A Schizophrenic, Tapped & Skipped

Raising children takes a strong will, flexibility, and a love like no other. No one can predict the paths our children will take or what circumstances they may find themselves as they grow, change, and have experiences without us by their sides. We would like to think, as parents, that we know our children and have everything under control. Life, however, makes plans that are often very different from our own. J. Mark Stacy is no stranger to the hardships of raising children. Stacy’s daughters are battling both drug addiction and the beast known as schizophrenia.

A Schizophrenic, Tapped & Skipped: Hope in the Midst of Madness, by J. Mark Stacy, is the no-holds-barred true story of one woman’s battle to remain hopeful in the face of overwhelming pain, fear, and utter destruction. When her daughter begins to show signs of schizophrenia as a teenager, their devastating journey begins. In addition to the battle with a crippling mental illness, the family must find a way to fight back against drug addiction.

Stacy’s book left me speechless. Her writing is raw; she holds nothing back as she shares her family’s story. From her initial shock to her own breakdowns, Stacy does not hesitate to tell readers how incredibly painful her daughters’ battles have been for everyone involved. Her work brings much-needed light to the struggle to treat mental illness and drug addiction. Prior to reading Stacy’s story, I had no idea how incredibly difficult it is for young adults battling debilitating schizophrenia to seek help from facilities. It goes without saying that Stacy’s book will be instrumental in changing the way mental illness and drug addiction are viewed by those of us who have never dealt with it firsthand.

Faith plays a huge part in the way Stacy is able to care for both of her daughters. As the years pass, readers see exactly how much she relies on her faith to do everything from simply riding in a car with her daughter to leaving her to live on her own. Stacy is able to give readers hope through her experiences, as crushing as they may seem.

The heart and soul that has been poured into this work is simply phenomenal. I highly recommend A Schizophrenic, Tapped & Skipped: Hope in the Midst of Madness to any family battling drug addiction or the effects of mental illness. Stacy is an ally who offers a revealing picture of her life while at the same time showing readers that hope does, indeed, exist.

Pages: 245 | ASIN: B09QJ7JZM2

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When We Return

When We Return by Eliana Tobias is a heartfelt and satisfying historical novel that seamlessly follows two different countries and timelines. We follow Jerry, who uncovers a shocking secret that his father has been keeping. Unable to ask his father the truth because he passed away, Jerry begins to question if he really knew who his father was.

The story shifts to Otilia, who, after being separated from her son for 20yrs due to a civil war, she is now awaiting a hearing for compensation from the government. The story’s direction shifts to Salvador, Otilia’s son, as he is on a mission to understand what happened to his parents after they were separated. Jerry, Otilia, and Salvador’s storylines combine into one story where they team together to overcome several obstacles and uncover hidden truths. They try their best to help one another leave the past behind through love and friendship.

Author Eliana Tobias has written a historical and cultural masterpiece filled with drama and tension, making this one read that you must finish. The author expertly transitions from one character to the next without confusing the reader. I enjoyed that the author starts out by giving the reader a little bit of Jerry, Otilia, and Salvador’s background allowing the reader to get to know them.

From the turn of the first page, drama ensues, and you are immediately invested in their lives. You don’t expect each of the characters to cross paths until they actually do, and you realize that the author has intertwined their stories smoothly and seamlessly. The story is filled with a rich history that adds context to the story and the character’s motives. I enjoyed reading about all the characters, and it was hard not to like and sympathize with them. We learn of a man named Milan and later find that his backstory relates to Jerry. This just shows how powerful of a writer Eliana is. The story’s pace moved smoothly, and I was never lost or confused about what was going on.

When We Return is an excellent read for those who are history buffs but also for those who like heartwarming stories. I look forward to reading more from this author!

Pages: 297 | ASIN : B09ZBN14ML

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These Paths I Walk

We spend the greater part of our lives trying to figure out the how, where, and why of belonging. Nothing about our journey is simple, and it is, more times than not, filled with a greater number of difficult questions than it is with concise answers. No one sees this phenomenon more clearly than author David Hart. His book of poetry provides readers with some amazing food for thought as they ponder life’s disappointments and successes in love, fear, and self-realization alongside the author.

These Paths I Walk: An Open Connection to Life, by David Hart, reveals the author’s innermost thoughts and beautifully illustrates his thoughts and interpretations of other poets, religions, and life experiences. Hart’s feelings are intense–his writing style makes his depth of understanding of the world around him clear to readers.

Those who enjoy reading poetry that is not narrative in nature will appreciate Hart’s work. His selections do not rhyme and do not focus on characters of any type. In fact, it could be said that his characters are the experiences as they are the primary focus of each poem. Each selection contains heartfelt and intimate verbiage that will keep readers absorbed and contemplating and comparing their own perspectives to the last page.

