From the Heart

From the Heart: Stories of Love and Life by [Forest, Sally]

From the Heart, by Sally Forest, is a series of six short stories about human passions and emotions, and how they come to the fore when average people face challenging circumstances. The characters range from a young girl in a troubled household to a group of women dealing with the realities of old age, all from various parts of Australia, the author’s home. With a background in both teaching and psychology, it’s not hard to see her interest in the human condition and how she might have a greater insight into it than most.

The stories certainly feature a wide range of social backgrounds and issues, providing a delightful variation for the reader. The narratives are easy to follow, with focused attention on the plot and a small cast of characters – the author has avoided the unnecessary description that can artificially extend a short story and make for long, boring reading.

At the same time, the writing does come across as almost a “write by numbers”, as all of the stories essentially follow the same traditional dramatic structure, including a sort of moral lesson, or insight, at their conclusion. However, there is a freshness provided by the solid inclusion of multiple female protagonists, who I consider more well-written than the few male ones. They are given realistic passions and thought processes, with their inner strengths shown as much as their perceived outer weaknesses. Sympathetic female characters are sadly hard to come by in fiction, even now, and I have to applaud any attempt to do so.

The choice of language is on the simple side, reflecting the characters’ ordinariness and making it accessible to read. There has been a clear effort to match language use to particular characters as well, such as the descriptions in Mouse Mat; situations are compared to the toys and balloons that would be familiar to the young protagonist narrating it. For non-Australian readers, it’s worth noting the odd piece of dialect included in the collection, although it generally doesn’t distract from the work – skerrick was a new word for me at least!

Mouse Mat was probably my favourite of the stories; my least favourite was Heart Buddies. It is very dialogue-heavy, which is hard to get through, but the paragraphing could also be improved to clarify who is talking and when. This story also includes errors, although not related to the quality of the narrative, still detracts from the work for me – some missed words and punctuation.

From the Heart is a pleasant read. It provides a window into human emotion and how people deal with difficulties in their lives. There are plenty of situations to sympathise with and think about long after reading – the stories are memorable for all of the right reasons.

Pages: 56 | ASIN: B07797S3ZV

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Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Choose: Snakes or Ladders

Mitty Bedford is a young woman who has spent her life under the rule of a god-fearing sect, including the indomitable and vindictive Aunt Charity. Escaping to the city to become a typist, she meets the kind and loving Col. But she is conflicted; her sexuality has been repressed and she is laden with feelings of shame and fear. As she sets out on her journey to self-discovery and independence in 1950’s Australia, she comes up against the sexism and classism of the day. To truly be free, she must challenge others’ prejudices and fight her own inner demons.

Choose Snakes or Ladders by Sally Forest is a book of many themes; love and loss, religion, shame, trauma, memory, gender, sexuality and the questionable nature of truth. Forest deals with these complex and universal topics with sensitivity and skill. Through her writing, she asks us to question our own biases and consider how relevant these issues are today.

Forest excels at writing place and her prose conjures up the setting of New South Wales incredibly well. Her descriptions of the seasons are particularly beautiful; the dirt, pollution and heat of summer mirror Mitty’s feelings of oppression and add to an atmosphere of heaviness, whilst the freshness of autumn coincides with Mitty’s new found confidence. Forest also invokes the time period expertly, and I enjoyed the references to old films and magazines which gave some historical context and showed how influential the invention of advertising and the media was on thoughts and behaviour at the time.

Mitty is an utterly believable and well-realised character. Much of the book consists of her internal dialogue, which gives us insight into her feelings of guilt and shame and makes her very relatable. She wants to be attractive to men and enjoys their gaze but she is also afraid of it and fears repercussions. Forest illustrates that female beauty and sexuality can be a poisoned chalice in a society where only women are castigated for the outcome of these things (this clearly has modern resonance too). The prejudice and ignorance of certain characters are well-drawn and had me seething with anger!

