Plague of Witches

Plague of Witches by [Kennedy, John Patrick]

John Patrick Kennedy’s Plague of Witches is a coming of age tale about 21-year-old protagonist, Kana. Kana has been raised by her wealthy father in a life of ease. She seems to have everything, except her mother. She has no memory of her at all. Kana is bright and on the path to success when she is met with some information that rocks her. Kana finds out that she is a witch. Not only is she a witch, she’s a legacy. She will be attending her mother’s alma mater, Shipton University, to continue her mother’s research. First, she will have to jump through a myriad of hoops to deem herself worthy and learn 21 years worth of magic in a very short period of time.

I love how Kennedy takes such an obscure element and makes it relatable. I’d dare to say that the everyday reader hasn’t done much more dabbling in magic than the occasional card trick. Yet, I found myself sympathizing and relating with many things that Shipton’s students are facing. Kana is playing catch up, trying to master skills that her classmates have long been proficient in. She’s sort of the “low man on the totem pole,” and even though she is catching up quickly, she feels a bit out of place. The same can be said for Vanessa. She’s a master of magic, but due to stifling rules, her magic has been suspended. She’s older than most of the classmates, and also feels like she sticks out like a sore thumb. Even though these two have boundless power at their fingertips, they can still feel small and inept. It seems to be a common theme across not only this story, that no matter how powerful or perfect someone is, self doubt and the feeling of not belonging almost always sets in. These young adults are skilled witches, but Kennedy doesn’t lose their humanity.

Kennedy also piques interest when speaking of the “entity” who continually seeks its “promised” host. We are to assume that the entity is seeking Kana. A dark, elusive, inhuman being is always on her heels. I feel like this can be metaphoric in a way. Kana has a perfect life from the outside, but there is a big mysterious hole in the shape of her mother left in her soul. No one has a perfect life. There’s always an obstacle or hindrance or something in a dark closet in the way of complete contentment and reminds me that no one really has it all together.

Plague of Witches is written masterfully. It’s like the elusive black entity of Stranger Things meets  a crazy cast of characters from Harry Potter. Being a fan of both, I can’t get enough of this book. Kennedy should have no problem gaining loyal readers in this genre. The plot is interesting with its twists and turns and easy but not boring readability. I’d love to read more by Kennedy.

Pages: 370 | ASIN:  B07X51CV6N

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Elixir of Immortality and the Whore of Babylon

Elixir of Immortality and the Whore of Babylon: End times prophecy (Beyond the veil of propaganda: Book 2) by [Kine, A]

The Elixir of Immortality and the Whore of Babylon follows Lily and this situation she should have escaped from but never did. She grapples with moments of regret which seem to be momentarily forgotten when she is in the arms of her lover. A part of her is comfortable and settled in the dungeon but another is unhappy with the invasion of her body. Her education is continuous as she learns more about the human race as well as Greek mythology and where the two come together. Can Lily continue to take the abuse? Or can she change her fate?

The Elixir of Immortality and the Whore of Babylon is enormously disturbing, sometimes upsetting, but rarely boring. The banter between the characters is nimble and engaging. That is if you can get past the vividly graphic descriptions of how her body is handled by everyone in the dungeon and the sheer cruelty of a bog worm implanting in her.

The novel highlights Lily’s evolution from the timid yet fiery woman she was at first. Remember when she woke up in White Harvest, confused, angry and asking all the wrong questions? Now she has some backbone. She often risks punishment by Cat just to make her opinion and feelings known. An example is when she called Wolf a sex fiend in the first edition. In this one, she calls him a grubby old bastard. She also seems a little stronger and stoic in her defense of God and religion in general especially when Ox is being dismissive. This then drives him to be less condescending and take the time to explain better.

Although, it seems like Lily is still hiding her feelings of regret from everyone, she also seems to be basing most of her arguments on hard evidence now. She does not merely inquire, she challenges. It seems like she is attempting to teach the creatures about humans’ perspective on religion, mortality and everything in between. Another character that seems more well defined in this revision is Cat, whose crude comments become graphic and well… somehow cruder.

The chapter about Goliath and Angels provides a better understanding of the dynamics of the dungeon before the reader is exposed to worm implanting. I found this to be gross but unique.