These Paths I Walk: An Open Connection to Life, by David Hart, is a thought-provoking collection of poetry. While I was entranced by Hart’s work and thoroughly enjoyed rereading selections like “Expanding” and “Eternity Stands Still,” I did find myself distracted somewhat by the setup and style of the pages. The flow of each poem is impacted by the spacing between each verse. I recommend Hart’s work to any fan of the poetry genre who prefers deep and introspective pieces.

Pages 150 | ASIN : B09SPRZ45Y

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Promised Land

Taking place during the rise of Harlem before its renaissance, our author Danny Holst takes us on a journey through the lives of characters Robert and Clifford trying to find their footing in the music world. With the addition of songs and politics, we get to see the story of Harlem come to life. You will feel pain, sorrow, and triumph while reading this all-too-real tale. Never underestimate the power of fiction and how it can shed light on real-life issues from the past.

Holst knows how to add a unique flair to his writing abilities and I was in awe of the added music cues that really made this pre-Harlem Renaissance tale come to life. He chooses songs that add historical and topic relevancy to scenes, and he does it flawlessly. Often times when authors tie in unique additions to their story they have a tendency to place them awkwardly and without rhyme or reason. I particularly liked the introduction to Belinda’s new music teacher and the song Holst chose to add along with describing its historical relevancy. It showed why it would mean something to the characters in the book. You never had to sit and wonder why a song was chosen or how it could tie into the lives of our characters. It was straightforward to digest. Holst truly knows how to engage the senses of his reader audibly and visually. His descriptions of the area and scenes made everything vivid and realistic. I could see the actions jumping off the page.

Although this story may be fiction, it sheds light on real-life issues. It’s a great introduction to important topics in history. I highly recommend anyone who wants to dive into the history of how the Harlem Renaissance began to add this to their reading list as a supplementary fun text. You’ll get insights into small tidbits of general African American history as well as a bit of a music history education.

Promised Land by Danny Holst is a masterpiece with its musical-like additives and tantalizing writing style, everyone is sure to get something enjoyable from reading this work of historical fiction. I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat until our star-studded author gives us another gem to devour.

Pages: 232 | ASIN : B09VPNWGZY

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Traveling Companions 

When a mountain village is destroyed by a mudslide, the villagers must relocate to the bottom of the mountain. A young boy is injured in the mudslide and has a broken leg. He can not walk with the rest of the villagers, so he remains in what is left of the village with the old village elder and the blind blacksmith. They face the choice of waiting there with little water and food or trying to reach the valley on their own. Together they form a plan to try and reach safety relying on one another.

Traveling Companions by Tuula Pere is a beautiful children’s book about working together and realizing each person’s strengths and values in life. While each of the three companions has a significant physical challenge, they can work together and put their skills to use to survive.

I love how the weakest and most vulnerable are brought into focus for this story. It teaches compassion to those that need it and shows that even when old, sick, or disabled, people still have value and can contribute. Children will learn that everyone has value, even if you can not see it immediately. Each member of the traveling group has an important job. The young boy had food and water that the other two did not, as well as good eyesight, the blacksmith had strength that hey other two lacked, and the elder had knowledge of how to safely get down to the valley.

Traveling Companions is a heartwarming picturebook for classrooms and families that teaches children about diversity and acceptance and that everyone has value in society. The message of teamwork and persistence shines, though, and kids will see that when they work together, they can accomplish things they would not be able to on their own.

Pages: 32 | ASIN : B07HYXSPYV

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Viglets – Time, Infinity, Eternity

Viglets III: Time, Infinity & Eternity is the final installment in Viggo P. Hansen’s series dedicated to what he has dubbed, humankind’s only hope for salvation in our deeply troubled world that is rapidly succumbing to computers and apps. Following on from Viglets Two which explored the happiness and joy of being dumb, we are transported to an analysis of the concept of time and essentially the human race against it.

This has the blueprint of brilliant poetry: Imaginative. Creative. Descriptive. The first pages greet you with an illustration named ‘Time in a Bottle?’. It was the vivid, descriptive imagery that lacked in the first and second Viglets books. The image immediately pulls the attention of the reader by eliciting an almost psychedelic thought provocation. Its position was tactful, working recall memories of related experiences in the reader.

Included in Viglets III are yet again, interactive exercises. Hansen has done well to improve these activities; they are clearer and more encouraging. They are complemented by laying the foreground for the reader to consider their own beliefs, values, and morals.

An obvious difference in Viglets III is the mischievous tone and upbeat rhythm in comparison to Hansen’s previously cynical outlook on the development of the human race. The metaphoric symbolism was drastically better used. The notion of the relationship between the purpose of life and time was philosophical and exquisitely flowed powerfully into Hansen’s signature free verse poetry and varying stanzas. The sincerity is felt through the lines.

