for the story?
A: I changed an important scene. Originally Eric tried to take the unicorn to his grandmother and Moonpearl ran away after being frightened by a car. My editor and husband thought it made Eric seem too selfish and unsympathetic. So I had to change a lot and ended up with the wampus cat.
If you tell a story about a hospital or a doctor, about healing, then death is always a possibility. I called a friend crying once, because I realized I needed to include the death of an animal if it was going to be a fantasy grounded in reality.
Being the parent or grandparent of a children’s book protagonist is risky business – they die off at an alarming rate. The loss of a grandparent or a pet are frequently a child’s first experience of death, and the initial setting I created made them almost inevitable. I tried to do it in a way that was emotionally true, but not crushing. To show that these things can be faced, especially with help.
Q: Do you have any advice for parents who are dealing with struggling readers?
A: That is a bit outside my expertise, but modeling reading is one. Anything that appeals to an interest they have, don’t worry about if it’s “good” just something that they want to figure out. Reading out loud, just as sharing, not as pressure.
Q: Are you working on anything now and do you have any future projects planned?
A: The possible sequels and I have an idea for a series, maybe a bit younger than this.
Q: What else do you like to do outside of writing?
A: I live in Durham, North Carolina, which is now a foodie town. I like to cook and eat well. I grow herbs and flowers and tomatoes, because not even the farmer’s market has tomatoes as good as the ones in your own backyard.
I’d like to thank Jacqueline K. Ogburn for her time in completing this interview.
I’m always looking for friends on Goodreads that have similar tastes. I like learning about new books and discussing them with others, so I decided to experiment with a new idea and thought it would be neat to find readers that I’m friends with on Goodreads and share them with you. Maybe they might be someone you’d like to add too. As I find readers with an interest, I’ll introduce them.
Meet the Reader Series
Today’s Featured Reader:
(Click the covers to add on Goodreads)
Did you enjoy reading as a child? If so, what were some of your favorite books?
I started reading more as a teen but always enjoyed books. In the olden days, when TV’s were black and white and the only channels were CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS, and before such things as video games, many of us kids would gather at each other’s home for what was commonly referred to as story time. Neighborhood moms would take turns reading to the kids. Here is where I fell in love with stories. Some of my favorites were:
Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
and The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Wilder.
What are some of your favorite books this year or last?
This year, some of the books that made my favorites list include:
American Gods by Neal Gaiman
The Stand by Stephen King
Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King
Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hurnard Hannah
In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree by Michael A. McLellan
What are your favorite book genres?
I love most fiction, specifically, Fantasy Adventure, Post-Apocalyptic, Thriller, and select Mystery. That is not to say I don’t also love some true stories if written in a well entertaining way. Such books would include An Innocent Man, by John Grisham, and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.
Blurb: In her thirteenth life, Aven has settled into the now witchcraft-friendly Salem where she has found true happiness and friendship, maybe even love. Despite her contentment, the truth of Aven’s existence haunts her. When she dies, her Spirit is forced from the Veil to live again in the body of a stranger.
Does the elusive white raven, who has shadowed Aven through each of her lives, hold the secret to her release–or is it the cause?
To make matters worse, an unrelenting, twisted evil from Aven’s past lurks closely behind her. Sustained by his hatred of the witch, he won’t give up until she’s paid for what she did to him.
When the truth of Aven’s connection to the white raven is revealed, it is more horrifying than she could ever have imagined.
Her freedom will come at a terrible price. And even then, will she truly be free?
Paperback: 410 pages
Publisher: FiveFold Press; First edition (April 28, 2017)
Aven is living the happiest life she’s ever had, and she’s had twelve others before. She lives with memories from her past lives and unfortunately her deaths too, including the remembrance of her murderer-Morris Stiles.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been. I have been through so much pain and suffering in my previous lives, but here I feel like I’ve finally found a place where I belong and can thrive. When the recurring dread and despair that this life will end too soon creep into my mind, I pack them back down tightly. I’ve set aside all thoughts of my curse for now. I will make this a good life.”
Aven’s been cursed to continue living on Earth no matter how many times she dies. In this life, she’s settled down in Salem and owns a little shop where she does readings and sells magickal items. She has Jo- her very close and supportive friend who accepts her for who she is and has true power herself, Cal- a man who’s just come into the picture and might be just what Aven needs, and the white raven- who seems to follow her wherever she goes, but she cannot see it.
“He’s always around you, you know,” she says absently, looking off behind me again. “I know.” I don’t turn around; he won’t be there. “But he never shows himself. This has been going on for several lifetimes. I think almost all of them.” I can’t remember a time when the bird wasn’t there.”
Everything seems to be perfect until suddenly something haunts Aven from her past. Will she overcome it? How will she ever break this curse of living over and over again?
This book is written well and I thought the character development was perfect. The characters are memorable and I must say, Aven ended up being my favorite character in the book. She’s so strong-minded and doesn’t let anything stop her from using her magick. She has a strong and important message to be who YOU want to be. I loved Maggie – her canine companion, Jo, and Sylvia as well. I cherished all the details, descriptions and imagery that really pull you in and make you feel like you’re living the story. The author managed to add a little bit of everything here–romance, magick, jealousy, friendship, evil, and love. This is the perfect book to read this time of year, especially with all the magick and Halloween elements. I’m hopeful there’s going to be a sequel and I’ll definitely be reading it if there is!
Are there any authors that have inspired your writing?
My tastes change all the time and I take away a little something from every author I read. Who has affected me more recently is Paula Brackston (The Silver Witch, The Witch’s Daughter). Her writing style is like a song in my head.
What have you written so far?
I’ve written many stories over the decades but only completed and published one, The White Raven.
What are some of your writing tactics? Do you outline?
I am a planner! I outline, research, and spreadsheet or diagram as much as I can about the story. I create character dossiers, also. The outline for TWR was 18 pages. I don’t treat the outline as gospel, though. I use it mostly as a guideline. If my writing veers off in other directions, I go with it. I scraped many pages of TWR’s outline because I loved the different directions it went.
Do you do all your own editing?
While I do revise and edit as much as I can, I know what my limitations are. I hire professionals for that kind of stuff.
Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do?
A year and a half ago, I quit my ‘day job’ to become a full-time writer. I was a vice president of a software company, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I decided that it was time to take the leap, to take a shot at the dream I’ve had since I was a kid. I have zero regrets.
What do you love most about writing?
I love seeing the story build and grow. I love seeing the characters come alive, watching their unique personalities and behaviors take shape. I love the tingling feeling, the excitement flitting around in my chest as an amazing scene flies out of my fingers.
How do you publish and market your books?
I decided early on that I would self-publish. I am a bit of a control freak, so it made sense for me to go that route in the beginning. I initially published exclusively on Amazon, but in July I expanded to everywhere else – Nook, iTunes, Kobo, etc. I’m running ads on Amazon and Kobo right now.
Do you have any advice for others on publishing and marketing?
One word: RESEARCH. Don’t just do things blindly. Don’t wing it. Research, research, research. Follow and observe what other authors are doing, read articles on best practices and the mistakes made by others, and ask questions. That will save you heartache, headaches, and embarrassment in the future. And for heaven’s sake, don’t create your own book cover or rely on only your own editing skills. Hire professionals!
What do you consider literary success?
I have discovered that my definition of literary success has a few levels. My initial success was that I actually published a book! Now that people are buying it and giving it great reviews, that’s a whole new level of success to me. The way that feels in my heart, knowing that people are sitting down on their couches or curled up in their beds with my book in their hands, giving me their precious time, gives me such a feeling of success that I couldn’t have imagined before. My next success will be when I can make my car payment without having to dip into my savings. 😀
What made you decide to write this book?
The creation of this book sprang out of frustration. At the time, years ago, I couldn’t find any books featuring witches that weren’t annoyingly cliche or that didn’t perpetuate the Hollywood or Christian stereotype. I wanted to write the kind of book that I wanted to read. Since then, I’ve discovered several authors that pen wonderful stories featuring witches and magick that I just love, so I’m very happy with the shift that’s taken place over the years.
Can you tell us about the covers for The White Raven and who designed them?