Elixir of Immortality and the Whore of Babylon, provides a new perspective from which to view Lily. Before she was thought to simply be representative of an elixir. However, she could have a different side to her. This novel will have you pondering the nuances of the interpretations of the Bible offered by Ox, between the times Lily is being invaded.

If you have an extremely open mind, or want to test your limits, you will find this book provocative. In any case, it is a piece of literature that will be hard to forget.

Pages: 352 | ASIN: B083XL13QJ

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Cloud Cover

Cloud Cover: A Novel by [Sotto, Jeffrey]

Cloud Cover by Jeffrey Sotto starts off with a warning so intense that it grabs your attention and you just have to continue reading. Like on the news when they say “these images may be disturbing… viewer discretion is advised.” Indeed, the books’ graphic exploration of eating disorders (from an in-depth exploration of a violent binging and purging episode to hair loss and bleeding gums) is slightly terrifying for anyone who isn’t aware of the very real consequences of anorexia and bulimia. But in addition to being horrifying, it is fascinating like seeing a horrific car accident.

The thing I really loved (and I am not sure if “loved” is the right word, but I definitely couldn’t put it down) about this book was its reality and Sotto’s ability to accurately portray the struggles that people who see themselves as “different” go through hundreds of times a day. Though Tony (the main character) isn’t actually all that different from those around him, being a gay man with severe mental health issues is enough for anyone to feel like an outsider among the masses. Anyone who struggles with any mental illness will immediately empathize with Tony as he runs the exhausting race of attempting to navigate a life fraught with the invisible pain of mental illness. And really, who can’t relate to that on some level? We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of mental health issues, whether it is simply never being happy about how we look in the mirror or feeling dissatisfied with our current status in life and feeling like we are missing something.

The book delves into so much of the human experience in one fiction novel. So much so that I could not believe this was Sotto’s first book. Throughout the book we explore how those with mental health issues interact with the people around them. Tony’s blossoming romantic relationship with Antonio provides insight into how someone with the dark secrets of mental health navigates between the pain of their lives alone with the hope of happiness that new love provides. The constant juxtaposition of how Tony is living with how Tony could live is regularly portrayed through scenes like an episode of what should be a happy couple indulging in a delicious meal ruined by Tony’s ongoing inner monologue about how he plans to purge himself of the calories the very second he is able.

This book will be an excellent read for anyone, though those who can relate more closely to Tony’s issues will probably get even more from the book. In all, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in taking an unfiltered view of the things that some people hide inside them which they may otherwise go their whole lives without otherwise being introduced to. It is a book for those who long to understand humans and their experiences.

Pages: 339 | ASIN: B07ZRTJ255

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Borne Out of Fighting

Toby Oliver Author Interview

Toby Oliver Author Interview

Duty and Betrayal is a political thriller following the intertwining stories of international spies and war criminals. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

I suppose the inspiration initially came from my childhood, listening to my mother and grandma describing their experiences of living in London during WWII, and in particular, the fear engendered toward the end of the war by Hitler’s so-called VI and V2 “vengeance weapons.” They were in effect jet propelled rocket torpedoes, capable of killing thousands of people at the press of a button, and technically, way in advance of anything the Allies could counter.

Jack Stein and Spencer Hall are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some ideals you wanted to explore with their characters?

Since the war Stein and Spencer’s lives had moved on inexorably, just as their world had moved on around them. But whilst they had their own agendas, their own remits and loyalties to their respective organisations (the CIA and British Intelligence), at heart there existed between them a kind of unwavering, undying bond and trust that can only ever be truly borne out of fighting for your lift in the midst of battle side by side.

I enjoyed the history and backstory used in this book. What research did you undertake to get things right?

I spent a year, or more, researching the background, not only the technical stuff, but some of personalities involved, including former Third Reich experts like Wernher von Braun, who eventually worked on the Apollo mission. I guess it’s an often forgotten aspect of WWII, that post-war, both the US and Soviet rocket programs coveted the expertise of their respective former Third Reich scientists and engineers. Many of whom found themselves at the heart of what would ultimately become known as the “Space Race.”

