Daisy, Bold & Beautiful follows young Daisy as she struggles to fit in at school and finds help from an unlikely friend. What was your inspiration for this story?
Well, Persephone is my favorite Greek goddess, so I knew I wanted a story featuring her. And, to me, Persephone’s story is all about standing up for yourself. I wanted the moral of my story to match the moral of Persephone’s story, so I came up with D.J. I didn’t want it to be mistaken for a book about bullying, though, so I wanted to put D.J. in a situation where she needed to stand up for herself, but not because she was going up against a “bad guy”.
There is a unique infusion of Greek mythology in this book. Why did you want to use that theme throughout the book?
Like I said, I knew I wanted to write books about the Greek gods, because…come on…they’re AWESOME! I didn’t want my books to feel like historical stories, though, so I came up with a way to bring up the stories of the Greek gods while actually writing about kids living today.
I liked Daisy’s character, and I felt she was relatable. Did you plan her character before writing or did she develop organically while writing?
So, the first thing I did was come up with a god to write about: Persephone. Then I wrote an outline to the story. THEN I wrote up character descriptions for all the characters. A lot of my characters share names with people I know in my real life. Some of the character personalities match those of the people they’re named after and some are different than the real people. D.J. wasn’t named after anybody I know; she’s just made up. I would say all the characters developed a little more as I wrote the story, but they all started off with pretty detailed character descriptions. That was actually the hardest part of writing the book – coming up with the back story and personalities for everyone. I tried to include at least one fact about each character that the readers never find out – just to try to make them really real, know what I mean?
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Funny that you should ask that! The second book in the series is Mylee In The Mirror, and it’s available AS OF TODAY! This book is about Aphrodite. I’m really excited about this book because it has TWO main characters, Mylee and one of her best friends and teammates, Ty (Tyson). I was nervous about writing about older kids (the main characters are in the ninth grade, and I’ve obviously never been in the ninth grade before – it was easier with Daisy, Bold & Beautiful, because I was the same age as D.J. when I wrote it). I was also nervous about writing from the perspective of a guy, but writing about Ty was super fun and I might even make my next main character a guy!
D.J. and her dad moved far from the small town and only home she ever knew. Now she’s starting middle school in the city with kids she’s never met. She tries to make friends, but they all appear to be slaves to screen time. D.J. just likes to garden, nurturing plants, watching them grow and thrive. It seems she’ll never find a way to fit in, but then she awakens in a gorgeous garden where she meets Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She must be dreaming; her new friend can’t possibly be real—and what could she know about getting along with gamers? D.J. really needs some ideas, or she might never find her own place in a complicated world.
Daisy, Bold & Beautiful is the debut novel of middle-schooler Ellie Collins, daughter of award-winning author Stephanie Collins. Boys and girls alike will appreciate Ellie’s keen eye for the challenges of growing up that she and her friends must face. Discover the wonderful writing of Ellie now, then follow her to learn about her writing and more books to come.
Posted in Interviews
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The Hunt for the Three Roses follows Callie and Kane as they try to leave their old life behind in a world consumed by war. What were some themes you wanted to carry over from book one, and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore in this novel?
This trilogy is all about the upsides and downsides of organized religion. The first book was about how a religion can be a source of guidance and hope in the best of times and a source of uncertainty in the worst. The second book is about how wicked and/or misguided people can make things up that fit within their worldview and pass it off as official religious doctrine. The very identity of the Three Roses (at the risk of giving a spoiler!) is about how different minds and ideologies can fracture a faith for better or worse.
Kane and Callie are intriguing characters with emotional depth. Was there anything from your own life that you put into your characters?
Much of my early life I put into Kane. I tended to be a goody-two-shoes who pointed out people’s bad behavior, especially their profanity. I’ve relaxed that side of me, just as Kane eventually did. Callie is simply someone I’d like to be more, a person who has little problem in speaking her mind and being rambunctious.
This novel, and series, have a rich backstory. Did you create the backstory before writing the novel or did it develop organically while writing?
Some segments in my early books were created organically, but Hunt for the Three Roses was mostly planned ahead. I thought about the plot for months before, often making changes without needing to write anything down. When I started to write, I felt well prepared to go ahead and work without fear of writer’s block.
This is book two in the The Three Roses Trilogy. Where will book three take readers, and when will it be available?
Sean and Callie have settled down, but not for long. They’ll have to be taken well out of their comfort zones so they can discover the truth behind the Three Roses, and just as Callie’s past came to haunt her, so too will Sean’s. Despite the presence of magic, the action scenes in the second book were rather grounded, but in the next one, the action will be rather ethereal. The release date may be sometime in 2020, or possibly 2021.
