Ainsley Belle is the 21-year old college student who provides the first person narrative in this story. She’s a funny, sweet and innocent girl in the prime of her life. She and her best friend, Harper Gentry, are students at Ryland. Unlike most of her classmates, Ainsley wasn’t born into a wealthy family and works hard to afford her education. She is desperately seeking independence from her controlling mother. When she loses her employment and an enticing job opportunity presents itself she is more passionate than intrigued. The fact that the job comes from a handsome older classmate makes it all the more intriguing. The reader joins Ainsley as she enters in to a world much bigger than the one she’s known.
The flirtatious build-up between Sebastian and Ainsley is enticing. It’s almost a little irritating how Ainsley doesn’t realize Sebastian is coming on to her or why he might be interested. She’s clearly an attractive girl and playful. She’s written as a virgin which is a little cliche but because we experience it through her eyes it helps define it a bit more.
I love that this book is a serial novel. I haven’t read many serial novels but the idea that’s it made for people who don’t have time to sit through a full length book is very desirable to me.
This was easy to digest and flirtatious throughout. It had a youthful sexy vibe that made me feel young and flirty. I enjoyed the time the author took to organically grow the relationship between Sebastian and Ainsley, although sometimes I wanted it to move faster. I also loved the friendship between Harper and Ainsley. It was very believable and playful.
I think the author could have given us a little more grit outside of the innocent flirting between the two main characters. Maybe this will come out more in the next books in the series. I also look forward to more levels as far as the romance! In all this book was entertaining with endearing characters and an intriguing plot line. I’m definitely interested in reading more about these characters and seeing where the story goes. Serial novels have a way of drawing you in! There are some adult themes so this is better for the older set. Smooth writing helps with a somewhat slow story. Enjoyable book
Pages: 149 | ASIN: B07NQ99MGF
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The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen is a memoir of your life growing up in a family that traveled often and the challenges you faced and lessons you learned. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I wrote this book for my mother- to help her heal after my dad’s death. We had spent almost 20 years dealing with his decline. Thus, it became all we could remember and all my children knew of their grandfather. I thought that if I could write the complete story, it would help all of us remember the good with the bad. Once I got into it, it helped me understand myself more fully, and set me up to live my current life which is wonderful.
This is a ‘daughters tale of family and football’. What were some ideals you wanted to capture in this book?
I want readers to feel the love and complexity of this family. We had/have big love for each other, and had a big love for football. I want readers to know that you can overcome the hang ups from your childhood. I want readers to see that race in the South was more complex than is typically discussed. I want people to know that sports can be a bridge. I want families that are dealing with the cognitive decline of a loved one to know that they can forgive themselves their impatience and frustration with the situation; we are all just doing the best we can with the situation as we understand it in the moment.
The book shows the dedication your father had towards his career and family. What is something that stands out to you to this day about your father?
My father was relentless- that was the key to his success. He was full of optimism and faith in things bigger than himself.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
First, that my father would not have made a different choice, but he did not make an informed one. I want parents to think carefully about letting their young children engage in any kind of contact sport. I want football in general, and the NFL in particular, to think more deliberately about additional reforms to football that will make it safer. I want the general public to understand the burden CTE places on a family. And I want families that have experienced CTE to draw some comfort from reading our story.
The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen tells the story of a football life from a daughter’s perspective. Chronicling a rise through the competitive ranks—from high school to college to professional coaching, and ultimately a Super Bowl championship—it also reveals the struggle to deal with the decline and death of the patriarch, Lamar Leachman, from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of that life.
With forewords by NFL legends Phil Simms and Harry Carson, this is a true story of one family’s love for a game and for each other, one man’s strength of character, one woman’s love that sustained him.
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Based on her own life, Michelle Peach has crafted an intriguing story in Gazelle in the Shadows. Some parts of the story are fictionalized according to the author. The novel opens with Elizabeth Booth who has been kidnapped. She’s battered and bruised and not sure who is responsible. Her British diplomatic immunity does not seem to be of any use to her at the beginning of the story.
We then cut to an earlier time on a cold, rainy April day in the north of England. She is in Professor Mansfield’s office, attending school at the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in Durham University. Not sure where she will succeed, she decides to enter the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a Diplomatic Service and she loves it.