The dialogue is predominately realistic and natural. Forest uses dialect for some of her characters- possibly to infuse more authenticity into the narrative- but I would have liked a little less of this as it came off as contrived at times and distracted me from the flow of the narrative. Although there is quite a steady pace to the book, I occasionally felt that Mitty’s day to day life was rather repetitive and that the plot could have done with a little more substance. There was definitely enough suspense to keep me intrigued though, and I think that any plot issues were reconciled by Forest’s use of prose and by her complex and likeable characters.

Ultimately, this is a book about redemption. It is a moving and beautifully written story, which although full of challenging themes, eventually filled me with hope.

Pages: 213 | ASIN: B075PXBHTZ

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Titch the Itch

Titch the Itch

Titch the Itch, written by B.C.R. Fegan and illustrated by Lenny Wen, is the tale of an animated little itch who wants nothing more than to make friends the only way he knows how–by doing his job. When his wayward, “no-reason-at-all” itching isn’t appreciated in the home of one large family, Titch the Itch seeks to make friends outside the home. Trying his luck with a cat, a neighbor, a police officer, and a park full of children, Titch learns that life is hard for an itch of his sort. His journey leads him to the hospital where he soon learns that he has had a bigger impact than he realized.

B.C.R. Fegan has constructed a touching story centered around the personification of a lowly itch. The author has managed to take a difficult concept and design a precious plot surrounding the poor little itch’s desire to be needed and to have lasting friendships. Titch is a memorable character with whom young readers will empathize. As he moves from one character to the next, he experiences rejection and disappointment. Fegan has included some important lessons in this wonderful picture book. In addition to friendship, the author teaches the benefits of being determined and the results of perseverance.

As with any children’s book, it is essential to include those moments of humor. Fegan does not lack in this area. The unforeseen circumstances surrounding the conclusion of the book are whimsical and encourage children to reread the book to find things they may have missed–a wonderful aspect to include to inspire young readers to delve further into the intricacies of text. As a teacher and parent, I more than appreciate those small amounts of mystery which energize readers. Kudos to the author!

The illustrations for Titch the Itch are fantastic. Lenny Wen’s vision of Titch is a cross between a ghost and a friendly dust bunny–exactly how one might visualize an itch. The facial expressions of Titch absolutely make the story. His woeful looks tug at the reader’s heartstrings. The color schemes chosen to brighten the pages make this a beautiful story to read aloud.

B.C.R. Fegan’s story of the needy little itch just looking for friendship is a sweet tale perfect for teaching young readers about the value of friends and loyalty.

Pages: 33 | ASIN: B076342B9D

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Undying Love and Loyalty

Kaye D. Schmitz Author Interview

Kaye D. Schmitz Author Interview

The Consort Conspiracy follows Kate who travels to to Georgia to cover a story only to get embroiled in the towns dark history. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?

The inspiration for this novel is actually one of my favorite parts of the story. While I have been a writer in some form or another my whole life, I had never done much with it other than a couple of short stories and poems. But I visited the Midway Cemetery in Georgia–yes, it’s a real place–in 1997 because I knew it contained the graves of signers of The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I went there for the history. But as I wandered the oldest part of the cemetery, I stumbled upon the Robarts family plot with death dates in the early 1700s. One grave was for the wife of William Robarts and right next to her grave was that of Ann Evelyn Robarts, listed as “The Consort” of William. My first thought was indignation, since I interpreted “consort” to mean “mistress” (my research later told me, however, that “consort” was simply another name for “spouse”). My second thought was of deep sorrow when I read the epitaph that stated she was only seventeen-years-old when she died and was buried with her two infant daughters. Immediately, my mind started spinning with a myriad of jumbled thoughts that ranged from “Oh how horrible to die so young with so much to look forward to,” all the way to “This happened so long ago…how could anyone today be certain that these deaths actually happened the way it’s written here…what if one of the little girls had lived?” I felt so strongly about it, it was as if Ann Evelyn, herself, had reached out from the grave. A story began to take shape in my heart…and it was one I knew I had to tell.

This book was filled with lots of great twists. Did you plan these or did they develop organically as you were writing?