Change is in the winds in this high-stakes, emotional fantasy adventure!
On the run from the army which he once proudly served, Kane Bailey changes his name to Sean, leaving nearly every shred of his old life behind. His old tutor, Master Cypher, helps guide Sean and gives him a mission that’s more important than Sean realizes: Bring an older, simple-minded man named Jonas to the Royal Palace, where he’ll be safe.
Callie meanwhile is unsure what she wants to do in life. Leading a criminal lifestyle is all that she knows, but it would mean starting from the very bottom. But while her future is up in the air, her dark past rises to haunt her. Rainer the assassin has a score to settle, and he wants to make it as painful and heart-wrenching for Callie as possible.
In this second installment of the Three Roses Trilogy, the hunt is on … and there will be blood.
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Think of the worst scenario you could possibly imagine. Got one? Chances are Joshua Squire can think of something worse. Angel Virus, Squire’s inaugural novel, paints a nightmarish scenario: all of the world’s children suddenly, inexplicably die. And the rest of world might not be too far behind. The story follows the lives of four people (Dutch: a Wisconsin metal worker, Jin: a small business owner in Beijing, Aletta: a European pediatrician, and Aysi: a teacher at a church in Africa) all of whom are recovering from past demons when the world starts falling apart. The novel wastes little time detailing the titular epidemic that kills the world’s children before zeroing in on the lives of these four protagonists. Squire, a poet by nature, flexes his linguistic muscles best in these personal scenes. At one point I found myself wishing that Squire would show the exposition instead of telling it. But when the narration focuses in on the individual suffering, the scenes cut deep enough to make the reader yearn for the safety of the omniscient narrator.
It’s in these dark, visceral images where Angel Virus shines the brightest. Subtle details such as place names and character backstories invite close reading. But at other times the reader races forward at full speed as characters flee through the jungle, get entombed in the city, or suddenly discover that allies can become one’s worst enemies. In addition to great images, Squire successfully creates realistic characters who inspire empathy within the reader. The dialogue comes off as believable while still maintaining a poetic quality.
Unfortunately, Squire’s excellent descriptions and well written characters also work against him. Angel Virus takes place over a wide variety of settings and includes many secondary characters. All of this helps create a believable disaster on a world-scale. But trying to tackle this much material in a novella length story sometimes becomes disorienting. In addition, while each of the four protagonists add compelling drama to the story, they all follow a similar path. Since the story is relatively short, none of the protagonists are allowed to fully develop.
Overall, Angel Virus is an exciting first novel. While the scope of its story and lack of versatility in the heroes’ narratives threatens to hamper the novel, the writing is strong enough to keep the reader interested. The novel’s conclusion left me wanting more, and that’s exactly what this trilogy plans to offer. But even if you stop at its last page, Angel Virus compels you to consider the link between psychology and spirituality, the nature of good and evil, and why you should cherish your loved ones long after you finish reading it.
Pages: 96 | ASIN: B01JZXY0JY
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One type of story that captivates a large portion of readers is the story of humanity. The author, Mallory M. O’Connor, excels at capturing powerful moments of human interaction in her novel American River: Confluence. O’Connor’s work involves a host of social issues—sexuality, politics, race relations—all disguised in what seems to be a book about artists pursuing their passions.
This book follows three families of different cultures that manage to connect. They are all tied to the same area, and while the young adults have mostly wandered off to different regions of the U.S., this story is about them all finding a reason to come home to celebrate life, art, and diversity which gives the story a greater sense of symmetry. O’Connor filled this book with real-life problems such as racism, mental health issues, sickness, and political confrontations. Therefore, this book can be a guide for helping people navigate their way through similar tragedies in their own life.
The overall story arc is intricate and well thought out. It is a little unclear where the book is going at first and what the focal point will be, but there are exciting turns everywhere that keep the readers’ attention until the end. Several subplots play out to give the book a lot of depth. On the surface, it seems like the McPhalan family is working through their problems with the ultimate goal of setting up a musical festival on Mockingbird Valley Ranch, the family’s ancestral property. Underneath, O’Connor raises awareness of many social issues. These social issues are picked apart one by one to allow the reader to think through different perspectives regarding them. While set in the 1970’s, the problems the characters face are problems that are prevalent in our society today, potentially making this book a timeless classic.