Most of her life seems to have been about finding out who she is in her family. She grows up wanting to leave home and go on adventures. The point of meeting with her professor on that April day is to convince him to allow her to do her study in Damascus. She is the only student from her class going there. On the flight to Damascus, she is told by the flight attendant that there are no hotel rooms and arranges a place for her to stay.
Starting with the people on the flight, I did have to suspend disbelief somewhat to make myself believe that she could be as naïve as she was behaving. It seemed odd to me that anyone would trust a man on a flight and follow him afterward, even if he did work for the airline. It does seem to me that it would raise red flags.
She is literally a stranger in this new land and finds herself offending without meaning to. For example, when she drops bread on to the ground, she does not realize that bread is a sacred food and should never be wasted. She finds that navigating this new, strange land is not as easy as she had expected. I did love her descriptions of the exotic locale. She really brings the countryside to life with her writing.
This story is filled with mystery and suspense. This story was interesting to be because, unlike most books I’ve read, it’s about a place I knew little about when I started reading. The cultural issues that arise throughout the story are every bit as interesting as what is happening in the story. The only negative about the book is that I felt I knew what might be happening early on in the story even though I was not entirely correct. Despite that, the author has crafted a story that kept me turning pages way past my bedtime.
Pages: 327 | ASIN: B07CPX2WH5
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The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen, written by Lori Leachman is the story of American Football coach Lamar Leachman from the perspective of his daughter. It follows a coach’s journey from professional player to high school coach to National Football League coach. We see the impact this has on his wife and two daughters. It is a uniquely feminine glimpse into what was ultimately a man’s world – where winning was everything!
Leachman writes of how her father’s chosen profession had an impact on herself and the life of her family. One impact was the geographical impact, always moving to where the job opportunities lay. The family had to move numerous times and she documents the effect this had on the children, in particular. They had to constantly make new friends, and learn the social mores in each new community. The children’s closest friends were often the children of the other football coaches. She describes how they were tough kids, they were coaches’ kids.
Leachman provides an interesting view of Black Civil Rights and how views differed among places. Her view of mixed race friendships were simple; if she liked someone she would be their friend. That of course, contrasted with the views many adults at that time had. She describes briefly living in Cartersville and being confronted by “Blacks Only” signs at the theater and the confusion she felt when she realized African Americans weren’t allowed to swim in the pool. This must have been a bewildering time for a young girl who was immersed in the professional world of football – where African Americans were respected for their skill.
Although her father’s career may have had some negative impacts for her, as she gets older she realizes that her lifestyle had some benefits. Leachman recounts the day she realized her family had some money to spare – something a lot of families did not have.
Tragically the person impacted most by his career choice was the coach himself. Leachman describes how her father’s mental capacity began to decline, and how he was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy attributed to injuries he received during his career.
This memoir is cleverly written, as it progresses through we see Leachman begin to understand her father’s talent as a coach, she recognizes his skill and determination and love for his wife and daughters. The only criticism of the book would be that on one occasion Leachman jumps back and forth between decades which interrupts the flow of the story.
This memoir is an interesting insight to the life of a professional coach, his dedication to the sport, and the impact and experiences for both him and his family.
Pages: 230 | ASIN: B07BRSTNNZ
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The Tribulations of August Barton by Jennifer LeBlanc follows the somewhat unwilling adventures of a young man who feels as if the world is on his shoulders. August Barton is a nerdy college freshman with growing anxiety not helped by the declaration of his parent’s decision to divorce. Never mind first-year classes, his growing independence, or even girls, the struggles within his own family becomes almost too much for him to bear. At a time in his life when he should be stepping out into the world and spreading his wings, the worries of his life pull him back into the safe confines of his residence hall where he can be with his Star Wars collection in peace. However, his charismatic grandmother (a woman who really has lived life to the fullest) has other ideas for her grandson, which leads to a series of adventures where August can finally learn to live out his own epic saga and find his own happy endings outside of the ones he’s seen in the science-fiction stories he loves.
