Do you still believe in magic? Do you still believe in Santa and his elves up at the North Pole? Comet and Vixen have a new little fawn that unfortunately is very bored and lonely at the North Pole. There are no other children to play with or keep her company. Fawn secretly discovers how to leave Santa’s village and escape to the outside world. There she meets a Snowboy, and a bunny. They decide to become best friends ‘Til the last snowflake falls. What happens though is that they discover that animals are going missing out of nowhere. Baby animals are left parentless and afraid. There is a new human, Dr. Mary Weather, a veterinarian that has come to the artic to study and help animals. With the help of Dr. Weather the inhabitants of Santa’s village look to solve the mystery of the missing animals and reunite all the families.
The Adventures of Fawn ‘Til the Last Snowflake Falls by Al E. Boy is listed as a children’s book, however it is novel. The writing is easy to understand, not a lot of challenging words. The scenery descriptions are colorful and entertaining but kept short to appeal to childrens shorter attention spans. There is a lot of funny interaction between the animals that will have you laughing and rooting them on. The personalities are well written and appealing, they have a mischievous streak, not a “bad kid” one but just kids being kids exploring and playing pranks. One funny scene involves two elves, known as the Forgetful Twins, and a bunny scatters who straw behind the elves as they’re sweeping, and the elves can’t figure out what is going on. The book than goes into deeper plots and themes. The bad guys that are kidnapping animals are mean to both people and animals. While there isn’t a lot of violence, the hostilities are implied.
The constant theme of friendship and sticking together is weaved deeply into the plot. At every turn characters are bonding and helping each other. The concern for their fellow companions is heartwarming. It shows that despite all the differences, human, snowman, reindeer, elf, bunny, it doesn’t matter, they all bond together. This is a great lesson for children, and adults. It doesn’t matter how different we all are, we can come together to solve a problem and help each other in times of need.
While the story takes place in the North Pole, it is not a Christmas story. It is a compelling story about friendship and overcoming adversity. Fawn is a loving character that is easy to relate to, and the magic of Santa’s Village and talking animals is sure to draw in readers of all ages. I loved being able to escape back to a childlike innocence and for the course of this book just believe in the magic of Santa and the North Pole again. It makes me happy and reminds me to appreciate the little things in life and share these moments with my own kids. This would make a great family reading novel with lots of topics for discussion.
Pages: 349 | ASIN: B00NRZO920
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Executive Hoodlum: Negotiating on the Corner of Main and Mean by John Costello is a story about the Vice President of Business Development and Government Relations for Microsemi Corporation. He has a number of titles that he has earned throughout his life, from being friends with movie stars and other high profile individuals to being a Golden Glove boxer. You would think with his long list of accomplishments that he came from a fancy upbringing with rich parents and unlimited resources. Actually, the opposite is true. He was raised in a blue collar neighborhood in Chicago. His father was a somewhat violent man with mob connections and his mother struggled with addiction. John overcame quite a bit of turmoil in order to become the man he is today.
This was a very interesting story from the very first page. Knowing that this was a true story made it even more of a page turner for me. I am often intrigued by true stories of people overcoming their personal struggles and hardships to become the people they are. While we all have our own issues we deal with, I find it great to be able to step into another’s shoes and try their life on for a while.
So many people that have a tough childhood and upbringing use it as an excuse to not reach their real potential. Not John Costello. He adapted to the hand he was dealt and overcame it all. It would be tough to find someone that has had it worse in this country. His story is inspiring and makes you put your own issues into perspective and makes you look at how you can overcome them as well! He used the lessons he learned in a very negative world and has twisted them in a way that is useful in the corporate industry he has climbed into.
I found myself chuckling in some places and holding back tears in others. The storytelling was on point and very relatable. In some ways I could see this being an inspiring box office movie. The situations where was struggling to get out of, yet finding himself falling back into those situations. You find yourself pulling for him to break away from those situations, and the delivery of those small moments are so incredible. I started this book a little while before bed and ended up staying up later than I had intended. The story was just that good. I literally struggled to find a point in which I could put the book down. The next morning I was up and trying to squeeze in the time to finish the book between my other priorities.