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Duty and Betrayal: The SS Brotherhood and the NASA Connection by [Oliver, Toby]

Everyone has a different agenda when a former Nazi scientist and a current NASA rocket expert arrive in 1960s London for a conference. International spies and war criminals alike are still looking to settle old scores from World War II.

Monitoring the conference are Spencer Hall of MI5 and Jack Stein of the CIA, top agents who became fast friends while fighting side by side for their lives. They’ve been called to protect their nations’ vital secrets, but one of them harbors his own plans for revenge. Meanwhile, Bernard Zimmerman, the NASA scientist, wants everyone to forget his past work with the Third Reich so he can create a new life in America. Unfortunately, both the Soviets , Mossad, and the Germans remember him all too clearly While Stein will stop at nothing to protect him, his loyal friend and intelligence source, Spencer Hall is consumed with a personal vendetta.

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Their Downfall

Steve Zimcosky Author Interview

Steve Zimcosky Author Interview

I enjoyed the illustrations throughout the The Haunting of Smock Hill. What was the art collaboration like for this novel?

I have an ongoing creative relationship with, I believe, one of the greatest artists ever. She goes by Ergoshwampy and we have collaborated on my last six books. When I get an idea for a drawing I relay to her what I am thinking and leave the complete design up to her. She never disappoints when it comes to the artwork. She also designs the covers for the books as well and again, I let her know what I am thinking of for the cover and she wastes no time in coming up with a fantastic cover.

The plot and it’s twists were really engaging. What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this story?

The challenges were trying to make sure I had the historical information as close to accurate as I could get. The coal industry in the late 19th and earyl 20th century did not have a lot of information. I managed to get a lot from the Smock Historical Society. As I started out writing about a haunting I had an idea as to what it would be like if someone was using modern technology for their own reward and how that same technology could be their downfall. The ending I left open in case I want to continue the story.

Do you plan to write more stories about the town of Smock Hill?

Yes, I do plan on writing more. This was my third storyline that takes place in Smock. My first was a four part series on an old Tai Chi instructor who mentors a young boy back to health using Tai Chi and Qigong along with other Chinese health practices.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

The Haunting of Smock Hill by [Zimcosky, Steve]A Dark Spirit has apparently returned to the former mining town of Smock, Pennsylvania, terrorizing the residents. Julia and her cousin Edward try to find out why it has come back and how to defeat it before the residents flee. What is this Dark Energy? What sinister reason does it have for returning?

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The Last King of the Mountain

The Last King of the Mountain: Book One of The True Queen of the Lathai by [Daytona, Camryn]

Ariawyn the elven princess of Lathai, daughter of Queen Aramaris, and last of the line of the Demon Queen. It is said that Lathai must be ruled by someone from the Demon Queen line or else the land will be destroyed. The problem however, Ariawyn does not want to rule. She feels unprepared and unfit to rule a kingdom she has not spent any time in since she was a child. Ariawyn does the only thing she thinks she can, she runs away. Her cousin Luthitan and Rune plan to take over the Lathai throne, not believing in the curse of destruction if Ariawyn does not rule. The magic, deceit, and mystery surrounding all will lead to a bloody end. Can Ariawyn save the kingdom she was born to rule.

Camryn Daytona brings to readers a new take on the elves and dwarves races in her novel The Last King of the Mountain. This is the first book of the series and sets up an epic tale that will capture the interest of fantasy readers new and old. In the first few pages you may feel like this is a retelling of the same old stories we all know of the battle between elves, dwarves, and the mortal races. After the first chapter or two though you see Camryn Daytona’s unique perspective come forth. It is nice to see some common trends among the races that fantasy readers have grown to expect but the overall story line and plot is unique. Ariawyn’s back story is filtered through the main story line and you learn more about her past and how she ended up sheltered in Ellahil rather than Lathai where she is to rule. The novel is long, over 400 pages, but it is not filler or overdone long monologues. All the descriptions of the cities and details about Din Mehidnar are used to enhance the story line and move the character development along. Nothings feels like it is added just fill pages, Daytona is careful about adding the right amount of detail at the right time to keep readers interested and asking questions.