The original book cover was designed by an artist, Helen Lloyd (http://www.helenlloyd.com), from England who specializes in animals. I had seen an amazing pencil drawing of a crow and knew she would be the one to bring Ren to life. I kept the original cover for about 3 months.
After doing some more research on how book covers should be done, I decided to go a different route with it. The new design was done by Damonza (http://www.damonza.com) and I’m thrilled with it.
Are you working on anything now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m 23k words into a story involving copper pennies, dead criminals, a bad guy wanting to do bad things involving demons, an old woman’s spirit held in a cracked crystal ball, and twin red-headed sisters who know nothing about magick but have to stop the bad guy from doing bad things with his own spell book they can’t read. It’s set mostly in modern-day Prague and Boston but will venture back into the 1930s. I foresee these sisters becoming a series. Two or three books, I think.
Do you think your writing will remain in the fantasy genre?
Probably but I do have a science fiction idea in my head. Maybe one day I’ll resurrect the high fantasy I started 15+ years ago. I even created a world map. It’s pretty awesome if I do say so myself.
Is Halloween a special time for you and an inspiration for writing this magickal book with Halloween elements?
I absolutely love Halloween. Not just because it’s my birthday either. If I could dress in costume all the time and have my home decorated for Halloween all year long and not be looked at like a crazy person, I would totally do it.
Do you have a special connection with Salem or have you visited there?
I’ve visited it twice. Once because I was in Boston on business and the second time as research for the book.
How much research did you do for The White Raven and how long did it take you to write it?
As they say, write what you know! I didn’t do that much research for the witchcraft aspects of the book. I am a witch myself, so I knew much of this already. I needed help from my sisters in the Craft when it came to the past life rituals, of which I knew nothing, and the selection of a stone to shield energy. And I’m not very good with auras so I researched online what colors are associated with deep negative emotions. Although I had been to Salem before, I went back there to specifically research the area for the book. All-in-all, it took me about 3 months to write the whole thing, minus the few chapters I’d written over the years, which got mostly rewritten.
Is there a book trailer for The White Raven or do you intend on making one?
I’ve considered it but no, it’s not in my plan. It’s a costly endeavor, especially since I want movie-quality awesomeness.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The hardest part by far to write was the first sex scene, no pun intended. I ended up having to google how to do it! How much detail do I go into? How far do I go? What euphemisms do I use without sounding corny? I think that first one was rewritten three or four times, thanks to the help of my editor.
I loved the ending and have to ask, will there be a sequel to The White Raven and when can we expect it?
There will absolutely be a sequel. I hope to get it out sometime in late 2018.
Was anything edited out and did you have alternate endings for the book?
Honestly, I had the ending written years ago. I never had any other thoughts on how else it could end. It simply had to end like it did. As for what was edited out, the original manuscript was over 115k words. The final was about 107k. With the guidance of my amazing editor, she helped me streamline scenes and cull bits that did nothing to move the story along or build out a character.
If The White Raven were adapted into a movie, who would you see playing the main characters?
I see Eva Green as Aven, maybe even Kate Beckinsale or Charlize Theron.
I discovered David R. Dowdy’s book The Pull and Kick Murder on Goodreads a few months ago and couldn’t wait to read it. I was able to get a Q&A with the author and have included it below for those who’d like to learn more about this book and the author. I’ve also included my book review for The Pull and Kick Murder below.
The Pull and Kick Murder by David R. Dowdy
Blurb: Woodward High’s annual contest to determine the captain of the swimming team has come again. When a star swimmer is found murdered in the pool, an unlikely pair are thrown together to find the killer. Follow the story as a shady Detective Lieutenant and a highbrow philosophy teacher tries to solve the case. How far will the detective go? What drives the teacher to work with the detective? – Goodreads
I’ve had my eyes on The Pull and Kick Murder for some time and was lucky enough to receive a copy from the author. I was hooked by this book just after reading the first few pages as the story unfolded.
The book begins with Mr. Haynes, a well-respected philosophy teacher who teaches at Woodward Highschool. Aside from reading Socrates and discussing morals in class, some of the students are involved in the high school swim team and it’s time for the new team captain competition. Jack Harrier and Harry Dawes, two of the swim competitors, aren’t interested in a fair tournament and they’ll do whatever it takes to stop a fellow student from winning the competition. Jack wants to be the new team captain and he’s not taking no for an answer. Not long after the race, a student is found murdered and two unlikely partners will be put to the challenge of solving the case. The book becomes a whodunit mystery with clues, twists, and turns that grip you until the surprising end.
The character development was spot on. The writing is profoundly descriptive and with such a strong plot and characters, it felt like I was immersed in a captivating episode of “Law and Order.” I had people envisioned in my mind for each character as I read along. The story is very convincing and felt remarkably true to me. I enjoyed the banter between Mr. Haynes and Detective Sparrow who must work together against Sparrow’s wishes to find the perpetrator. As more clues emerge, Haynes might have a lesson or two of his own to share. This was one of my favorite components in the book.
I haven’t read a whole lot of crime fiction, but if I can find similar books in crime fiction, I’d make it a favorite genre for sure. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime and mystery books. 5*****
My Q&A with author David R. Dowdy
Could you tell readers a little bit about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
One of my earliest jobs was caddying for old rich guys at Forest Lake Country Club in Bloomfield Township Michigan. I went to the stand where the golfers drove up and dropped off their clubs. My guy had one of the worst no-name sets I’d ever seen. The woods were worn and dull and the irons dinged. So, I was thinking, there’s no big tip coming.
I carried the bag to the first tee and there was just one other caddy and “his” set of clubs were beautiful. We talked a bit and the golfers came up. Would you believe it? The one who came up and introduced himself to me was Ernie Harwell, the legendary, preeminent radio announcer for the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The one I listened to every ball game day. The one who announced the World Series the Tigers won in 1968.
No set of clubs would ever be that light. I practically flew around the course. The best thing was hearing his folksy, smooth, Southern voice. It was just like he sounded on radio only not transistorized! His playing matched his worn out, amateur clubs, but it didn’t matter. This man, to me, was a giant. It turned out, the tip was typical. I took it, shook his hand, and thanked him. Inside I was giddy and still am.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
For some reason, I was academic in high school. Not always the best grades, but I had a yearning to learn. Unfortunately, I was torn between arts and sciences. I loved Chemistry, Economics, and Physics, and somehow hated Math. On the other side, English, Mythology, Philosophy, Investigative Paper beckoned me.
Journalists were gods at the time. They’d turned the political world upside down. I read everything in the news and I felt writing had something going for it. So, that’s when I knew I wanted to write. But, the volcanic forces of basic needs erupted and I turned to engineering as a career path. Hanging on barely was the desire to write. Even though I went on to become an engineer, I still found time to write short stories and poetry. Nothing monumental because I hadn’t put enough time into them.
How does writing make you feel and does it come easy for you?
Writing makes me feel in control. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction and power when I’ve created something unique and solved a problem. It has become easier in the sense that knowing story structure and the mechanics of writing means I take less time planning and editing. But, I wouldn’t say easy because creating something in fiction that sounds plausible takes time and a lot of thought.
What are your writing plans for the future and is there anything you’re working on now?
*This answer contains spoilers*
I plan to keep writing mysteries featuring Haynes and Sparrow who solved the case of The Pull and Kick Murder. If I’m lucky, I’ll keep writing until my mind gives out, so that could be a long time. Currently, I’m planning and doing some early sketches of a mystery with my investigative duo and a high school female teen protagonist.
What’s the publishing process been like for you and how do you market your books?
As I went directly to self-publishing The Pull and Kick Murder, I have no idea what it’s like to work with a publisher. Maybe I’ll have the chance someday. For now, writing a novel and making it available on Amazon and all the other online outlets is enough for me. If a publisher wanted to pick me up, I wouldn’t be against it. As for marketing, I have Goodreads and Amazon author and book pages. I have done giveaways on Goodreads and Amazon. I’m fishing for reviews!
Who are some of your favorite authors and were there any that heavily influenced your writing?
James Joyce showed in Dubliners how important characterization is and how personality affects everything. I learned from Patricia Highsmith the brilliance of how evil can infect a person without them realizing it. Graham Greene writes about the nasty people who inhabit our world. To Hammett, there’s always a quick bon mot. And Salinger understands how inner dialog is often the story if not the theme.