The main twist about Kate’s ancestral roots was the first one I thought of and, in fact, in the very first iteration of this story–written long hand on four yellow legal tablet sheets for an early writing class–developed that one twist and only covered the crypt and its contents. As my writing instructor and friends encouraged me to expand on the story, I knew that more things needed to happen and be intricately woven together. I needed to figure out what caused Katherine to die at such a young age in the first place–yes, women did die of childbirth all the time back then, but that was too easy–and not very exciting in a thriller. So the reason Katherine died led to the story line of not only the circumstances prior to her death, but also of what catapulted the Penningtons into the most powerful political position in the world. And once that happened, the events that transpired to bring them karmic justice–family come-uppance, if you will–also spawned a story line. All of the other twists simply presented themselves to me “organically,” as you said, in the course of the writing.

I enjoyed how each character had their own voice and was meticulously developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing your characters?

I really love it that you asked that question because as a writer, one of my fears has always been that people will think my characters are shallow. I have been thrilled to find out that’s not the case. The characters in the two-hundred-year-old story were probably the easiest to write because I believe they follow typical character themes from the period–the strong, silent “leading man” who was a pillar of the community until he experienced his downfall, the sweet naïve young bride/mother who steadfastly refused to believe there was evil in any of her associates, the evil-doers who were only out to benefit themselves, regardless of the cost to others, and the salt of the earth folks–primarily Jewel, in this case–who kept things moving with undying love and loyalty and a steady hand. One of the characters I especially enjoyed writing was Lucilla, from the older story. One of my editors suggested I tone down her surliness and some other aspects of her character, but I fought to keep her the way she was. She needed to do everything she did in order to maintain at least semi-equal footing with Caleb in their sinister plot. Kate’s character had initially been written in a more literary style–more formal speech and fewer glimpses into her internal insecurities. But when I turned in a writing assignment in an advanced writing course using a “girlfriend ” type voice, my instructor wrote on the top of my paper that she really liked that voice and that I should incorporate it into my writing. So I did…which also led to a massive re-write to change Kate’s part of the story from third person POV to first person POV. And after that, Kate became much more fun to spend time with.

What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?

My next book is the first in a new series about two new families–the Sinclairs and the Maguires–and takes place in North Carolina, just a few miles east of Asheville–I’ll pick back up on Kate and her friends in a later book. We are still negotiating on this one, but expect it to be out in 2018. Here’s a teaser:

In 1947, JEFFREY SINCLAIR, hidden in his family’s mansion, sneaks from his safe place on his eighth birthday and witnesses his father’s murder. Almost seventy years later, MATTIE MAGUIRE the fourth generation of the working class family whose lives have been intertwined with the wealthy Sinclair family, attempts to fulfill her lifelong fantasy of buying the old mansion. But her plans fall apart when she learns that the mystery shrouding the earlier murder has also clouded the identity of the property’s true heir. Worse, in her research to clear the title, she uncovers some troubling information that points to the involvement of her beloved grandfather, MICHAEL MAGUIRE, into the earlier murder that, if made public, would put her whole family in danger. Suddenly, nothing matters beyond protecting her loved ones and clearing her family name. It’s up to Mattie, accompanied by an unlikely source, to unravel her grandfather’s involvement, discover the true Sinclair heir–hidden away for decades–and return him to his rightful place, where together, he and Mattie finally reveal the family’s long-held secrets, along with the identity of the true killer.

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For almost two hundred years an ancient cemetery, deep in the lowlands of Georgia, has protected the identity of an infamous, brutal murderer, whose act of betrayal changed the course of the town’s history. Now, eight generations later, MIDWAY CEMETERY conceals the activities of international conspirators engaged in a fast moving counterfeiting ring operating right under the noses of the slow-paced Midway residents. 

Thirty-one-year old Bostonian KATE COVINGTON travels to Midway to film a documentary intended to increase the favorability ratings for the current United States President, WILFORD PENNINGTON, who was born in Midway and descended from the murdered victim from two hundred years earlier. As she becomes enthralled with the town’s history, Kate uncovers the truth about the murder of the President’s ancestor. Her discovery also leads to her learning the truth behind her own mother’s death and eventually changes not only the town’s history, but Kate’s future as well. 