This story compares to the classic coming-of-age tale Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger in its overall themes like loss of innocence and personal growth of a young man. However, I will say that August Barton is a more likable protagonist than Holden Caulfield! August “Augie” Barton’s altruism for his loved ones and his quirky charm make him a lovable character to follow throughout the book. Other interesting characters in Augie’s life enhance the quality of this book, one in particular: his grandmother! Gertie is such a wild and fun lady. I wish I could know her in real life! I honestly would read a whole spin-off novel about her life because seeing the world through her eyes sounds like a treat. The overall humor and grace of this novel as Jennifer LeBlanc’s authentic characters deal with very real problems that we all can face in life. The Tribulations of August Barton just proves how there can be such wondrous beauty in the everyday and in the hardships we all face. No doubt, Jennifer LeBlanc earns a full five stars, and one new permanent fan of her works.
Pages: 176 | ASIN: B01M7TF1N1
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The Tribulations of August Barton follows college freshman Augie as he navigates many precarious situations with the help of his grandmother. What was the inspiration for the setup to this entertaining novel?
I remembered how truly alone I felt when I turned eighteen and first left home. How hard it was to realize that the world was so vast and full of uncertainty, that if I let it, it could just swallow me whole. Augie is essentially a figment of the inner me and a reflection of how I felt at that time in my life. Doing things on your own without anyone’s help or guidance for the first time is scary.
The funny thing is, Augie wasn’t the first character to pop into my head for this story. It was his grandma Gertie. I was surfing on the web for writing prompts one day and came across some comical ones like, the pizza guy, a hug that goes too far, and something unexpected under the bed, or something to that effect. At some point looking through them all Gertie popped into my head. She wasn’t a character I really had to come up with, she was just already there in my head. Gertie is a combination of different people all in one person. I used to work with an older waitress named Pickles. Her personality was really flirty and fun and all the customers knew her by name. That’s where a lot of Gertie’s mannerisms came from. She is also parts of my own grandmother with some Betty White mixed in. I thought to myself “hmm I’ve never read anything like that, this could be interesting.” The story took off from there and her and Augie led the way.
There are things in life that we all have to face like this at one point or another that will test our morals or sanity, but the people who inspire me most are the ones who overcame those obstacles. Augie is a great example of how facing your fears and overcoming things that hold you back can help you grow as a person.
The world seems like it’s crashing down on Augie, but he manages to hang on with the help of his free spirited grandmother. What were some themes you wanted to capture in these characters and their relationship?
The main ones are that it’s okay to have friends that aren’t your age, that family isn’t always blood, and accepting people and loving them for who they are is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. One that’s a little more subtle throughout the story is that people can surprise you and misconceptions that are assumed about someone right away, can turn out to be completely unfounded once you get to know them.
I have always felt a special connection to my grandmother. Much like Augie does in the book with Gertie. In a lot of ways, I connected more with her than with my own mother, and despite this, I was still very close to both of them.
The relationship between Augie and Rose was heartfelt and certainly tugs at the heart strings. What did you want to do differently with their relationship than what’s portrayed in other novels?
One thing I wanted to stray from was insta-love as well as their relationship revolving solely around sex. While there are a lot of sexual themes throughout the book and some good laughs about it, I also wanted to show readers that a relationship is built on more than just physical intimacy. I wanted to create likeable, yet flawed characters that almost anyone could relate to, because in real life we all have problems and none us is perfect or really ever gets it right. We stumble through life and make mistakes that we learn from, which is what both Augie and Rose do as their relationship blooms. They make mistakes and they don’t get it right the first time.
Augie see’s that there’s more to Rose than she’s willing to show other people. It’s rare to meet someone who sees who you really are right from the start. He’s also willing to let her go to ensure that she doesn’t spiral out of control, even though he desperately just wants to hold on to her. In turn Rose accepts Augie just the way he is, quirks and all. The more she sees who he is, the more she opens her eyes to what she really wants in life and decides to make a change.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Augie’s story continues in the sequel titled The Revelations of August Barton which is currently available on Kindle. The paperback will be available hopefully within the next month or two.
August Barton could never have mentally prepared himself for his freshman year of college: not only has his anxiety increased, but his parents are divorcing, his new roommate thinks Augie is the biggest nerd in existence, and his grandma, a retired prostitute named Gertie, has taken to running away from her nursing home.
Augie just wants to hole up in his dorm room with his Star Wars collectables and textbooks, but Gertie is not about to let that happen. What ensues is a crazy ride including naked trespassing, befriending a local biker gang, and maybe-just maybe-with Augie defeating his anxiety and actually getting the girl.