What is your favorite childhood book?
The Cat in the Hat. Wrecking the house on a rainy day was something I enjoyed as a kid and TCITH showed me that it was OK if one tidied afterward. I also enjoyed the Bible Stories and the oversized illustrated dictionary we kept.
What do you consider literary success?
Having my work read by thoughtful readers who generously provide feedback through reviews. Whatever comments, I will churn them back into my writing.
What would you say are the hardest tasks when it comes to writing?
Creating a lush plot (sounds like a garden!). The Pull and Kick Murder is linear in my opinion and I would like to use it as a springboard to a more complex novel.
Finding the correct voice for characters.
Showing characters coming to terms with what they thought they believed, throwing away the disbelief, and embracing the truth.
When it comes to writing, what tools do you use? (Pen, type writer, or computer) Do you outline?
First, I outline with a pen in my notebook, usually by creating a premise and drawing a sketch or two of how the story should proceed. Then I graduate to Microsoft Word and begin to write intensively. I cross things out of my notebook as I use them. Although I may write the first chapter first, my writing does not go from start to finish. There are times when I have five pots cooking on four burners.
What inspired you to write The Pull and Kick Murder?
Someone close to me in my childhood suffered a suspicious death and the truth never came out. I asked myself ‘why?’ for many years. Then, when I realized the power of mysteries, my appetite grew. I realized that writing was something I needed to do and the genre was familiar. The Pull and Kick Murder offered a chance to right a most evil wrong in a purely fictional book.
How long did it take you to write this book?
From writing initial ideas in a notebook to reading and correcting the proof, a little over two years. I’ve had some of the story in my head for years. Often, ideas linger in a writer’s mind over their lifetime and I know that was my experience.
What was the most difficult part for you when writing this book?
Creating the suspense when writing the twists and climax. They were also the most rewarding and memorable times. It was difficult writing about the devastation that occurs following a murder.
How much research did you do for the book?
Quite a bit as I’m always concerned about being precise and getting all the details right. For example, I had to learn how to swim the breaststroke and put myself inside the swimmer in such a way that a true swimmer would believe it to be true. I hope I’ve succeeded, but we’ll see!
Also, I had to learn how an investigator goes about his or her job, especially how they read suspects and use follow up questioning.
Did you make any major edits to it?
I’m not afraid to write something and rewrite or even delete it. It’s just necessary to become clear. Often, I would read something later and find that it wasn’t good. As for major edits, yes that happened several times. An unfinished story is in flux so there’s always an opportunity to improve it.
Are any of the people, places, or events in the book based on any truth?
Definitely! My high school philosophy teacher is there front and center and nearly everything about him is true. The high school, Natatorium, and the city are from my youth. Of course, The Pull and Kick Murder is entirely fictional.
How did you come up with the character names in the book?
*This answer contains spoilers*
Lew Haynes: Lou Hayner was my philosophy teacher in high school. Altering his name was easy. Ian Sparrow: Sparrow’s don’t fear much and they’re always looking into their surroundings. Ian is my son’s first name. Billy Touraine: He’s renamed after a great friend, Bill Tourville, from high school who was on the swimming team. Bill, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry you had to fictionally die and I hope you’re in good health!
To go into the other main character’s names might reveal too much. Secondary characters come from people I know. Alex is the nick of my son’s middle name Alexander and the male protagonist from a novel that I couldn’t complete. Kunta is a great name from someone I worked with. Yolanda is a wonderful lady from Peru who cleaned at my previous job.
The ending was such a surprise for me! Did you have any other alternative endings for the book?
Yes, because my characters weren’t cooperating and they were keeping things from me. At times, I had envisioned two other characters each as the culprit. But, the more I wrote (I had a plan and it morphed on me), the more I loved their flaws and everything. I had so much invested in them, they were innocent. To have used either one would have been asinine.
After reading your brother’s review for the book, readers will learn that your book was kept secret from your family until after it was published. What made you decide to keep the book a secret and what was your family’s reaction when they found out about it?
It wasn’t as much secret as it was risk avoidance. I felt if I had let on too early, my book would have become a weight of questioning when I would ever finish. Towards the end I told a few people at work who I had become close to, but only when I knew the book was inevitable. You may have read the first review on Amazon where my brother Jeff was surprised that I had kept the book secret. The second review is from my brother Mike. I was so happy to get those reviews!
Who designed the cover and did you have a part in it?
I get full blame or credit for the cover. Create Space provides the dimensional specifications. I chose one of the stock layouts. Later I realized that I could have done better. I searched for a stock photo and when I discovered the one at the top of my final cover, I was enthralled. The guy is coming up and taking a deep breath and his hands are outstretched. I imagined in that half-second he’s offering something spiritual in himself. Immediately, I purchased the photo and stuck it over a blood red swatch where I put the title. That’s the current and last edition.
If The Pull and Kick Murder were adapted into a movie, which actors would you choose for the main characters?
Haynes: Ben Affleck
Sparrow: Samuel L. Jackson
Damon: Dane Dehaan
Evelyn: Sigourney Weaver
Beth: Angelina Jolie
Alex: Christian Bale
Jack: Zack Effron
Billy: Robert Pattinson
Mykayla: Selena Gomez
How do you feel about e-books vs. print books?
To each his own. However, e-books have never appealed to me.
When reading The Pull and Kick Murder, I couldn’t help but think about some of my favorite crime shows like Law and Order and CSI. Do you have any favorite TV shows or movies? Anything that inspired the book?
I have only Netflix for TV and even so I avoid crime documentaries. I would rather read about human chemistry, motivation, and criminal tendencies from fiction and biographies. Among others, I watch Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse for entertainment. For movies, I like film noir. Radio mystery such as Suspense is very inspiring.
In May I discovered a children’s book titled Tuesday Tucks Me In by Luis Carlos Montalván. After learning about service dogs and the relationship that Luis and Tuesday developed, I wanted to learn more. I went on to read every book I could find regarding Luis and Tuesday and learned all about how important service dogs are to our wounded veterans, veterans living with PTSD, people with physical disabilities, and even children with autism. If you’d like to see my original posts regarding these books which include videos and many pictures of Luis and Tuesday, you can find them by clicking the links below.
In the book Until Tuesday, Luis discusses where Tuesday came from and explains a little bit about Lu Picard, the co-founder of ECAD, where Tuesday was trained. Lu Picard was kind enough to answer some of my questions regarding ECAD, and a few regarding Luis and Tuesday. I’ve included some information about ECAD below as well as my Q&A with Lu Picard and hope that everyone will enjoy reading and learning more about it.
What is ECAD?
ECAD stands for Educated Canines Assisting Disabilities and is a non-profit organization founded by Lu and Dale Picard. ECAD provides highly skilled Service Dogs to assist people living with disabilities.
How did ECAD get started?
After Lu Picard’s father suffered from a stroke, she discovered how she could train their family dog to help her father become independent again and more like himself. She decided that this was what she wanted to do: train service dogs for those that needed them. She started ECAD in 1995 and a year later her husband became involved full-time as well. They now have training facilities in Connecticut and New York.
Here are two amazing videos from Marlo Thomas on her “The Hero Next Door” series which highlights Lu Picard’s story and gives viewers an idea of some of the training that goes on at ECAD and also how Lu Picard has helped children with disabilities get involved with training dogs.
I’ve had Marcel Malone on my TBR list since the beginning of the year and finally read it this past week. In addition to reviewing below, you can read my Q&A with author Lew Watts and learn a little more about him.
Marcel Malone by Lew Watts
Blurb: Dr Vera Lewis has a difficult but intriguing patient, Marcel, whose symptoms result from multiple levels of rejection—from family, colleagues, relationships, and those journals that receive his poetry submissions. Desperate to achieve a breakthrough, Vera prescribes a very unusual treatment that begins to desensitize Marcel to rejection, albeit with unexpected side-effects. It is only when Vera brings poetry into their therapy sessions that Marcel begins to reveal his deeper problems, and is able to confront the demons of his past. As for Vera, she has her own problems…
Set mostly in Washington, DC, Marcel Malone is a story of how the love of poetry can lead to personal transformation.
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this book. Marcel Malone is a first novel for Lew Watts and one that is definitely unique.