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Terrified Beyond Belief

Mary Schmidt Author Interview

Mary Schmidt Author Interview

Suzy Has A Secret addresses child abuse and teaches young readers that telling a parent or guardian is always best. Why was this an important topic for you to write about?

One hears about this very thing every day in the media. That simply isn’t enough! As a registered nurse, I have had many children come through the ER and hospital who have been abused. Educating children must be done right as well as educating the parents. Keep in mind that a parent can be the abuser so this must be gently figured out with a one on one with each child.

On a personal level, my son was attacked at the tender age of seven. He was attacked by a large bully/predator who was age 16, in the bathroom of a park directly across the street from out house. The predator thrust his manhood into my son’s mouth and all my son could do was keep his teeth clinched until the 16 year old had enough. Imagine a seven year old, terrified beyond belief, not understanding why this was happening, and knowing his mom was across the street. Long story short, the police decided it was a she said/she said on the parts of the mothers and that nothing could be done. This trauma still affects my son today, at age 35.

My stepdaughter, my bonus daughter, was molested and abused in every way short of rape. She was age 10 or 11 when I noticed a mark on her skin just under the neckline of a shorts set she wore. When I asked what happened, she said her stepfather did it and then she showed me other markings of a sexual nature, and she said that he was “tickling” her and to keep their little secret. I went and got a towel, I had her hold the towel the correct way to keep her privates covered and I took pictures as evidence. Then I took her to Social Services and filed a complaint. They talked with her alone, and they heard me out, and I gave them the pictures. Long story short, my husband sued for custody and he won with my help.

I found the content to be very easy to approach and turns the subject into a discussion. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Hopefully, readers will be more alert to the possibility of a child being abused when they see certain behaviors as noted in the educator section.

What are some common misconceptions you find about child abuse?

Number one is most sexual assaults are committed by strangers ~ not true! Most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim or the victim’s family. Myth number two ~ the majority of sexual offenders are caught, convicted, and in prison. Very, very few of those who commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted of their crimes. Most convicted sex offenders eventually are released to the community under probation or parole supervision. Myth 3 ~ most sex offenders reoffend ~ they don’t always reoffend. Figuring out a percentage doesn’t really work as most abuse is never reported. The majority simply isn’t reported, therefore the data isn’t there to make a realistic sample size to obtain a give or take percentage.

The book also includes instructions for parents, teachers, and counselors to use in discussions with groups of children. Do you find that group counseling is beneficial for children or are one on one sessions important as well?

First and foremost is one on one for all ages. Little kids are scared and need one on one, teenagers are ashamed that is happened and need one on one. Younger children should never be in a group as they have such immature minds. They might hear a child (maybe three years older) speak of something that happened and the child who overhears most likely won’t comprehend what was said, and this causes more problems and confusion. Teenagers may benefit from group therapy, and this may help them feel less ashamed and be able to cope with their own circumstance more effectively.

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Suzy Has a SecretThis book teaches a child, ages four to eight years-old, about personal safety and body ownership. Children learn how to identify who safe adults are in a child’s life. This book shows in positive and practical ways how parents, and educators, can talk to children about personal safety. Children learn about bad touch and good touch, and how their body belongs to them. Parents and educators can help children learn who the safe people are in their lives, and that they can always tell one of them about anything that may happen, and they aren’t comfortable about. Using little bug fairies and fairy houses, ensures that children aren’t scared when this story is read to them, or they read it on their own.

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Once Upon a Time Slip

The future will crumble as history re-writes itself in the great time travel apocalypse.

It is the year 2258 when nineteen year old China Winter discovers her ability to cross the veil between worlds. On a quest to find her missing brother Maddox, she finds herself summoned by the father of time travel – Nikola Tesla to help save the whole of humanity; both past and future souls. China must sacrifice so much as she is dragged ever deeper into a treacherous and eternal time war.

Stepping back in time from her steampunk-esque existence, China finds herself caught up in the most incredible battles. Every army that ever existed can materialise in the wrong time or place, at any given moment to lay siege upon the earth. Slipping back and forth between the mists of time, history re-writes itself, playing havoc on the very fabric of reality. Can she survive the world of hauntings, poltergeist manifestations and time slips to save the universe from complete obliteration?