If you did not read the previous books to get familiar with the intricacies of the story you would need to refer to the “Cast of Characters” page at the beginning. The book immerses readers from the start with drama and doesn’t let up until the end, so lacking thorough character introductions early in the story, even though its the last of the series, can detract from the impact of certain events. I highly suggest you read books one and two before confluence.
American society, as well as many others around the globe, could drastically benefit from reading this book. While many authors hide a political agenda in their work, it’s often obvious where they stand on controversial issues; O’Connor, on the other hand, hid her feelings on many of the topics, which requires distinct talent. Ultimately, she encourages discussion and introspection through the characters. If it weren’t for some minor language concerns, this book would be well suited in a high school reading curriculum to expose students to the complexity of the world they live in and the core of human nature.
Pages: 364 | ASIN: B07HL12C8T
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Dealing with a disability or other debilitating disease is hard to begin with. When you don’t get the help that you need to deal with the changes your life is taking, it can cause irreversible harm to your relationships. Self-care is important; and is a burden that should not be placed on the people you love. It is alright to ask for help, but ultimately you are responsible for your own actions, how you deal with your situation, and making sure the people you love know you care about them. Chris Tatevosian gives readers an honest look into his life with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and how he let his attitude destroy his marriage. He shares his insights into what went wrong with his “it’s all about me” mentality; and how he learned to overcome that and build healthy relationships in life.
Life Interrupted, It’s Not All About Me by Chris M. Tatevosian is a short read of less than 150 pages. It is however, filled with deep topics covering depression, anxiety, abuse and recovery. That is a lot of emotional energy packed into a few pages. Chris Tatevosian’s purpose in writing this book is to help others avoid the mistakes he made. He is very honest about the mistakes he made and offers the reader ideas on how to avoid making the same mistakes. There is a good mix of positive and humorous stories mixed in with the challenges, so it is not an all-out depressing book. He talks about the good times and bad with his ex-wife. Hearing about the struggles to get disability and social security is relatable to many with disabilities of all kinds and he explains how the stress impacts both the people in the relationship, not just the one with the disability.
At times the book feels like it is a personal journal where Chris is just writing out bits and pieces of his memories. I feel this is important though to the reader because you see him before MS took away his independence. You see him as he was, and it helps to understand why he became so bitter and fell into the “poor me” attitude that eventually ruined his marriage. Letting others see this makes it more real and relatable. In the end this book is not just about him complaining about all he lost due to MS, it is about how he learned to adapt and how he learned from his mistakes. This is a good book for people that are struggling and feel alone and feel that they can’t ever change the situation they are in. You may not be able to change your disability or disease, but you can change your attitude and how you relate to the people in your life to make your situation a little better.
Pages: 148 | ISBN: 1606045636
Kumite for Love is a compelling story about Aiyana Amari. A Japanese-American that learned martial arts from her father before he died in a tragic accident. Aiyana is obsessed with winning an international Kumite, a type of Japanese martial arts, tournament in Japan to save their families gym. Once she arrives in Japan, she encounters genuine artifacts in the back of a souvenir shop. She leaves the shop with a beautiful comb at the insistence of the shop owner, and after placing it in her hair, finds herself transported to 1850’s Japan. Aiyana meets an intriguing ship Captain, has a hand in a few historical events, and struggles to find her way back to the present, while wondering if she’d rather stay in the past.
Kumite for Love by Judy Malcom is a very well written romance novel with a lot of depth and historical intrigue. The book had a background setting that is more interesting than you’ll find in a lot of romance novels. It was really interesting to read about Japanese culture and historical events and to journey with Aiyana as she is mistaken and subsequently becomes a geisha in the 1850’s. Captain Blackburn is an American ship captain posing under a Dutch flag in 1853 Japan where American traders are not welcome. He seeks out a geisha at a local establishment and there he finds Aiyana. The romance and building of the two main characters is done really well and I was rooting for, and very attached to, their love by the end of the book. Not to mention, the love scenes are hot.
The beginning of the book starts off with Aiyana and her friend Peter at the gym practicing karate. There are only a few pages of discussion about Aiyana’s present-day life before she flies to Japan and ends up thrust back in time. I wish there had been a little more build up and description of her current life and background before she flies to Japan and jumps into the story line from the past. I think it would have helped tie the book together better and would help you become more invested in Aiyana’s struggle when she is stuck in the past with no way out.