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The Tribulations of August Barton by Jennifer LeBlanc is the story of a young man beginning his first year of college in Fargo, North Dakota. He is not looking forward to it, as he hates new experiences and new people due to his anxiety. With the help of his grandmother, Gertie, he comes out of his shell and learns how to deal with his panic attacks. He meets a girl he feels a real connection with, but several things pull them apart, and he faces the possibility that she might never want to be anything more than his friend. Then, a disastrous encounter at a Halloween party forces a wedge between them that Augie believes can never be overcome. Can Grandma Gertie step in and help him with this situation, too? Or will his college experience turn out every bit as bad as Augie had feared?
I enjoyed the author’s writing style. I loved the first few lines of the book. The story flowed well, and the characters were engaging. I liked the friendship between Augie and his roommate, Issac. I expected there to be friction between the two because of their different personalities. In many young adult stories, it seems that the cool roommate wants nothing to do with the nerdy hero, and I was happy to see the author made Augie and Issac friends instead. It was a welcome change from the norm.
Several of the scenes with Augie’s grandmother, Gertie, are very funny, though she seems to be a bad influence on him at the start. Later on, she helps him deal with and overcome a number of different issues, but her irreverent attitude never changes. She was one of my favorite characters in this story. I love that the picture on the cover of the book is taken straight from a scene in the story, with Augie driving a red toy car up and down the street outside of a funeral home.
I liked the song Augie wrote for his girlfriend, Rose. It was a very sweet scene, though it felt like the pair declared their love very quickly, since they were not together until near the end of the story. The short length of the book may have contributed to the rushed feel of their relationship. They went from exchanging the occasional text to celebrating their one month anniversary in a very short section of the book.
There were no chapters in this book, which was unusual even for a novella. Instead, the author divided the book into sections based on the months in the story’s timeline.
This book has a happy ending, but Augie’s story continues in the next book in the series, The Revelations of August Barton. I’m looking forward to reading Book Two to revisit all the characters from the first book and find out what happens next for Augie, Rose, and Grandma Gertie.
Pages: 176 | ASIN: B01M7TF1N1
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The Philosophical Future discusses the social and psychological challenges facing people in the 21st century. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Man is of course a creature of needs, which are easily misunderstood and in a confrontational world often taken by the individual as absolute imperatives. Violent actions and reactions, and more broadly aggressive behavior in general, tend to satisfy only, and too often, wrongly perceived needs of an instant. Long-term consequences are imprudently ignored. But it is too late as a rule to correct the mistake.
To avoid this familiar trap, nothing avails save the self-aware use of individual will — a learned capability — to survey each situation as it arises, and then rationally decide on and carry out a plan of action (including non-action) suitable to the circumstances. In an overly crowded world, and given today’s climate of festering person-to person and group-against group hostility, however, nothing appears to succeed other than violence or a threat of it. Whatever deprives the “other” of his ability to remain a self-respecting combatant can be employed. This wholly negative world view leads down an unsustainable road — in fact to social chaos.
Calls for meaningful change fall on mostly deaf ears. They do not convince. Nonetheless, the burden for positive change rests with individual minds. Such social unanimity as does occur is forced, and unless or until enough self-discipline takes hold in individual minds, and without coercion, this millennial consummation seems just as probable as another..
This book was written with such global issues in mind. Its significance lies in the message which it conveys to minds honestly aspiring to achieve a personal knowledge of what they may expect to encounter in the way of social, psychological, and moral trials in years to come.
You have an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and an Ed.D. from the University of California, and you taught at many different schools. How has this experience helped you write this book?
Teachers, much akin to dispensers of religious doctrine, today more than ever share a burden of communicating to students more than mere facts or supposed facts originating with cultural authority. The effective teacher has also himself both learned and understood the “material” of his lessons. Even so, automatic transfer from one mind to another is a misconception. Not all learning experiences can be summed up in this formula. Even the substance of what there is to be learned erodes in this migration.
The basics of language and social skills can of course never be taken for granted. This includes all knowledge that can be reduced to a common parlance, including number, letter, names, places, dates, and even some rules of interpersonal behavior. The tyro can usually master this domain with aid from a teacher who himself studied and retained not only the rote aspect but some of the life-value of its content. Still, more than ever beyond this one needs certain more fundamental elements to make his way in life.