Executive Hoodlum by John Costello is a great story for anyone that loves to read about people that overcome adversity in order to become a bigger and better person. I think anyone that has a tendency to think they can’t do something because of where they are from should pick up this book and realize that nothing can hold them back if they put their mind to it.
Pages: 261 | ASIN: B075H1HXK3
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Fractured details your revelations and strides toward bettering yourself both mentally and physically. What was the inspiration that made you want to capture your experiences in a book?
I originally started writing the book as a form of therapy, a way to help get the trauma, events and details of the accident out of my body and mind. Then around my 30th birthday, I had a breakdown. I felt like a failure, I thought I should have been at a different place in my life, I thought I should have accomplished more. After many therapy sessions and allowing myself to cry, be mad, and feel all the feelings – I realized I had so much more to share than just the details of the accident. I took a step back and saw how hard I had fought to be healthy and have a successful life. I knew at that point that my book was supposed to be about that. I wanted to share my struggles and adversity in hopes of helping others going through something similar.
I greatly appreciated your candor in detailing the obstacles you faced and I could truly feel the tragedies as well as the victories. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The hardest thing, hands down, to write about was the rape when I was a freshman in college. It was something only my therapist really knew about. I hadn’t even told my parents at the time I was writing it in the book. It brought back all sorts of memories, feelings, and shame. As I was writing it I had to take many breaks, remember that I was not the same person nor in the same place, and keep telling myself I was enough. THEN came the hard part of having to tell my parents about the event. I had hid it from them for 12 years but I knew I needed to tell them before the book came out. Again, all the fears, shame, embarrassment, and emotions came rushing in. But I knew it was something I had to do before I let them read the book – that was probably the only thing they didn’t know about that was in the book. I also knew it was something that I absolutely needed to include in the book since the book is all about finding my voice and sharing my truth. This was a huge part of losing both of those things. I am so thankful to have such supportive, encouraging and loving parents. It was extremely hard for them to hear, but I know it ultimately brought us closer and deepened our relationship.
In Fractured you reveal a past with issues like body dysmorphia and a struggle to find your own voice. What is the message you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope readers can take away the lesson I learned after my 14+ year struggle with diet pills, anorexia, and body dysmorphia… YOU ARE ENOUGH. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. The image society portrays that you have to be skin and bones to be beautiful is so distorted. I hope readers, especially young girls can read this and have an “aha moment” before they enter into a self-destructive path. It also my hope that men and women learn that it is ok to be vulnerable, to speak, share, and use your authentic voice, live in their authentic skin, and follow their own rules. Don’t shrink yourself to make others like you. It is not worth it. It is so much more fun to live life celebrating your bigness.
You are the founding director of the nonprofit company Step Up Chicago Playwrights. How did that start and where do you see it going in the future?
I founded what was then Step Up Productions in 2009 with the mission to share truth onstage and inspire the audience to embrace their own personal truths (haha see a pattern?) We had 3 successful seasons of shows in which we chose a social service organization – whose mission matched the theme of the show we were producing- in Chicago to partner with and donate a portion of our proceeds to. In 2015, funding was low and we were struggling to be able to fund our next production. I took a step back and cancelled the remainder of our season. I talked with a mentor, friend, and phenomenal artist in Chicago, Brad Akin, and together we came up with Step Up Chicago Playwrights as it is now. A company that pairs Chicago Communities with local playwrights who will write a play based off that community. Our hope is to make theater sound and look more like Chicago, All of Chicago! I have since taken on an advisory role since I moved to California with my fiancé who was relocated for work and Brad has taken on the Executive Director role. I know the model we have sets us up for success. We are in the process of choosing our first playwright and community to kick off the inaugural year with Step Up Chicago Playwrights.
Fractured is about your journey of self discovery, but it’s also about your family. Was there anything about your family that you only learned through this journey?