With a sub-theme of faith – particularly mythical gods, fallen angels, and self-trust – the seeds are planted inconspicuously enough that the reader cannot help but think deeper about what each of the ten sections means to them. Highly recommend it for those who enjoy a thought-provoking read on the elements that make up the daily life of humans.

Pages: 90 | ASIN : B079587BR8

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Really Stretch My Creativity

Jessica Goeken Author Interview

Ashes, Ashes follows a teen magi who is juggling family drama, school crushes and magical responsibilities when she draws the attention of a banished goddess seeking to restore her power. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

There wasn’t one “moment” of inspiration for this story. Each part morphed and clicked, adding pieces until I had a solid foundation on which to build. I’ve always loved creature stories, and werewolves in particular, but I didn’t want to write a run-of-the-mill werewolf story. I started looking for similar creatures to use instead, and landed on hellhounds. Originally the hellhound was connected to a witch, but as I did more research looking for historical witches to base my antagonist on I came across Hecate, and she took the place of the witch. With Hecate, the connection to ancient Greece built itself.

The family drama and school issues arose as I moved forward in my draft. My favorite characters to write are teens, and even though my teens have magical abilities, they still live in the modern world and face the same struggles and challenges that normal teens do. Balancing those struggles with the added magical responsibilities was definitely a challenge.

Adrienne Young is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?

By nature of her position and responsibilities, Adrienne needed to be strong, both physically and emotionally. The same attributes that strengthen her as a magi also ostracize her from her peers, giving her a degree of isolation and social awkwardness. Throughout the story I tried to put her into situations that would help her to see and value her own strength and allow her to come into her own as the leader I knew she could be.

What scene in the book did you have the most fun writing?

I had a lot of fun writing Adrienne performing the soul searching ritual in the hidden cave. The pacing is somewhat slower in that scene, which allowed for more observation and expository writing. Since everything occurs within her mind, there were no physical or magical rules I had to follow, and it gave me a chance to really stretch my creativity.

This is book one in your Mortals & Shadows series. What can readers expect in book two?

Book two is going to shift gears a little bit and focus on Mason’s adventures instead of Adrienne. Mason has a fairly abrasive personality, and I want him to have the chance to grow as a character into someone readers can root for and maybe even like. The other characters will still have their part to play, but they won’t take center stage again until later in the series.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Teenage magi Adrienne Young kills monsters, protects the innocent, and sometimes passes chemistry. But when she kills a hellhound that’s been haunting college campuses she draws the attention of Hecate, a banished goddess seeking to restore her power and return to the mortal world. As Adrienne digs deeper, she uncovers Hecate’s murderous plot and vows to kill her once and for all.

When Hecate sets her sights on Liza, Adrienne’s sister, the fight turns personal. With a band of unlikely allies and time running out, Adrienne may have to choose between saving the world or saving her sister.

Ghost Boy

Dancing Creek was a dusty old town, a brick and mortar relic of times long past. For Tyler, the old fashion charms it held were also home. Like any old town though, Dancing Creek also held its share of secrets, a fact Tyler learned after making a grisly discovery in the quarry behind his family’s house. By inadvertently stirring up a decades old mystery and a scandal that rocked the small community, Tyler also comes to realize that for every person who’s happy to reflect on the past, there’s another someone who will do anything to keep it buried. Can he help the town finally find closure, or will the mystery endure?

Ghost Boy by Jan Gunn hits the ground running from the first paragraph and continues at a steady pace during the remainder of this short book. Painting the image of a picturesque, sleepy town that could be taken straight from the pages of a history book, Gunn introduces Tyler, along with his two best friends Addy and David. After finding human remains on his family’s land, Tyler and his friends are naturally curious about who they could be and how they got there. Despite being warned against asking questions, the three decide they simply have to know. What they learn is a story dating back to the days when Tyler’s grandfather was sheriff and Dancing Creek was still an active mining town. As it turns out, the disappearance of a miner and his son has haunted Tyler’s grandfather for years, and is the only case he never solved in his role as sheriff. I enjoyed the solid foundation to this story, setting it up to be an intriguing mystery on its own, but we’re then given a compelling supernatural layer as well. This turns an intriguing mystery story into a riveting paranormal crime thriller.

While Ghost Boy follows some common genre tropes, I found the characters of the story to be well-developed and one of the main reasons I kept coming back to this book. Add to this the seemingly deep back story (or surprisingly deep for a novella anyway) and you have a story that fans of paranormal mystery novels will find hard to put down.

The plot is curious and absorbing, but I felt it was too short. The story is concise and ensures readers are consistently entertained, but I felt like this was a blueprint to a larger more compelling story that begs to be explored further. I would have loved to read more of the history of Dancing Creek and the lives of the characters from its mining days.

Ghost Boy is an absorbing supernatural crime thriller with a captivating murder mystery at its core and a cast of interesting characters that elevate this short story and makes you beg for more.

Pages: 88 | ASIN: B0B545QXLN

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