My favorite parts of this novel were watching Ariawyn go from the persona of a shy quite teenager that wants nothing to do with responsibility into a strong woman ready to take back her kingdom. Siveril is a close second to me in character development. He is a cranky sorcerer that is blind with a soft heart for Ariawyn but you don’t understand why untill you get through the novel. Illimon is another character that goes through huge growth through the novel, and I’m interested to see how he develops as the series continues. I didn’t find the politics of the novel overwhelming like some fantasy novels do, nor is the magic so absurd that you can’t realistically engage with the characters. This is a great beginning to a quest for returning Lathai to its proper ruling with dark moments and light moments that will leaving you smiling.

Pages: 399 | ASIN: B07YQF1Q5J

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Grass Miracle from the Earth

Grass Miracle from the Earth (Hearing Others’ Voices) by [Campbell Callender, David]

You may never really give much thought to the ground you walk on. To you, it is simply earth. You may not think about the grass covering it. However, there is a lot to that grass. That grass’ origin, history and even etymology are interesting. You might be wondering, what is there to be intrigued about. Grass plays a significant role in human life. Grass Miracle from the Earth presents a compelling bank of information about grass and everything related to it.

For a book about grass, this one is surprisingly interesting. Most people’s extent of knowledge about grass ends with the green color. Not many know that there are 10,000 grass species on earth. You will even find out that cats use grass for digestive reasons. Therefore this book, if nothing else, is incredibly informative.

After I started reading this book I found myself enjoying it more than expected and even looked forward to the next bit of information. The title evokes this sense of excitement and wonder as well as a tinge of curiosity. The information is engaging accompanied by pictures that support the content and make it wonderfully gripping. The author terms grass as ‘clothes for the earth’ right at the beginning, which is adorable, apt, and is an example of how this book is colored with quirk. Thoughtful information is conveyed in a friendly and informal tone. The language is simple with mild refrain from scientific jargon. The print is well structured with special attention to relevance thus keeping it short.

Ideally, this book is for educational purposes, and is written in a way that suggests that it is aimed at children. However, as an adult, you will find the information interesting enough to hold your interest. However, at times it breaks from the easy flow of information and reads more like a textbook. For example, page 28 discusses seed maturation and vasculature. The reader is directed to research these word, but I hoped this was presented in a simpler way. Understandably, this part is paramount to understanding the essence of grass.

Grass Miracle from the Earth is a brief but informative book that delivers a comprehensive overview of grass and inspires you to learn more about the thing many of us take for granted. This is an unassuming book that is informative and surprisingly absorbing.

Pages: 111 | ASIN: B082KYD8W9

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Classic Murder Mystery

Raymond Finkle Author Interview

Raymond Finkle Author Interview

The Mendelian Protocol starts with two genetic researchers dead on a beach which begins a deep and twisting mystery. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?

I wrote the novel many years ago. I was initially inspired by the X-files as well as my interest in the premedical classes I was taking in genetics and molecular biology. I eventually tried to incorporate an element of classic murder mystery as well.

Natalie is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas you wanted to explore with her character?

I basically saw her as the young physician (which I was at the time) who found herself pitted against an imperfect system. This is represented by her boss, the chief, who keeps trying to steer her investigation in the direction he wants it to go.

I enjoyed the mystery at the heart of this novel. Did you plan this out or did it develop organically while writing?

I literally wrote about 100 pages without any plan whatsoever and then eventually realized I had to come up with a plot. It took me weeks or even months to develop an original plot that I can honestly say has never been done before to my knowledge. I wanted to drop hints and make it a “solvable mystery” while keeping it hard to predict. In that regard I feel I have succeeded.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am writing a more traditional mystery set in Nantucket in the 80’s but since I work full time and have kids… we will see.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook

Two genetic researchers are brutally slain on a remote beach in the Bahamas. The investigation falls to Dr. Natalie Franklin, the small-town Medical Examiner working her first murder case. She doesn’t mind dealing with dead bodies, but dealing with her boss, the Chief of Police, is another matter entirely. As she struggles to make sense of the bizarre forensic clues, she learns that sometimes the truth is a casualty that no one wants revived. She vows to find answers to explain the evidence that is seemingly impossible to reconcile.