Vera and Raymond are a married couple living in DC. Vera is a psychiatrist who lacks attention from her husband as he places more importance on his job as a lobbyist. Raymond worries about his reputation more than anything and lacks the ability to pick up on Vera’s needs.
The focus in the story is mainly Vera and her life with her patients. A particular patient that she becomes almost dependent on is Marcel. Marcel enjoys reading and writing poetry which is something he and Vera have in common. They share their thoughts with each other and Vera looks forward to these conversations. The result of this relationship and Vera’s own curiosity results in a story with interlaced poetry which I thought was unique, and the poetry just might be what they both need to unleash the past.
“Near this rose, in this grove of sun-parched, wind-warped madronas, Among the half-dead trees, I came upon the true ease of myself, As if another man appeared out of the depths of my being, And I stood outside myself,” –lines from The Rose by Theodore Roethke
As Vera learns more about Marcel, she learns that he’s had a hard time with rejection in the past and Vera prescribes a new experiment of paradoxical intervention and journal writing to see if it might help him as a sort of “rejection therapy.” This becomes comical at times, but the outcome she receives from this is unexpected and Vera finds that her own demons and life choices need to be addressed.
The story kept me interested enough to finish it and the ending was quite emotional for me. There were a few times where I became bored with the story as there wasn’t a lot of excitement, but then something would happen or a mystery would be introduced which would yank me right back in again. I’ve always enjoyed poetry, especially Haiku, and I think that anyone who has an appreciation for it will enjoy this book. Even those that don’t particularly care for poetry will more than likely enjoy it. I have a goodly amount of authors and books to add to my list now after reading it and I’d like to thank the author for sharing a complimentary copy of this book with me.
A few weeks ago I came across a book on Goodreads titled A World Without Color: A True Story Of the Last Three Days With My Cat and knew right away I needed to read it. It’s a memoir written by Bernard Jan pertaining to the loss of his beloved cat Marcel. Bernard was very kind to offer some of his time to discuss his writing and some other questions I had about the book. You can see my Q&A with Bernard Jan below.
If you’d like to see my previous post including my review for the book, you can click HERE.
Click the cover to add on Goodreads, or pick it up on Amazon by clicking HERE.
A little over a week ago, I started reading Above the Flames by Cassandra Fear. I really enjoyed the writing, so after finishing it, I dove right in to It Starts With L which was just released.
Cassandra was willing to share some of her time with me to discuss her books and writing. In addition to the Q&A below, you can read my book reviews for Above the Flames and her new book It Starts with L. Also, don’t forget to enter the giveaway toward the bottom of the page to win eBook copies of both books!
Above The Flames
Blurb: Jasmine’s sixteenth birthday was the worst ever…
All in one day, her dad died, she met a demon, and her mother rejected her existence forever. After all, the demon who killed her dad was there to take her, and all because of her stupid powers—the ability to conjure blue flames.
Two years later, she’s happy. But happy never lasts…
After moving to Idaho to live with her grandparents, Jasmine has a new life. Almost nobody knows about her powers, and she’s just a normal teenager with normal problems. Then comes her eighteenth birthday—and the earthquake that changes her world forever.
An army of demons rise from Hell. And Jasmine is right in the middle of the battle…
When demons claw their way to Earth, Jasmine is surrounded by hundreds of fire-eyed beasts. Worse, she is captured by a big-shot demon named Bael. He’s a tricky foe with a chip on his shoulder—and the desire to make Jasmine use her powers for evil.
Amon is a fallen angel with an attitude—and everything to lose.
Successfully escaping the underworld undetected, Amon is on a quest to regain God’s grace when he rescues Jasmine from the clutches of a particularly nasty demon he knows all too well. The attraction between him and the not-entirely-human captive is instantaneous. Heavenly sparks fly, but ideas of romance will have to wait. First they have to stop the demon race from wiping out the mortal realm. Humanity’s fate rests in their hands.
Can two troubled angels rise above the flames to ensure a future for mankind? Or will Jasmine and Amon’s souls be bound together—in hell?
I wasn’t sure what to expect because I haven’t read many paranormal books and certainly haven’t read a story including angels and demons with this plot, so it was a fun read and different from what I’m used to.
I was pulled into the story right away. Jasmine is a 16-year-old teenager dealing with a mother who simply doesn’t care about her. An unforeseen wicked event causes an accident with her father and because her mother doesn’t want her, she’s relocated with her grandparents. Ma and Pa love her so much and all seems to be going well with Jasmine as she lives a fairly normal life with her boyfriend Beau, until demons appear and hunt her down. They’ve been released and plan to take over all mankind. Jasmine doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to have to figure out how to control her powers while she trains to defend against the evil demons.
I really liked the characters in the book. Jasmine, Beau, and Amon were my favorites. Jasmine is very strong and confident and the majority if the time she wasn’t afraid despite all the evil events unfolding around her. At times I didn’t like the way Jasmine treated Beau as their relationship started to change due to Amon’s introduction, but everything came together eventually. It wasn’t a predictable read! It was difficult to tell what decisions the characters would make and there were times I couldn’t differentiate between friends and foes as more characters are introduced. I don’t want to include a bunch of spoilers, so for the most part, I enjoyed the book. I felt like there were some slow parts with mainly the beginning and the ending remaining my favorites. The ending was a complete total shocker.
I love the way Cassandra Fear Writes. I found it very easy to read from cover to cover. I would’ve liked a tad more romance and maybe faster pacing, but understand this is YA. I’m looking forward to the next book!
It Starts With L
Blurb: High school is tough, and Arielle knows this all too well.
She’s slightly chubbier than most of the other girls and gets reminded of this every day. And the fact that she’s never had a boyfriend makes her prime meat for the bullying crowd.
But then in walks Blake, the cute new boy who sweeps her off her feet and stands up to her bullies. Instant swoon.
Now with a guy at her side, and the promise of a blooming love, Arielle realizes it’s easy to lose sight of what is important. Her best friend, Jess, is on a downward spiral toward disaster, and Arielle needs to find a way to help her.
Unfortunately, Arielle discovers not everything in life is simple. Sometimes things happen, tragedy strikes, and it leaves you with wounds that might never heal.
Arielle is a teenager dealing with typical high school drama and bullying, but won’t let it change her. She’s a simple girl from a good family, but deals with a few insecurities about her weight and appearance, until she meets Blake.
Blake stands up for her and makes her feel more confident. As their relationship blooms, everything seems to be perfect, until Blake starts thinking about the future and becomes unsure of their relationship. She’s not prepared to deal with the uncertainty, but doesn’t want to give up. On top of all her relationship problems, her best friend is making poor decisions and her home life takes a turn for the worse. Arielle is on a slippery slope, but will she be able to regain happiness again?
*Mild Spoilers* I liked all of the main characters in the book, but I wasn’t pleased with Blake. He’s one of those characters that at times you sort of “grrr” over, but you still admire him at the same time. Arielle was confident enough to stay true to herself and I loved that. I didn’t feel like the story was too predictable and really looked forward to finding out how these characters would end up. It was a pleasant surprise and not like the one I expected.*
I’m giving this book 5 stars because I was never bored and I really enjoy this author’s writing as it’s smooth and easy to read. This book reminds me of something I would’ve enjoyed reading in high school and I think this is a perfect book for teens. There really isn’t anything inappropriate and overall it’s a great YA book. I can’t wait to read the next one!
Earlier this year I read a few books about an elephant named Tarra. The first one I read was titled Tarra & Bellawritten by Carol Buckley. It’s a book about an elephant (Tarra) and the unlikely relationship she had with a dog named Bella at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. After reading it and learning about Tarra, Carol Buckley, and The Elephant Sanctuary, I had to learn more. I picked up Travels with Tarra, a book about Carol Buckley and Tarra before her life at the sanctuary, and Just For Elephants, another book about an elephant named Shirley who is retiring from a zoo and being moved to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. If you’d like to see my original reviews/posts on these, you can click on the titles below.
Tarra, an Asian elephant, was brought to America in 1974. Tarra was purchased to live at a tire store and the owner specifically purchased her in hope of increased sales. Not long after, Carol Buckley met Tarra for the first time. She instantly had an interest in Tarra and became a permanent fixture in Tarra’s cage.