In talking with my therapist about different patterns I was trying to break and learn the history of where they started (me always being good, my need to please, not using my voice) I learned a lot about my family. I brought different topics up to my mom and asked her a lot of questions about my young childhood that helped me figure out why I embedded certain thoughts, behaviors and patterns into my system. I have to say, even though it was not always pleasant to learn and a lot of hard work, it was a lot of fun putting all the pieces together and learning why I did and thought certain things.
From the outside looking in, Elizabeth had the perfect life. She had a family who loved her, numerous friends, and a successful career. No one knew the hurt, pain, and angst she hid inside, struggling to keep herself small so that those around her would still like her.
It all came to a head on October 23, 2007, when her parents received a call that she was lying lifeless in the ICU in a hospital in Utah — “You better get out here, your daughter is not going to make it.” Fractured: My Journey Back From Death and the Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way is the memoir of Elizabeth’s recovery, spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is about her deliberate decision to begin the hard work finding and using her voice and the struggle to break out of the box that society tried to keep her in.
This is the story of what happens when one woman stared death in the face and decided to make a conscious choice not to go back to sleep, but to wake up and live the life she knew she was meant to live.
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My Journey From Warrior to Gypsy, by Tom Yeager, is a poetry collection centered around four main topics that relate to the author’s life: love and romance, riding and jumping horses, travel, and facing adversity. The 41 poems are split among these sections, and in between many of them are half-page, full-color photographs to illustrate the work, each bearing a quote from one of the poems. In general, the collection is written in a modern style with elements of free-form, with occasional uses of a rhyme scheme as well. The dedication hints at a fascinating journey of personal growth, from outcast, to horse-lover, to one who is seeking greater connection with other people. However, the poetry straddles a line between theme and personal remembrance.
I thought Horses and Friends resembled an anecdote containing bewildering detail about the menu, but not much for a reader to empathize with. Reflections On India could easily be a travel itinerary followed by an abrupt quote. However, one of poems I truly enjoyed in the collection is Giving Thanks at Gull Lake. It was one of the poems that resonated with me as it had a selfless purpose which I could relate to. The later Gull Lake and Gibran, on the other hand, begins with an inviting description to set the scene, but becomes a list of food and drink, ending with a quote.
I believe the aim of poetry is to express emotions and ideas over factual information and when the author frees himself from these literal shackles he creates some pleasant poetry. Fearless Daughter and Letting Go cover similar ground, but the best part that they have in common is a greater use of figurative language. The imagery that comes into play in Natural Knowing adds emotional depth and interest, inviting more than a cursory reading.
Ultimately, this is a collection full of touching personal poetry.
Pages: 112 | ASIN: B071VTNR2Y
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Recusant is a science fiction adventure story that chronicles the journey of two peoples through time where their lives and struggles are intertwined over more than a millennium. What was one thing you hoped to accomplish in this novel that you were not able to do in book one of the Brin Archives?
I wanted to expand on my efforts to tell a precautionary tale about intolerance and prejudice. I also wanted to expand the world of the Brin and fill it with more locations and people. In book one, my very first attempt at writing anything, I was learning how to become an author. With Recusant, I hoped to expand my wings and see what I could do. I hope to continue this learning process in the third and final installment of the series.
Many of the occurrences in the story parallel important issues in our world such as slavery, greed, lack of tolerance, and abuse of power. Was there anything taken from real life that you used to develop this story?
Oh yes. As a teacher, I listened to stories from many of my students of color about how they experienced the world in unbelievably different ways than I ever had seen. I also have several nieces and nephews of color who, unfortunately, have to deal with a world of prejudice and intolerance. I have always believed science fiction was a wonderful avenue to address these sort of issues in a stark, but relatively non-offensive way. Back in the early days of the civil rights movement, my family was very involved in helping end many of the immoral abuses of the times. It is unbelievable to me that we are still dealing with the same issues today.
I became fond of Jontar and Maliche. Their spirit and ability to love, trust, and overcome adversity appealed to me. And I enjoyed the courage and tenacity of Vidad and Neas. What was your writing process to ensure you captured the essence of the characters?