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Shadows, Shells, and Spain

John Meyer Author Interview

John Meyer Author Interview

Shadows, Shells, and Spain follows Jaime as he searches for his wife by following clues she’s left for him along Spain’s Camino trail. What was your inspiration for the setup to this novel?

Well, I knew that I wanted to write about the Camino. The adventure had everything I think I needed to write my next book. I had the rich history of the Camino; I knew I would uncover interesting anecdotes in every town; and I was assured that I would meet wonderful characters from around the world. All I needed to do was add my fictional story to my already unbelievable reality.

Now when I embarked on my own pilgrimage, I, of course, was immediately fascinated with Spain’s compelling landscape and the Camino’s magical history, but it was the people on the path who really inspired me. Each walker had their own personal reason for their demanding journey. Some had just quit their jobs. Some had just quit their marriages. Some just needed to unplug from their stressful lives back home. Whatever their reason they were all united in their belief that walking across Spain would help them heal from their hurts or stimulate their minds to live their lives better when they returned home.

So I knew I needed main characters in my book who were equally damaged and required more time to heal from the pain in their pasts. That was the starting point. Then I added the mystery, the suspense, and the quirky love story….

Jamie is a fascinating character and his relationship with Brie becomes something more than he expected. Did you plan their relationship or did this happen organically as you were writing?

For the most part it was planned because I outline everything! I know my beginning and my ending and everything in between. Now while the story evolves and I discover things along the way (especially how characters act and react to each other), the basic narrative remains intact….especially the ending.

I think about my ending much more than my beginning. The ending is often the first thing I write. Even if it’s only a paragraph or a few lines of dialogue, it sits there the entire time while I write everything else. Then when I reach that ending, I only have to tweak it. If I don’t have my ending, I don’t start writing!

However, having said that, yes, Jamie and Brie’s relationship did change organically too. I mean, every scene and every conversation had its theme or drama that I had to convey to the reader, but I didn’t always know exactly how I would convey that.

So with their voices firmly in my head, their conversations came quite easily. But in some scenes, yes, I did have to change direction because I knew that Jamie or Brie wouldn’t say or do certain things. It eventually became down to a scene-by-scene litmus test: “What would Jamie do?” or “What would Brie say?”

This book highlights some fascinating historical and architectural sights. What draws you to the history of Spain?

Because I write what I call fictional travel memoirs, I need locations that are rich in history, filled with local, colorful characters, and steeped in adventure. And now in two of my books, I’ve been drawn to Spain for all those reasons and more.

The first time was in my book, Bulls, Bands, and London, where I ran with the bulls during Pamplona’s San Fermin Festival. London was the primary focus of the story but Pamplona was where the main character was truly challenged and had to make a life-altering decision—while risking his life being pursued by a half-dozen frightened bulls.

Now in my current book, Shadows, Shells, and Spain, the adventure itself is far less dangerous but it still challenges you physically, mentally, and for many pilgrims, spiritually. To outside pilgrims scattered across the globe, the Camino is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some serious soul-searching. To Spanish pilgrims, this 800 kilometer trek is almost a rite of passage: a journey every Spaniard must make in order to test his or her body, free his or her mind, nurture his or her soul—and truly understand what it means to be Spanish.

That’s what draws me to Spain. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do for a living, or how much money you make, every citizen embraces their heritage and takes a moment to re-connect with the land and dig deep inside their hearts to re-focus their minds to what’s truly important in their lives.

Is there any message you might like to leave with your readers?