Carol began studying her and wanted to know everything about her. As time moved on, Carol began training Tarra and believe it or not, Tarra became a performer in the circus. At one point, she learned how to roller skate! Because of her talent, she made multiple appearances in movies like Annie and even popular TV shows. If you’d like to see a video of Carol and Tarra from 1984, Click HERE.
In 1995, Tarra was moved to The Elephant Sanctuary, founded by Carol Buckley. It’s an Elephant retirement sanctuary where elephants can live as they are meant to, with other elephants, and in the wild. In the beginning it started as 200 acres and progressed to over 2,700 acres of land where elephants can roam and be free. Since then, other elephants have been moved there.
Carol has been working with elephants for over 40 years and has developed new standards of care for elephants in captivity. She is no longer with The Elephant Sanctuary and founded Elephant Aid International in 2010. She remains a protector of elephants in captivity and works to ensure that they are being treated humanly. Currently she is working in Asia with Mahouts (elephant handlers) and is helping them train elephants properly while keeping them out of chains. Carol has created multiple projects including:
Programs to support and train Mahouts (Elephant Handlers) – Programs that help support Mahouts and their elephants by giving them tools, equipment, supplies and education for the care of their elephants. The training program uses Positive Reinforcement Target Training (PFTT) and teaches compassionate elephant training.
“Lack of space is the reason for most of the ailments that captive elephants are suffering from.” – Carol Buckley
Last week while on Goodreads I happened to see a blog post by Nicholas Kotar regarding his new book release The Song of the Sirin. I read the blurb and decided to dive right in. After reading I was able to ask Nicholas Kotar some questions about his new book, being an author, and what he’s doing now. You can see my book review for The Song of the Sirin, and the Q&A with Nicholas Kotar below.
You can enter the giveaway for a free SIGNED copy of The Song of the Sirin at the bottom of the page.
Blurb: An evil omen clouds the sky. A song of lore returns. Can one man’s quest save the world?
Voran can’t help but believe the rumors. As blight ravages the countryside and darkness covers the sun, the young warrior of Vasyllia hears of an ancient spirit that devours souls. He feels powerless to fight the oncoming devastation until a mythical creature entrusts him with a long-forgotten song. Legend has it that such a song can heal the masses, overthrow kingdoms, and raise humans to divine beings…
Armed with the memory of the song, Voran must hunt down a dark spirit before it achieves its goal of immortality. His quest takes him through doorways to other worlds and puts him on a collision course with seductive nymphs and riddling giants. With each step of the journey, the strength of the villainous spirit grows, as does Voran’s fear that the only way to save his world… is to let it be destroyed.
The Song of the Sirin is an epic fantasy retelling of the Russian fairy tale Prince Ivan and the Grey Wolf.
Series: Raven Son (Book 1)
Paperback: 380 pages
Publisher: Waystone Press (June 26, 2017)
*This review may contain a few very mild spoilers*
Fantasy isn’t one of my favorite genres and when it comes to epic fantasy’s like The Song of the Sirin, it takes me extra time to read it along with some concentration. After reading the blurb for this one and finding out that it was inspired by a Russian fairy tale, I couldn’t resist. I rushed to Amazon and picked it up at sale price. I believe it was an exceptional reading choice for me.
The story begins with Voran and Lebía, a brother and sister living in Vasyllia. Their father Otchigen and mother Aglaia have vanished and no one knows where they are. Some say Otchigen vanished after killing many people and stories abound claim him to have beaten his wife Aglaia. Voran doesn’t know what to believe, but he trusts in his heart that his father didn’t commit these crimes. He meets a pilgrim in the wilderness and discovers that everything may not be how it seems.
“You surprise me, young Voran,” said the Pilgrim. “How quickly you pierce to the heart of things. Whatever happens, my falcon, do not forget this. Vasyllia is everything. You must never let Vasyllia fall. She is everything.”
Voran begins to realize that Vasyllia is on the brink of destruction and he’s told that he must locate Living Water to save Vasyllia. At this point, everyone in Vasyllia and the outer lands is in danger. The Covenant Tree is fading, the Sirin sings for Voran, and the adventure unfolds…
There’s so much going on in the story and I was thoroughly surprised throughout the entire book. Even with each chapter having an excerpt from other tales, there was no way I could predict what was ahead. Every chapter had something new happening with separate plots taking place. New characters and events come into the story and they literally leave you aghast. The plot and the characters were so complex with a few of my favorites being Voran, Tarin, and Leshaya. Nicholas Kotar writes beautifully and his writing is very detailed and descriptive. With that said, I have to admit that there were times when I found the reading to be a tad difficult. I ended up with 235 notes and highlights by the time I was done. This may not be a book that you sail through quickly, but it’s very enjoyable to take the time and relish in the beautiful prose.
Overall, I enjoyed the book very much. This epic fantasy has a lot of what fantasy readers expect including shapeshifters, giants, wolf-like monsters, weird creatures, good and evil, magic, and mystery. The ending was heartwarming for me which was not expected with the events that were taking place throughout the book. I’m definitely going to recommend this one and I’m looking forward the other installments.
Anyone who enjoys fantasy will love this book. 4.5*****
I’ve been wanting to read some of Andy Carrington’s work for some time now. I’ll admit I haven’t read much Satire or Punk Poetry and became intrigued just by the titles of these two books. I recently read Self Service Check-Outs Have No Souland S.O.P.H.I.E. Please see my reviews for both books below and the Q&A with Andy Carrington as well. Add these books on Goodreads by clicking the covers.
Self Service Check-Outs Have No Soul
Blurb: Human anxiety / disillusionment in the machine age.
I had an idea what the subject of this poetry would be just after reading the title, but what I got was more than I anticipated. Andy Carrington flat-out tells it how it is when it comes to technology and our world today. The writing covers real world scenarios and I found myself more than once saying, “Exactly!” There’s so much truth here and we have to admit it folks. It makes me think back to when I was a kid and life was more simple. Now our kids are growing up in a very different world with multiple electronic devices.
One of my favorite poems in the book is #Twits. Andy mentions Twitter and how everyone say’s what they want on the computer, but never face to face. There’s no fear behind the screen. Effective communication is out the window with social media in my opinion. I’m one of the those people who thinks social media isn’t social at all, but yeah, I finally succumbed to Twitter and so would my grandpa if he were here.
Another one that really caught my attention was “There’s an APP for a that.” I like this part…
-we’re taken in by the waves
with our fate
being determined by the furious tap-
I really hope a machine won’t take my postman’s place. I love that guy! Plus, privacy? There’s no such thing anymore. I’m amazed with all the thought-provoking and valid points here.
I enjoyed the film references and especially the links to the news articles pertaining to each poem. I’m glad to have read this. Technology is scary and effects everything about the way we think and act. We don’t even realize it. I think everyone will agree.
You can pick up a copy of Self Service Check-Outs Have No Soul for only £2.00 on Andy’s website by clicking HERE.
I read The Policewoman this past May after reading a few reviews on Goodreads. People had good things to say about and it sounded like a unique story. I noticed that The Policewoman was even on Amazon’s Best-Seller list for awhile as you can see below. I gave it a go and was very pleased with the story. I originally did a post in May with my review, but after speaking with Justin Roberts, I thought it would be nice to learn a little more about him and share it with readers. You can see my review below, what a few other Goodread’s friends are saying about the book, and a Q&A with Justin Roberts.
I’ve been interested in reading some of Bobby Underwood’s books for some time now and recently read The Wild Country & Beyond Heaven’s Reach. Mr. Underwood was kind enough to answer some questions about his writing and on these two books as well. You can see my reviews for both books and the Q&A below. If you’d like to add these books on Goodreads, just click the covers.
~The Wild Country~
I love western films, but I personally haven’t read many western’s as I’ve never considered it one of my favorite book genres, but this book has opened up a whole new world for me. The Wild Country is a story about a boy named Wyn, who along with his older sister witnesses his parents being killed by a gang of evil outlaws. To add to the catastrophic events, his sister, the only person he has left, is kidnapped by them. Wyn is left alone in hard times and as he gets older he is determined to locate his sister and seek revenge against every man that was involved in killing his parents and kidnapping his sister, especially Muerta, the main man responsible for it all.