I am an incurable optimist, so I believe in the basic goodness of people. Neas and Vidad were named after my sons (anagrams) and looking back on their character, I guess loosely based on their caring and loving nature. My editors are always on my case about making my characters too nice. I have had to really work hard to resist the desire to have all of my protagonists turn away from their evil ways and repent. An evil spirit is difficult for me to comprehend.
What can you tell us about book three in the Brin Archives series?
Book three is tentatively titled Empyrean. I jump several years into the future where the Brin and Kolandi are coexisting. Maliche now leads the government of the planet, but learns some disturbing facts about their supposed benefactors, the Skae. To learn the truth, Maliche finds a way to escape from the Skae overseers and travels with several companions, including his son into the space. The offspring of a Brin and Kolandi mating develop not only an immunity to the Gorvin virus that trapped the Kolandi on their planet, but also have the ability to mentally connect with, and manipulate any technology, and the cosmic strings found in space. This is an adventure of time travel, new worlds and species, and the discovery that not everything is as it once seemed. The fate of the entire galaxy is in their hands.
In this sequel to Hegira, the Brin are thriving on their new world, but will greed, prejudices, and old rivalries tear apart their grand civilization? Maliche Rocker, descendant of The Saviors, uncovers a terrible secret and must fight those in power, including members of his own family, to save thousands of innocents from the cruelty of his own people.
Posted in Interviews
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Bully Route Home by DJ Havlin is a coming of age story. It follows Robert William Robertson, aka “Pooch,” as he learns some of the hard lessons of life including racism, standing up for what’s right and learning how to handle different situations. As he does tasks that seem mundane such as taking a catfish off a hook, he is taught valuable life lessons. The story focuses on the effects of racism on a small town in a time where hatred ran rampant. As Pooch tries to avoid a beating from the bully, he inadvertently creates chaos within the town. He finds a new friend in Carver, a black boy from the “quarters”, and in turn Pooch’s father hires Carver’s father as a supervisor much to the dismay of the town. The after effects of Lee’s decision effects not only Lee and the plant but also the children at school. Havlin provides an honest and uncensored look at the negative aspect of the human species.
Pooch is a young man full of innocence and naivety. His opinion of a person doesn’t stop at the color of his skin. This viewpoint within a young child and his father spark a rebellion within the town. While Pooch is learning lessons of life and growing up faster than he should, readers are learning as well. This is a book that will cause readers to think. The book is beautifully written and addresses a subject that too often we are afraid to address. While the novel uses certain language, it is done tastefully and in a manner that portrays the viewpoint and culture of the time being depicted.
The characters are complex and grow with depth as the book progresses. Pooch is an incredibly strong character with strong moral values. He doesn’t intend to spark change when he befriends Carver, it just inevitably happens. Throughout the town struggle we see the harsh reality of hatred. Havlin portrays this marvelously through not only dialogue, but the action of the towns folk. I found myself worrying about the Williams family and hoped to have seen more of Carver throughout the hardships. I enjoyed Rebecca’s character as well. While we seen the negativity of human character through many characters, we also see innocence and purity in Rebecca, even when she wants to fight those who challenge her. Lee Robertson is another strong character supporting his son, and displaying the beliefs and actions he wants him (Pooch) to learn. He risks everything to do the right thing and doesn’t back down in the face of adversity. He wants Pooch to learn to the same values and while he seems a strict parent, he does what he thinks is best for all his children. He reminds me a lot of Atticus Finch, fighting for what is right and enduring the aftermath of his decisions.
Havlin’s descriptions are elegant and on point, he doesn’t spend too much time with fluff. His words are direct and to the point. He knows exactly the right words to say in order to expertly evoke emotions from his readers. I cannot begin to say how times I wanted to cry or gasp out of surprise. There were other times when my heart just sank at the actions of one human towards another. DJ Havlin takes one of the dark shadows on our history and brings it to life, brings it to reality. We all heard the stories in school; DJ Havlin’s novel makes it all too real. He doesn’t shy away from the horrors one group of people caused another. It became a story something different from what I was expecting. This is definitely a book that needs to be read just as much as Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer or Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
Pages: 356 | ISBN: 1938002512