Most individuals, sadly enough, while they do achieve a grasp of these lesser aspects of behavioral competence, fail to move past them. Even many teachers may not learn to question themselves, to seek beyond their already memorized data base to explore the deeper significance of being human. For all further, higher knowledge, the kind needed to live with meaning, though built on a firm foundation of “the basics,” requires a yet greater step, and the true teacher recognizes this. All such higher knowledge demands a learner, as well as his teacher, who together strive for genuine understanding — so that each of them in the web of his own experience questions both himself as well as the “why” of things, basic and abstract alike.
I think this book does a fantastic job of delivering complex ideas in an understandable and meaningful way. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
To those whose developing interests include a genuine curiosity about conditions of life over the longer tomorrow, and assuming they are looking for an unvarnished view of today’s global scene, with some adumbration of what lies ahead, this book aims to provide some, but not all, and never absolute, answers. It is not indeed a prediction but an advisory. It deals only with the possible, in an age of few if any certainties.
Most young people, but also readers in general, tend to live on two levels of thought: On one hand they have a vision of society as some kind of mechanical entity; its fundamental workings go on at a comfortable distance; unless one becomes caught in their legal entanglements, they can be ignored. On the other hand, when society calls on them as individuals to participate actively in its formal activities (such as jury duty), thought and intelligence must be brought to bear; even so, the passive state of mind dominates. Typically (even in the jury room) one follows the herd.
For this typical reader this book then cannot help but sound a wake-up call. Neither mechanistic nor presumably-more active approaches to life in society in fact suffice. Knowledge of the whole and of its salient moving parts and of one’s own capabilities for adaptation to the turmoil of future existence — these will be key to genuine success in the art of living.
Where do you think society is headed and what can an individual do to ensure they are successful in that future?
The question of where society is headed and how it is likely to get there cannot be answered without giving thought to the individual’s plasticity of character and his motivations as a moral being. If individuals en masse pay no heed to what serves the common good, then the way forward becomes rife with predictable social decline. But this view overemphasizes the dark side. Neither man’s overall world outlook nor his web of relations in a complex environment ever reduce to a simple unidirectional pattern, at least in the short run.
History reveals one singular truth: In its gradual development, and often without conscious control, society “fixes” some problems, analyzes others without acting on them, and simply ignores those it cannot deal with. So we cannot rationally envision either a future utopia or dystopia. There is no end-point. The real wild card remains the “average” individual’s capacity for directing his powers either to improve the common good along with his own sense of social stability, or to give way to mental and moral negation, with destructive results in society.
Men are not prisoners of history, as is often claimed. But there is just so much any generation can do in a practical sense to unleash itself from on-the-ground conditions and the relatively passive state of mind it inherits. Revolutions come and go, yet underlying capabilities cling to their natural limits. The process is slow, unseen, and does not involve conscious volition other than to a limited degree. So the likeliest condition of society a century hence, barring an atomic or planetary disaster, will represent in essence only a repetition in substance (though not in detail) of what have been the commonplace evils of our time: over-population and consequent mass poverty; ever increasing global hysterias; police-state governments; continued lack of education and subsequent bewilderment over how to live a meaningful individual life in a complex and demanding environment. The true individual may disappear as this process works itself out. Yet fortunately, his eventual reappearance cannot entirely be ruled impossible either. And how this unresolved dichotomy is then resolved will make all the difference.
This book surveys the breadth of mankind’s postmodern malaise, which is achieved through a discussion of the major challenges, social and psychological, which every individual faces in the effort to live fully in the twenty-first century. These challenges lay in broadly familiar domains: self- and group-consciousness; common man and his place in a future society in which mental activity dominates; work and leisure; knowledge and values accruing from it, both for self and others; possibilities in education; civilization, with its “Dark Age” phenomena and its dreams of progress; the role of the past in contemporary life; and power, both in society and within the sovereign individual who, though bound by physical and intellectual limits, functions as a seeker after the freedom and self-fulfillment which are so wholly integral to the human condition. And finally a serious question: What fate awaits the perpetual non-conformist, whose views, however unwelcome in his own time and in a contemporary environment, may in fact anticipate future living conditions?
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