I knew right away that I would LOVE Wyn, the main character. I love a good revenge and I was rooting for Wyn from the beginning. He builds a reputation for himself and people from all over the lands hear stories about him, the man known as “Ghost Rider.” On his journey he experiences love, violence, death and meets new people along the way.
I found the book to be written well with beautiful descriptions of the landscape, people, and even the horses. It was smooth to read, easy to follow, and interesting. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and I was pleased with the conclusion. If you like stories about the wild west, you’ll love The Wild Country.
Blurb: As a boy, Wyn watches helplessly as raiders kill his parents. Saved by his sister in a terrible bargain struck with their leader, Wyn dedicates his life to finding her. He becomes a legend in a time when the country was wild and free, and full of bad men as well as pioneer spirit. As the lonely cowboy metes out justice to the men responsible for changing the course of his life, he meets a girl, and begins to ponder over a life which might have been. Filled with beauty and complexity, with plenty of action for western fans, The Wild Country is a rip-roaring tale in the best tradition of legends told over a campfire.
Print Length: 203 pages
Publisher: Bobby Underwood (June 15, 2016)
Publication Date: June 15, 2016
~Beyond Heaven’s Reach~
Mike, the main character, is a man who is searching for a quiet place to settle down in California. He discovers a perfect little cottage near the coast and becomes very interested in buying it. He’s forewarned ahead of time by the village people that the cottage is inhabited by a ghost, but Mike loves it so much, he needs to find out for himself and is willing to take the risk. He soon discovers that Deanna, the supposed ghost, is very real to him and they fall in love over the course of a weekend. Mike discovers that this is the life he’s always wanted and will do whatever it takes to make it work. What he determines in the end is an unexpected twist you won’t see coming.
This book was a pleasant surprise. I learned about the book from my mom who read it a few months ago. She enjoyed it and told me that I had to read it. I went in completely blind and it was nothing like what I expected. It’s written well, easy to follow, and I found it compelling and mysterious. I have to say that the story felt a little rushed and came to an end very quickly, but I still enjoyed it. It’s a very thought-provoking story.
Blurb: It is the summer of 1944. Fresh on the heels of his novel’s critical and commercial success, writer Mike McCrea is searching for a quiet and secluded spot for inspiration. On a morning drive along California’s coastline he happens upon a charming cottage overlooking the sea. Situated close to an equally charming village, he purchases the seaside cottage for a song, and soon discovers he is not the house’s only inhabitant. Thus begins a love story and mystery with ties to this world, and that beyond. Period atmosphere of the War years enhance this nostalgic tale which will touch the heart. Old-fashioned and romantic, with an otherworldly romance at its center, Beyond Heaven’s Reach is a reminder that the bridge between this world and heaven, is love. * The Trade Paperback edition also includes a bonus story, Gypsy Summer. *
I recently read The Dead Inside by Cyndy Drew Etler and learned about Straight, Inc. for the first time. I’d never even heard of Straight and was quite shocked with Cyndy’s story. Cyndy was a troubled teen in the 80’s who had some experiences that aren’t all that uncommon. She was making wrong choices while trying to find her place in the world, until at the age of 14, when her mother decided to throw her into a drug rehabilitation for throwaway kids who are deemed out of control. This institution was called Straight, Inc.
I was able to ask Cyndy some questions about her experience with Straight and have included them below for those interested.
In case you haven’t learned about Straight, I encourage you to view my original review which includes videos and more information for The Dead InsideHERE and also the Q&A with Christine Flannery, another Straight survivor HERE.
Cyndy’s new book We Can’t Be Friends will be available later this year. You can find information on that below.
Not too long ago on Goodreads, I came across Candace Robinson’s new book Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault and I instantly fell in love with the cover. I moved on to reading the blurb and I knew it was something I had to read as I love fairy tale retellings and this sounded perfect. I headed to Amazon and purchased it that very day. You can see my review for it below as well as my review for Candace Robinson’s new book titled Hearts Are Like Balloons.
I was able to speak with the author regarding some of the questions I had about her books and included a Q&A below for those interested.
Hearts Are Like Balloons
Hearts Are Like Balloons by Candace Robinson is a story about a teenage girl named May who has just lost her father to lung cancer and is trying to move on with life. Her dad was important to her and she has no choice but to let him go. The loss is difficult for her, but she must find a way to move on and to remain strong for her mother.
As May moves on to finding a job at a bookstore, she meets new people that help her along the way, including a hip new boss named Violet, and a new relationship with a boy she really likes named Nico. Violet hits it off with May right away as they have similar interests. Nico happens to be Violets sister and works there as well. May and Nico develop a great relationship as Nico is warm, understanding, and very much into her. It’s just what May needs to help heal her from the loss of her father. An unexpected event will change everything with their relationship which brings more challenge and heartache for May to overcome.
I have to say that I loved this book. I loved the story as it felt real and was written well. It was emotional and I found myself crying a few times. I appreciated the relationships in the book and enjoyed all the characters. May has a really good support system in place and is loved by all that know her. I enjoyed Violet’s personality the most out of all the secondary characters. Despite the emotion in the book, it’s a feel good read and I was happy with the conclusion.
I think I just found myself a new favorite author! Five *****
Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault ( Glass Vault #1)
I picked up Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault as soon as it was released after reading the blurb and viewing the cover. I love retellings and the idea of intermixed horror really pulled me in. I’m amazed at how perfectly matched this cover is after reading the story.
The story starts out with the main character Perrie and her cousin Maisie. They are really close and live next door to each other. Perrie is thinking about what she wants to do with her life while juggling the mystery that’s going on around town with people who are just disappearing without a trace. Everything is uncertain and one day while driving down Oak Street with Maisie and their friend August, something strange appears. A building they’ve never seen before. A building that is there one moment, and gone the next.
Nobody knows what’s going on with the mysterious building, but as more people start to disappear, Perrie and August begin to search for answers. As they enter the Vault world, they are unable to leave and have to discover a way out. This is where the story takes off and becomes an adventure like no other. A nightmare that you just want to get out of. There were some really grotesque parts in the story when the horror comes in. I liked the addition of the horror paired with the fairy tales and romance because it really makes the book unique.
I personally liked the story and there were some surprises that I totally unexpected, including an interesting twist at the end. I love the way this author writes and this was a fast paced read that kept me interested. I found only a few parts of the story a tad boring, but then it picks back up again and leaves you wanting answers. Anyone who enjoys retellings and horror will love this book.
I recently read Stjepan Cobet’s poem book The Child of Happiness and was glad to learn that he had written another book of poetry. When The Moon Takes Over the Dream is a poetry book containing heartfelt, romantic, and often thought-provoking poems relating to love, which made me enjoy it even more. I took pleasure reading the entire book out loud and taking in all the poems one at a time.
One of my favorite poems from this book is titled “Leave Us To This Night.” Here it is below…
Leave us to love music which reaches from our souls, Let it be spread in all hidden corners, In every part of our body. Feel the vibrations of strings what wakes up our soul, Let’s be one, Be crazy with love.
I noticed only a few minor grammatical errors in the text which were easily overlooked. I’m assuming it’s due to the translation. As I was reading I began to think about how this would be a perfect outdoor or beach read as it’s peaceful and relaxing. I’m happy to have it as part of my collection and I’d like to thank the author, who is very kind, for unexpectedly gifting me with a copy.
Q&A with author Stjepan Cobets
Q: What made you want to become a writer?
A: I loved leaving my thoughts on paper. Initially, it was poetry, but later I would have come up with ideas for stories so I began to write short stories and finally I went to write novels.
Q: Are you a pen & paper, typewriter, or computer person when it comes to writing?
A: I just don’t use the typing machine, I used it before, but now I have a computer and it is much easier to correct my mistakes. I write poems and some ideas on paper because my ideas come to mind when I do not have a computer all the time. Later, when I write on my computer, I am correcting and what I have written and it is easier to keep all document on the computer.
Q: Do you write alone or in public? Inside or outside?
A: When I write books I work at home, I wrote in public places, at work, on the train, and everywhere where the idea came to me. That’s why I always carry my paper notebook. When I start writing, I simply turn away from the world, which my wife sometimes gets angry because I do not hear what she is saying.