Whether you read my new book or not, I really encourage everyone to walk the Camino at some point in their lives. It really does inspire you and gives you plenty of time to contemplate your life while you meet many other friendly, likeminded souls marching across Spain—just like you! Sure, you can contemplate your life while sitting on your couch as well… but only by leaving all your distractions behind can you really experience some form of positive growth. Plus you’re going to lose a lot of weight! And that’s a pretty good deal too…

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Shadows, Shells, and Spain by [Meyer, John]Lost and listless on the island of Mallorca, Jamie Draper searches for his estranged wife, Pam, who has left him without any explanation or warning. Exploring her last known location, Jamie stumbles upon an urgent letter from his missing wife promising full disclosure as to her sudden departure and her current whereabouts. There’s just one catch: her mysterious adventure is disclosed in a series of letters she’s left hidden along the ancient Camino trail across northern Spain. Now armed with a list of clues to track the letters down, Jamie retraces Pam’s footsteps, while being both entertained and challenged by the many colorful Camino characters he meets along the way—including the enchanting Brie, who harbors her own secrets that just might compromise Jamie’s intended reunion with his wife. 

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The Immortality Trigger

The Immortality Trigger

With a start in Berlin, 1945, The Immortality Trigger launches into present day, hurtling between Europe, South America and Africa with a gripping pace.The author, Douglas Misquita, is moved to write large-scale thrillers, and with the second book in this series, surely achieves that goal. Not only is this book vast and well-written, the story it tells picks angles with many appeals.

The Immortality Trigger clips along as expected being at heart an action-thriller and were it not for the hook at the beginning taking place during the closing years of the Second World War that hinted at monstrous experiments, it may be too stuck in one genre. But for fans of fast-paced modern tales with global reach that dabble in history, this is a perfect storm. Having the hint of science fiction gives the story a cross-genre feel, and the monstrous brutality at once has an otherworldly feel while being rooted in our dark reality. Turning the news on the right channel, and you will see how timely and accurate these atrocities are. All of them. From the experiments that took place in wartime Germany to the extermination happening in countries from east to west alike, the author offers some guide to fact at the end of the book.

From the outset, we follow INTERPOL agent, Sabina Wytchoff. Her grandfather has succumbed to cancer and his wish of being stored cryogenically has just been carried out. In his safe lay ties to an ancient society still very active today. Too active, as the bombing incident that killed her parents only a week before may be involved somehow.

Illegal fight rings delight in the superhuman strength of Luc Fortesque and it seems being more than human is something of a problem. He’s not the only one. An experimental and unstable drug he was given may make him a star in the ring, but Luc won’t rest until he’s found the transhumanist faction responsible. He may be an army of one, but there are armed and demented soldiers between him and his goal.

Colombian newspapers have been blaring the face-off between drug-lord El Fantasma and their rival, El Angel, who will stop at nothing to bring down the cartels. After a vicious and heart-stopping fight – in the middle of a bust free-way in daylight – a terrible clue is left bleeding in the leg of El Fantasma; a silver dagger. With no clue how this Nazi war relic came into El Angel’s possession, the threads begin to draw together when everyone involved needs answers.

By the midpoint of the book it seems nearly impossible for these factions with their very different worlds to be pieces of the same puzzle, but readers will delight in how problems new and old have become entangled.

Overuse of jargon, while inevitable in a story that deals with military language, is much more noticeable in the beginning of the book. Nearing the middle, it is either not as glaring or has been quelled. Using the same word four times in one paragraph never sounds right, however, and there are a few points where this is troublesome. Very tightly written otherwise, going from lush landscapes to cities, drug-fuelled frenzies to tense negotiations. For fans of epic thrillers, Douglas Misquita may well be the next binge read. With many previous books, this new series reads like a flashy blockbuster film, so it must be worth it to see where this author has come from. The cast is large, though not entirely dizzying so just enough to feel like a realized world of people but still keep track of all the players. While there is a little tedium in jargon, having a near Lucha Libre feel to the Colombian stand-off, the ghosts of Nazi Germany and pharma-infused soldiers leering from the shadows knocks this all closer to a perfect action novel for fans of bleak, realistic and dark action.

Pages: 386 | ASIN: B077GHCT7X

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A Deal With God: The Power of One

A Deal with God: The Power of One

A Deal With God: The Power of One, written by Michael Haden, tells the tale of two sweethearts Rebeccah Johnson and Leon Samuels who fates are intertwined after a romantic summer night. But tragedy is to strike the family, leaving the three children without a mother and a broken husband who feels lost and alone. A deal struck with God means a beautiful woman, Deana Murphy, will enter their life; destined to help the family in their darkest days. Faith, love and admiration will blossom as Deana helps the family in ways they would least expect.