The Keller Corporation is the main employer on the island of St. Angela. When researcher Greg Cooper is hired, he initially thinks he has landed in paradise. After a few days of crunching data, though, he realizes that his dream job is more of a tedious grind than anything else. Out of boredom he begins to poke around and soon suspects that the Keller Corporation is up to something unethical or even sinister. When Greg discovers another dead body, it seems like a horrible accident, and that’s what Dr. Natalie Franklin thinks, too. But it isn’t long before Greg and Natalie are racing to unlock the secret of the Mendelian Protocol before becoming victims themselves.

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Unsung Heroines

Marina Osipova Author Interview

Marina Osipova Author Interview

The Cruel Romance is a historical romance novel following the lives of Serafima and Vitya during WWII. What prompted you to write this emotional novel?

There are many books written about great battles and great generals. Much less about the dreadful effects of war and occupation on the lives of civilians. The stories of European women in their fight against the German invaders have become broadly familiar. The idea that ordinary Russian women who had to endure four years of Nazi invasion deserve the same prompted me to write The Cruel Romance.

Telling stories of unsung heroines is my humble tribute to the women who worked on the home front producing armaments, like Serafima from The Cruel Romance, or who were fighters on the front or partisans, like my heroine Lyuba from How Dare the Birds Sing, another book of mine.

Serafima and Vitya are intriguing and well-developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?

It was important for me to show not only good personality traits but also evil ones in my characters. So, Serafima, despite the horrible circumstances, developed into a kind and passionate person becoming stronger with every unfortunate turn in her life. But not like Victor, who developed—or maybe the dark parts of his character were hidden only to be revealed in critical situations—into a cruel person consumed with hate, ruining the lives of the innocent people because of some deeply personal feelings and, besides, using his position in the society to get a desired post.

I felt that the history and Russian culture and backdrop were well utilized. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?

Aside the fact that I’m Russian and the setting within which my characters acted is natural to me, every new work requires extensive research. The authenticity comes from many details. In my case, it came not only from books. I am greatly indebted to my parents who as children endured the German bombing, the hunger and fear and who shared their experience with me.

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

My next book, the second one in the Love and Fate series titled Too Many Wolves In The Local Woods goes live on May 5, 2020 as a part of the Road to Liberation boxset comprising ten books from USA Today, international bestselling and award-winning authors dedicated to celebrating the end of WWII.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Cruel Romance: A Novel of Love and War by [Osipova, Marina]On October 1941, in a small village outside Moscow, Serafima bids farewell to Vitya, a Soviet officer going to the front. With only moments left together, she places a cross around her beloveds neck and reluctantly releases him into a cruel world where nothing is certain, especially whether she will ever see him again.

Days later, Germans invade her village and take over her tiny house. Serafima and her mother must comply with orders, endure abuse, and stay put, or their village will be annihilated.

As World War II intertwines Serafimas and Vityas life with that of a young German violinist and a Russian intellectual, their destinies are irrevocably altered. Can they rise to the challenge of agonizing moral choices and learn to forgive and love again?

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The Visitor From 4-D

An interesting kids chapter book is what readers will find when they pick up The Visitor from 4-D by Deborah Dolan Hunt. We come across the three Keating siblings who are visited by a tiny humanoid during a lightning storm. Not only does their visitor tell them about a parallel world in the 4th dimension, he even looks like one of the Keating siblings himself! So begins an adventure to help the inter-dimensional visitor return to his home.

The book is broken down into chapters that are easily digestible for young readers. The kids portrayed in the story are fairly realistic in their reactions and temperaments. There are some parts where the kids don’t exactly talk like stereotypical kids of their ages, but the core message of the story shines through.

Learning about differences, helping others in their time of need regardless of their origins and teamwork are all important messages to be sending to kids in the targeted age-range of this book. Doing so in a story format helps kids learn lessons without realizing they are.

The Visitor from 4-D is a fun story about inter-dimensional travel and siblings working together for the greater good. The Visitor from 4-D by Deborah Dolan Hunt is an entertaining book with an amusing plot and lively characters.

Pages: 32 | ISBN: 1644677849

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