Q: What book have you read that has most influenced your life?
A: They had a lot of influence on my thoughts and attitudes, but life can sometimes be a lot different than writing in books. There were a lot of books that affected my life, and if I had to choose, say Victor Hugo Les Misérables and Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Q: Does writing poetry come easy for you?
A: It is honestly easy, I just let it go, and my thoughts lead me.
Q: Do you think that somebody who doesn’t feel emotions strongly can write poetry?
A: I do not know if that is possible, I think you need to feel the emotions if you want to cuddle in the poem. Sometimes it is good, and sometimes bad emotions, the one who has no emotion is sure to be dazed for many things.
Q: What’s the best way to market your books?
A: I don’t now. I really would love to know. I like to communicate with my readers and hear their opinions. For a great promotion, you need someone in publishing houses, and I’m an independent publisher because I could only publish my books in that way. I’m not really a marketing guy.
Q: About how much time do you spend writing poetry?
A: I do not have a special time to write poetry, I simply write when I feel I have to write something. Sometimes for months, I do not write a single poem, and sometimes I write a pretty number in a day.
Q: What are a few of your favorite books from childhood?
A: Fairytales, I loved fairy tales as a child.
Q: How do you construct your poetry books? Do you just write what comes to your mind, or are your poems written in a specific order?
A: I do not have a certain order, I just write.
Q: Were there any poems that you left out of this particular book?
A: I did not put a lot of poems in the collection, but it will certainly be in my next collection I’m currently working on.
Q: One of my favorite poems in this book is “Leave Us To This Night” and I noticed a few of the poems like this one have music references. Does music inspire you to write poetry? If so, what are some of your favorite artists or music genres?
A: Honestly when I write poetry, sometimes I hear some music with my text in my head. I love blues, rock n rolls, hard rocks and all other music while. I’m writing I love listening to Irish music, classics, and music from the movies. Some artists include: Bob Dylan, Led zeppelin, The Doors, Tom Waits, Sting, Bob Marley, etc.
Q: I’m very interested in learning about Croatia and what your life is like there as I’ve never been there. What’s a typical day like for you in Croatia?
A: Croatia is a small and beautiful country, has about four million inhabitants, and is a true tourist destination. Lately, a lot of films and television series are being recorded in Croatia. I even participated in the shooting of Game of Thrones. We have a lot of national parks and the beautiful seaside of the Adriatic Sea, a lot of old cities still from the Greek and Roman empires. Basically, everything is somewhat slow in our minds, people love to drink coffee in cafes for a few hours and enjoy it. There is no hurry anywhere. If we had a little smarter politician, this would be an ideal country to live.
Q: What else do you enjoy doing besides writing?
A: I have a big garden around the house. I grow fruit and vegetables, sometimes with family, I go to nature and swimming in the sea when the summer comes, and the main obligation is my work at the factory.
Here’s a video of Stjepan Cobet’s singing the song “Christmas Is”
The Angel blessed voice carries,
over the sea and mountains.
Under the shining falling stars,
we got the son of God,
on a stable, small and quiet,
echoed the baby’s cries.
Angel coming to the shepherds,
announce him a happy time,
Tonight is born King and God,
with you bring your flock of sheep
and give your worship to him,
white lamb, let him be a gift.
your name Jesus,
our hearts visit us.
your birth we celebrate
and we humbly worship you.
Three King visit the child,
gold, myrrh, frankincense they wearing,
they knelt next to the manger
and they worship the true King,
to God’s Son, give a kiss
and promised him their loyalty.
lit up the whole world,
Peace brought us.
The soul would have wandered;
you are the light of God.
your name Jesus,
our hearts hikes.
your birth celebrates
and humbly worships you.
Three King visit the child,
gold, myrrh, frankincense they wearing,
they knelt next to the manger
and they worship the true King,
to God’s Son, give a kiss
and promised him their loyalty.
lit up the whole world,
Peace brought us.
The soul would have wandered;
you are the light of God.
I’d like to thank Stjepan Cobets for his time and consideration with completing this Q&A.
Bret Witter is an author of many books including 8 New York Times bestsellers including The Monument’s Men, Stronger (Jeff Bauman’s story), Dewey, Until Tuesday and more. He’s a full-time professional writer. Children recognize Bret Witter from reading about Dewey, the famous library cat in these popular children’s books.
Adult cat lovers can read about Dewey in these New York Times bestselling books…
I recently read Until Tuesday, Tuesday Tucks Me in, and Tuesday Takes Me There.
These stories are about Luis Carlos Montalván, an Iraq war veteran and his service dog Tuesday. To see my original reviews for Until Tuesday, Tuesday Tucks Me In and Tuesday Takes Me There, please click the links below.
Last week I read Luke P. Narlee’s new book The Appointment: Lost and Found Book 1. You can see my review below, my Q&A with the author, and enter the giveaway for a free copy of his new book!
I read Guest Bed last year and really enjoyed it, so I was super excited to see that Luke Narlee had written another book. This dystopian novel is totally unique and nothing like what I expected.
Everyone’s on lockdown and forced to remain inside a wall. Not only that, pretty much EVERYTHING has been taken away, even photographs. People are depressed with no emotion or feeling left. Jacob, the main character, is on the road to wasting his life away when he gets an invitation to an appointment. He’s quite reluctant, but with nothing to lose, he decides to take his friends advice and go. He’s been selected for a “special” project. This is where the adventure begins!
This story is different from any other books I’ve read with a dystopian setting. I couldn’t figure out what was happening in the story and really didn’t get close until the end. Even now after reading it, there are mysteries. Jacob winds up in multiple different memories and places-it’s like Dark Matter meets déjà vu with not much down time at all. I had to find out what was going to happen with Jacob, Mara, and Lena. In a way, I feel like the only element I wanted more of was romance. It was there, but maybe too subtle for me.
I have to say that this isn’t one of my favorite genres, but overall, it was definitely intriguing. I was pretty involved in the story and it kept my interest. I could feel the emotions of the characters and their development was good. I got a tad bit distracted in the middle of the book during the different phases with everything going on, but was still able to follow along.
I really like the way this author writes and I can’t wait to read the next book. I’d like to thank the author Luke Narlee for sharing a complimentary copy of his new book with me.
Depression has swept across the nation since the initiation of the Lockdown. The public has been systematically deprived of anything that brings them entertainment, or allows them to express emotion.
When an utterly hopeless Jacob Johansen receives an invitation to attend a mysterious appointment at an anonymous facility, he agrees, considering he has nothing to lose. He takes this opportunity to peel himself away from the drab repetition of the day-to-day routine he’s come to know and reignite a sense of purpose in his life.
Jacob agrees to go forward with a series of tests in which he is immersed in a dream realm that reminds him of the man he was and shows him the potential of the man he could become.
As Jacob engages in his own self-exploration, he is met with the sober realization that his own actions, decisions or avoidances could have a ripple effect, deeper than any dreamer could have fathomed. – Goodreads
I recently read a book by Cyndy Drew Etler titled, The Dead Inside. The book is about Cyndy’s experience with Straight, Inc. I’d never even heard of Straight until I read this book. You can see my original post on The Dead Inside which will soon contain a Q&A with the author and you can also see the trailer for the documentary/movie on Straight by clicking HERE.
I found this story to be incredibly disturbing and as I began searching online, I found countless cases regarding kids who were abused in this program. These programs at one point were supported by members of government including Nancy Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
After my research I met Christine Flannery, a Cincinnati Straight Survivor who was in the program from 1984-1986. You can read her story on her website by clicking HERE. I was able to speak with Christine about her experience at Straight. You can learn more about Straight and see the Q&A with Christine Flannery below.
What is Straight, Inc?