A Deal With God is a love story unlike no other as it delves into the complexity of families, grief and having faith in God’s plan. Prepare to fall in love with the characters as you laugh, cry and experience their accomplishments right by their side.

Matthew, Mark and Luke are Rebeccah’s and Leon’s sons. A premonition about their son Mark sees God sending a woman by the name of Deana Murphy to enter their lives. We learn about Deana’s life and her hardships at the beginning of the story which builds a beautiful persona for the reader. Deana has experienced suffering and pain that only few could endure and in a twist of fate, makes a deal with God to save her life. Through her everlasting endurance and commitment to her faith, Deana begins her life and recovery in the town of Dothan, Georgia. Her faith is inspiring as she takes on incredible responsibilities and weaves her way into a complicated life.

The themes in the book can be quite emotional and complex at times, creating a sense of urgency to find out what happens and whether the characters recover from their trauma. For these reasons, prepare to sit down and read the entire book in one sitting as it is easy to read, like a “I must know what happens” kind of story. The plot line is fast-paced but still stops to describe delightful outfits or luscious food that will leave your mouth watering. It also details sporting events, pulling it away from the romantic plot line and giving the reader a sense of adventure and energy.

A Deal With God explores the different dynamics that occur within families and how different people respond and react to death. It will push the reader to consider how their family dynamic may be affected by death and grief, or how you may feel when a wonderful stranger mysteriously walks into your life. The book is based on the traditions and beliefs of Christianity and I appreciated the real-life experiences the characters endured and how they continued their faith regardless of the tests that God threw their way.

Pages: 345 | ASIN: B006L9LG7U

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Surviving Magic

Surviving Magic (The Legacy of Androva #6)

The world of Androva, where magic rules. Galen is the best underage magician for millennia, much to the dismay of the power hungry Professor Cassius. In the name of research, Galen and his friend, the talented but troubled Nico, begin opening time travelling portals to other worlds. Galen finds himself on Terra where he meets the beautiful Claudia. He wants to stay with her forever but the arrival of Jax and Shannon from two thousand years in the future changes everything. Galen must now return to fight for the lives of his friends and family. But will they survive magic?

Alex C. Vick has built a rich and enchanting world of spells and sorcery in Surviving Magic. Classic themes of love, good vs. evil, and the importance of friendship run through the story, but they seem fresh and innovative in the hands of the author due to an exciting plot, diverse settings and interesting characters.

Vick evokes place very well, and the juxtaposition of the two worlds of Terra and Androva is expertly done. The setting of ancient Italy is an interesting plot device that really works, as real historical events such as the revolt of Boudicca are seamlessly interwoven with magic. Vick also excels here with her use of tangible imagery; I felt as though I was strolling through the bustling streets of Pompeii!

The book is written in first person narrative from Galen’s perspective. He is a flawed, but likeable hero and the love story between him and Claudia is heartfelt and authentic. The other less central characters are well-drawn, they all have distinctive voices and Vick’s use of dialogue adds humour and lightness to otherwise dramatic situations. Because we observe the full story arc of the characters in this book, I really came to care about their individual fates. Nico’s development is particularly interesting due to the complex nature of his internal struggles and motivations and the villain of the piece, Professor Cassius, is supremely creepy!

Vick has developed a very complex and creative system of magic, which adds multiple dimensions and interest to the story. The only downside to this is it’s slightly overwhelming to have sygnuses, symbols, spells, and force fields thrown at you over a couple of pages (pheeew!) I prefer to be shown rather than told what is happening and there is some occasional info-dumping. I sometimes felt like I was getting lost down a portal myself! Because of this, the pacing seems off to begin with and the narrative is somewhat lost. Generally, though, the dramatic scenes are excellent and kept me on the edge of my seat.

Surviving Magic becomes very much a standalone story, with originality and twists and turns galore. Overall, this is a great addition to the fantasy genre, and I look forward to more exciting adventures from the Legacy of Androva series.

Pages: 279 | ASIN: B076ZSTT2D

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