Throughout the book, Aiyana struggles with indecision as she becomes more entrenched in the world of Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Captain Blackburn. She wants to get back home, so she can compete in the Kumite tournament and win the money her family needs to save their gym. She also worries about never seeing her mother again, whom she had a fight with and left on a sour note before she flew to Japan. At the same time, she is enjoying this new life, the time she gets with Captain Blackburn, and sharing her knowledge of history as its occurring. She doesn’t know what the right answer is or what to do. Should she keep fighting to return to the present? Or embrace this new life in the past?
Pages: 179 | ASIN: B073YKFCZV
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Sunken Spanish Treasure Quest by Richard Joseph Johnson is an adventure story about four friends who go in search of an 18th century Spanish galleon, the San de Cristo, that sunk off the coast of Florida during a hurricane in 1733. Brad, a commodities trader, finds a journal at an estate sale in Chicago. The journal is written in Spanish, and Brad gives it to his friend, Maximo to read. Max, the owner of a men’s clothing store, has a degree in world history and discovers a reference in the journal (written in hidden code) to the location of the San de Cristo and the lost Spanish treasure–gold and silver coins and ingots–that had been aboard when it sank. Brad and Max enlist two other friends–George, an electronic engineer, and Lou, a former boiler technician on an aircraft carrier and current restaurant owner–to help in the search. Although the four men have no experience or knowledge of maritime salvage, they set off to find this sunken treasure. Will they locate the lost vessel and discover riches beyond their imagining? Will their friendship survive this quest for lost Spanish treasure?
I liked the historical aspects of the story. The history imbued in this story is something that any history buff will surely enjoy. References to the 1700’s were very intriguing and lends an air of mystery to this story that doesn’t dissipate and was one of my favorite parts of the book.
The story started out slow, with a lot of lead up and back story before Brad, Max, George, and Lou actually begin their quest. I felt that there were a lot of unnecessary details (such as what the men ate during their meals together). Eliminating some of the details describing their day to day lives would have improved the pace of the story. The first quarter of the book is filled with the planning and preparing for the trip, including almost two chapters about the drive from Chicago to Florida.
The story picks up once Brad, Max, George, and Lou arrive in Florida and begin their search, and the adventure truly begins when we are introduced to a group of pirates that the four men must battle. Their adventure continues when they return to their lives in Chicago, and trouble follows them home. I liked that although many things changed for them in their lives after their quest for treasure, some things remained the same.
This was an enjoyable read that gets better and more interesting as the story progresses. The bond between the characters is something that I enjoyed watching develop as they pieced together their trip and battled pirates.
Pages: 434 | ASIN: B079437WVB
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Michelle has known Damon for years. For years, Damon has known what Michelle could not possibly know–she belongs to him. When Damon’s stalking and pursuit of Michelle finally reaches its peak, Michelle can longer deny her attraction to Damon, and she gives in to her own curiosity. As Michelle and her best friend, Mellie’s, luck would have it, Damon is not the only one who has pursued and admired Michelle from afar for years. When what began as admiration turns to full-fledged obsession, Damon and his team are there for Michelle and Mellie when seconds count.
Addicted to You is the second book in the SAPD SWAT Series by author Nikki Mays. This second installment focuses on Michelle, co-owner of The Sweet Grind and best friend of Mellie. Mellie and her love affair with Morris were the primary focus of book one, and Mays has taken the same slant with book two shifting the perspective to Michelle. Written in first person and swapping between the two main characters, Michelle and Damon, the book hits on some particularly comedic moments as well as intensely romantic and sensual scenes.
As with book one, I enjoyed the shift in points of view between the two characters. Mays is adept at writing from each one’s perspective and helping the reader see each one’s thought processes. Damon, while intense, is a lovable character in his own right. Michelle’s reflections on his love for her further serve to build him as a favored character for readers. In turn, as Damon explains the passion with which he pursues Michelle, the reader is taken from wondering about his frame of mind to understanding his love for Michelle. Mays writes in a unique style that succeeds in quickly drawing in the readers and keeping them enthralled with the plot.
In both of the first two installments in the SAPD SWAT series, Mays steers the plot away from romance long enough to include an element of mystery. In Addicted to You, however, Mays seems to get to the point rather quickly. Even though I enjoyed and appreciated the mystery surrounding the drawings of Michelle left in the bake shop, it seemed the mystery was solved too quickly. I would have liked to have seen that aspect of the plot stretched out.
There is an undeniable quality of humor in Mays’s writing. She details a fantastic dynamic between her characters, both main and secondary. They have a rapport that is undeniable, and the entire group banters back and forth as true friends and siblings. Even their fights turn into comedic memories.
It is worth noting that there seem to be numerous punctuation and grammar errors in the reading. Only in a few places do these errors impact or interfere with the flow of the reading.