Straight, Inc. (1976-1993) publicly claimed to rehabilitate teenage drug users by using tough love and Alcoholics Anonymous principles. Straight, Inc. provided NO professional counseling: Straight, Inc.’s “treatment model” relied exclusively on “positive peer pressure” from unprofessional staff (program graduates) and from the teenage clients. Straight, Inc. claimed to have an astronomically high success rate and was supported by both the Reagan and Bush administrations. However, Straight, Inc. did not publicly reveal what many survivors will tell you. The REAL Straight, Inc. was a facility that used coercive thought reform (aka mind control, brainwashing), public humiliation, sleep & food deprivation, extremely harsh confrontational tactics, kidnapping, isolation and emotional, mental, psychological, verbal and physical abuse to forcibly break us down then remold us in the Straight, Inc. image. Straight, Inc. also operated in secrecy, just like a cult (Straight, Inc. has been listed on at least 2 cult expert websites). No outsiders were ever permitted to know what really went on. Straight’s rules and our fear of harsh punishment prevented us from talking to outsiders or from reporting abuses.- From Christine’s website
Here’s a video that Christine put together regarding Straight, Inc.
As many as 50,000 kids were in the Straight program, Straight, Inc. is the biggest violator of human rights and civil liberties that this country has ever seen. There are accounts of food and sleep deprivation, making kids soil their pants, beatings, spitting in kids faces, and marathon sessions where teenagers would be yelled at by many other kids for long periods of time. Children were forbidden from reading any material including religious books. Conditions were so deplorable that kids had to be watched 24/7, even as they wiped themselves on the toilet (reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps where Jews were made to defecate publicly like cats and dogs) to make sure they did not commit suicide. Under such deplorable and humiliating conditions many kids resorted to carving on their bodies with a fingernail, piece of broken chair, or whatever else they could find just as a caged animal gnarls at an open sore. –From the Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network.
Straight, Inc. was also renamed…
As Christine mentions on her website, Straight, Inc. became Kids Helping Kids, Pathway Family Center, Life, Growing Together, KIDS (of North Jersey, El Paso, etc.), SAFE, Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (AARC), and others. Even though most of these spin-offs have been shut down, there are still similar programs for troubled teens that follow the same tactics as Straight.
In this video below regarding KIDS, which is basically the same program renamed after Straight, you will see how teens that were once in the program themselves became the counselors working with kids that have been brought into the program. These kids themselves are considered the professional staff.
Here’s another one about SAFE, another renamed Straight program. The video is old, but worth watching…
Continue reading to see the Q&A with Christine Flannery…
As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It’s safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.
By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy’s family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. Kellen may not be innocent, but he is the fixed point in Wavy and Donal’s chaotic universe. Instead of playing it safe, Wavy has to learn to fight for Kellen, for her brother, and for herself.
I was forewarned ahead of time that Renée Paule’s books make you feel like you’re looking into a mirror. As I continued reading, this became a reality to me and I was pulled into the book and couldn’t put it down. There were many “Aha” moments for me. I also felt a direct connection to some of the author’s experiences and feel I’ve made many mistakes because this is something I haven’t truly gotten over and accepted. It’s amazing these pent up emotions we hold on to inside and don’t even realize it.
What I loved especially about the book was that the author speaks as if this is something
we are experiencing together by using the word “we.” It’s not like someone telling you what you’re doing wrong, but more of an observation on how we as humans handle our emotions and how we should realize that we’re the ones in control. We’re on a journey together. What are we feeling, why, and how are we supposed to react? This book won’t give you answers or instructions like a self-help book on how you can fix yourself, but will give you the insight and awareness needed to guide you in the right direction to stop this cycle of thinking and behavior.
Here’s something long forgotten by many people in this world-humanity is a team. Whether we like it or not, we work together. On the section titled, “Independence” the author discusses this fact. I recently heard a radio broadcast on NPR regarding the lack of compassion that people have for one another. This is a huge issue, isn’t it? There could be a massive fight going on with someone getting beaten badly somewhere and rather than call 911, people are getting on their cell phones and recording it so they can upload it to YouTube later when they get home, or post it on Facebook. This is horrible. When we start separating ourselves from each other, problems arise. When we stop thinking about humanity and lose compassion for others, we go backwards.
In the section “Humanity is One” the author discusses humans and how we’re wonderfully made. One of my favorite quotes from this section,“The world has many problems and many unhappy people living in it, but we don’t have to be that way to. No matter how miserable we feel we ought to become or how guilty we feel about being happy whilst others are suffering, we won’t make the world a better place to live in. We can only make the world happier by being happier in it; every move counts and the more people make them, the better.-Renée Paule
“We’re humanity and no matter how individual or superior we think we are, we’re part of a greater whole. We can’t find completeness somewhere else any more than an individual part of a one-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle can. We all belong together and we always will. When we hurt each other what we’re really doing is hurting ourself and damaging the world in which we all must live.” -Renée Paule
“Imagine living in a world where we no longer believe that war can lead to peace. War can’t lead to peace anymore than ignorance can lead to knowledge. War leads to premature death, pain, suffering, hatred, fear and more separation.” -Renée Paule
My favorite sections included: A Bit of a Rant, Completeness, Independence, What If and Other Worries, and Attachment. The simple (Dilly) illustrations make very powerful statements alone.
I think everyone could take something from this book and hope more will read it. It’s not a self-help book at all, so please don’t be afraid to read it if you’re one of those people afraid of those types of books. This isn’t it. This is the author’s journey and at the same time a call to humanity.
I was able to get a copy of Cracker-Ass Honky Blues from the author Arthur Graham a few months back. I’ve been wanting to check out his writing for some time. You can see my review and some information about the author below:
From Goodreads: Arthur Graham returns with yet another chapbook of shorts and miscellany, this one featuring a nude photo of him taken while really drunk on its cover.
This book is not for sale on Amazon, nor is it available for purchase from anywhere else besides the author. Kindly PayPal five measly bucks* to arthur (dot) graham (dot) pub (at) gmail (dot) com, and your signed, limited-edition chapbook will be on its way.**
Plus, if you’d like, I’ll throw in a copy of Whores of the Industry for only THREE BUCKS EXTRA! That’s two handcrafted chapbooks for just EIGHT BUCKS!
Printed on blue paper by a sad drunken honky, folded and stapled by hand. Includes the following pieces:
– Kerouac & I
– Staying True to Yourself
– A Review of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
– New Story Idea
– The Primordial Slime
– Prince’s First Posthumous Tweet
– What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk About When We’re Talking About Talking About Stuff
– Hitler’s Bad Day
– Fan Mail
“Cracker-Ass Honky Blues is Arthur Graham’s latest chapbook and true to form, it is packed with irreverence, absurdity and humour. This handmade book is exemplary of what underground literature ought to be; bold, boundless and uncensored. […] Graham is a ballsy writer whose work pushes the bounds of decency. Cracker-Ass Honky Blues is a sleazy, funny, irreverent work of social commentary.”— Matthew J. Hall, Screaming with Brevity
So, I’ve been wanting to read Cracker-Ass Honky Blues for some time now, actually, just something by Arthur Graham already! This is the first for me, a little chapbook of short stories.
I liked the cover and title. Out of all stories included the only one I didn’t really like was “Hitler’s Bad Day.” Most enjoyed were “The Primordial Slime” and “Fan Mail.”
Is there a poster size of the cover available? JK!
4**** and looking forward to reading more by this author.
I’d like to thank the author for providing me with a complimentary copy.
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
Blurb: The power of attachment. The pain of connection. An ability to love. Barkley 50’s special programming allows him to mimic human emotions, perhaps a little too well. He finds himself navigating this new-found humanity in a place that’s losing its own. And with the passing of each one of his owners, the world grows closer to its end, forcing Barkley to fear the future, a thing he’s never contemplated until now.
What will he do when there’s no one left at all?
From the Author of the Best-Selling Dystopian Series “The Last City” comes this surreal tale of a robot learning what it is to be human. At the end of the world, Barkley Five Oh depicts the beauty of learning to love, and is a fantastic short glimpse into the dimensions of the human spirit.
You won’t be able to put this one down!
Wow! I loved this short story about Barkley Five Oh, the robot. Barkley sort of reminded me of Johnny Five from Short Circuit in a way with how his personality changes over time and he becomes more human minded. I just loved it. It’s short and sweet, emotional at times, and I loved the ending!
Thanks to Logan Keys for sharing it. I’m very much looking forward to reading more of her books.
Monthly Festival : Turn your book into a movie and get it seen by 1000s of people. Or garner FULL FEEDBACK from publishers on your novel and help your next draft. Or get a transcript video of your novel performed by professional actors.