Author Nikki Mays writes an entertaining romance novel geared toward the new adult genre and succeeds in shaping lovable and memorable characters. Any fan of the romance genre will be pleased with the engaging plot and the sensuous visuals.
Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07J23W7JN
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Destiny Revisited by Eleanor Tremayne is the story of the life of Gabriella Girard. The book starts with Gabriella attending the funeral of Jake Chevalier who she had not spoken to for thirty-three years. After the memorial service, she receives a ‘death box’ from Jake’s wife. It is the same box Gabby gave to Jake on New Year’s Eve in 1967, the last time they had seen each other. Gabby’s mind goes back to the first day she met Jake, and the next section of the story takes place in Savannah, Georgia, in the 1960s, during the three years Gabby and Jake spent together as teenagers in love. They had promised to stay together forever and were planning their lives together after high school. But then Jake joins the marines and goes off to war, to fight in Vietnam. And everything changes for them, and Gabby’s life spirals off course.
I immediately became involved with the characters, which is why I didn’t like the way Jake treated Gabby after he made the decision, without even talking to her, that they could no longer be together. He claimed he still loved Gabby, but he didn’t contact her to tell her the relationship was over. Instead, he returned home engaged to another woman. Though I understood his motivations, I would have liked to see him handle the situation in another way, since his actions not only affected him, but Gabby, as well, for the rest of her life. Although Gabby had relationships with other men, she never again found the happiness and love she’d known with Jake.
I really liked the part where Gabby traveled to Europe after she finally opened the ‘death box.’ This section of the story was so sweet, but also very sad. Especially the part about the proposal. It was a very emotional remembrance of lost love and regret for all the things they had planned to do, which never happened.
The story ends abruptly, without showing what exactly happens to Gabby which left me anxious to know what happened after that point. I wanted her to have a happy ending after everything she had gone through in her life.
I enjoyed the poems and quotes that were included at the start of each chapter. But there were some grammatical issues that distracted from the flow of the story. Although it became less noticeable as I continued reading and was pulled into the story of the young love Gabby shared with Jake.
This book is a fantastic emotional roller-coaster with twists I certainly didn’t see coming. This is a character driven story that delivers intrigue by getting you invested in some dynamic and well developed characters.
Pages: 390 | ASIN: B073QFZF98
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Skeins by Richa Gupta is the story of a large group of globe-trotting Indian women who take a trip to see the sights in Spain and Portugal. The women are similar in heritage, but vary widely in age and experience. Even though they are from the same general area, they also differ in culture and socio-economic status. As the women grow closer, they let each other into their personal lives. They confide in each other and share secrets, regrets, hopes, and dreams. However, it’s not one big happy slumber party. Some of the women find some serious trouble along their journey.
Overall, Skeins was a pretty easy read. The grammar and sentence structure is impeccable. I didn’t find any errors at all. If anything, there were only a few turns of phrase that only suggested that the author’s roots were different than my own. That’s not a bad thing.
If I have any complaint, it’s that the cast of characters was very large. I found it hard, at times, to keep the names of characters and their story lines straight. There seemed to be so much going on at once between all of the background stories.
I enjoyed the diversity of the characters. I especially enjoyed the diversity paired with the camaraderie that the women enjoyed. They came from all walks of life, different social classes, and different customs to form one big, instant family. They seemed to get along very well. They will make readers hope for these kinds of quickly formed but long lasting friendships.
Readers will also identify with the problems that the women face. They discuss the not-so-perfect aspects of their lives without giving the story too heavy of a feel. The story doesn’t bog down or get lost in their troubles. They simply state what’s going on in their lives, but characters don’t seem to dwell too much for the most part. For a story that deals with adultery, a crime ring, decades old grudges, etc., it is a decidedly uplifting tale. The women tackle their problems instead of becoming victims of circumstance.
I liked that Gupta showed the women as strong, powerful, and independent. None of them were “just a wife” or “just a mother.” None of them were leaning too hard on anyone but themselves. In a country where women aren’t generally in hierarchical positions, it was refreshing to see these women being so self-sufficient. Still, they walked the line between traditional arranged marriages and living their dreams, while sometimes doing both with one foot in each world. They seek out independence, their wildest dreams, and love all at once.
The book feels light-hearted in nature. I enjoyed that combination woven with real-life issues. I enjoyed the cultural journey following the women from India touring the Iberian Peninsula. The characters felt real. I’d love to see one of the characters step forward to star in a sequel.
Pages: 312 | ASIN: B07HP6ZPYM
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