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Jam Sessions: Sometimes in Middle School, the best you can do is survive

Jam Sessions: Sometimes in Middle School, the best you can do is survive. by [Jerry Harwood, Myles Richardson, Timothy Sisemore]

Jam Sessions follows a middle school boy named Phillip who has to forge a new path for himself through a new school that he’s transferred to in the middle of the school year. Phillip struggles with bullies, but finds a creative outlet in Mr. Filter’s class where he starts the day with a writing prompt that sends Phillips imagination soaring. Now, if only he could apply that creativity and passion in his real life.

Jerry Harwood has created a cast of characters that are both easy to dislike and easy to empathize with. Chuck and his friends are easily unlikable and I loved Ashley, Daniel and Jaylan. I really liked all the teachers too, especially the language arts and P.E. teachers. I did feel like Phillips mom should have played a bigger part in the story, but it didn’t hurt the story in any way. From the first time we meet Chuck I thought that he was just a pain in the butt kid who likes to be a bully and embarrass people. Chuck and his gang of hooligans didn’t really evolve much but that honestly worked for the story because they continue to be the fundamental antagonists.

Jerry Harwood does a great job detailing what a panic/anxiety attack feels like, I could almost feel and see Phillip having his attacks. It was great that he found a way to cope with his attacks. Even at the beginning when the author is describing Phillip and his mom running away from home, everything is perfectly detailed. When Phillip is standing in the back of the room on the first day of school, you could feel him praying that he is invisible and then realizing that he really had been during that class because not one person had cared about him being there or noticed his presence. It was sort of sad.

The story flowed easily and was well written. I enjoyed the small cartoon characters at the beginning of each chapter and I liked how short the chapters were. I read the book in one sitting, because it was an enjoyable read and I loved that Phillip was able to turn things around which gave the book a feel good ending.

Pages: 214 | ASIN: B0868XNSH9

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Solomon Levi MacKeefer: A Gypsy with a Very Great Heart

Born into a Gypsy band, Solly’s early years are marked by tricks and misdeeds. However, he reaches a turning point and chooses to lead a better life. Now an adult, he’s bent on giving his wife and daughter a good life but tragedy strikes twice. With Solly all alone in a small town, he devotes himself to building a relationship with the youth and encouraging them to turn a new leaf. His service to his community ends in one final heroic act that comes at great cost. But this act coupled with all that Solly had taught the youth would go on to change the town of Bensons Corner forever.

Gordon Planedin’s Solomon Levi Mackeefer is a short story with a big impact. The language is simple and clear and the writing speeds you along a thought-provoking journey.

Set in North America, the book focuses on some of society’s most pressing issues. The central theme answers the question: “how do we make our world whole again?” Planedin suggests we look to the younger generation. Our only option is to help this group see the essence of life and hope that with a few exemplary adults inspiring them, they can gradually change the world.

The book’s relevant messages and the events Planedin used to deliver them kept me fairly engaged. For a short story, Solly’s character development was something that advanced quickly while remaining intricate and deep.

While I found the continuity a bit off in some areas, I don’t think this should affect your understanding of the plot. Solomon Levi Mackeefer is a small book you can get through in about thirty minutes, but the story will stay with you well after you have closed the book.

Pages: 60 | ASIN: B07GF6NK2H

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Someone To Kiss My Scars

Someone To Kiss My Scars: A Thriller by [Brooke Skipstone]

Someone to Kiss My Scars by Brooke Skipstone defies standard categorization as it is a wonderful amalgam of coming of age, mystery, science fiction, and love story. I would say it is suitable for mature teens, and add that I, as an adult reader, thoroughly enjoyed Someone to Kiss My Scars and never felt it was juvenile while reading it. In fact, the introduction from Skipstone made me a little bit nervous – did I want to read about sexual abuse, depression, and suicide, given that 2020 has already been a challenging year? But, as Skipstone poignantly says, the novel not should be read by “anyone who desires to remain in the dark despite being in a position to shine light.” Having loved and lost family members and friends to depression, I felt incredibly moved by Skipstone’s goal in creating this deeply thoughtful novel, and am so glad I continued reading Someone to Kiss My Scars.

The novel centers on teenage Hunter Williams, who recently moved to rural Alaska, and his only friend in town, Jazz. Mysteriously, Hunter cannot seem to remember much of his life before he and his father moved to Alaska a year ago. He’s been told his mother and brother died in an accident, but everything is blurry to him, with haunting memories coming in sporadic glimpses. Hunter is a voracious writer, though, with a seemingly supernatural ability to write incredibly detailed stories that, impossibly, seem to recreate the memories of those around him. As Hunter and Jazz begin to understand more about his special writing ability and how it impacts those around him, they are faced with a decision: should they share his power and use it for good or is it better to keep it a secret?

Someone to Kiss My Scars is incredibly hard to read at times because of its heavy subject matter, but I found the hardship to be eye-opening and beautiful. The pains that Skipstone describes felt unfathomable to me, but I know that the experiences described have happened to many people, and, as Skipstone cites, abuse, depression, and trauma are exceedingly common in Alaska. I was engrossed fully in the plot and raced through the chapters, often staying up late to find out what happened next.

I was not expecting to love Someone to Kiss My Scars as much as I did, and I am thankful for Skipstone for her work in creating this novel. It is highly unusual to read a book and feel like the book has changed you for the better, but that is how I felt after reading it. Someone to Kiss My Scars opened my worldview to the experiences not only of those living in rural Alaska, but also to the pains of depression and abuse which are prevalent but rarely discussed. I would highly recommend this novel to any reader, and assure you that even though the subject matter is heavy, the novel is ultimately one of hope and forgiveness that will encourage you to believe in the good in the world.

Pages: 316 | ASIN: B07X4JLY22

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It Can Be You

Nikki Haase Author Interview
Nikki Haase Author Interview

Broken Melody follows Sunshine as she struggles with addiction while avoiding a dealer she owes a lot of money to. This is a change from your normal SciFi books, what inspired the change in genre?

I actually wrote this book originally when I was struggling with addiction myself. It was the first full-length novel I really took seriously, but I just didn’t publish it. I wasn’t ready yet. It was one of the few stories that my best friend Casey was actually intrigued by. The smiley face you see in the dedication page was one that she drew on the original many years ago after she ‘stole’ it from me. I re-wrote it when I got sober as a sort of therapy and after some heart wrenching events, to honor her. I only wish that I would’ve done it sooner.

I might revisit topics like this, but in different ways. The rawness of this took a lot out of me.

How much of this book was informed by real life and how much was fiction?

There’s a bit that’s embellished, but a lot of it is real. I pulled a lot, if not all, of Alana’s cocaine addiction and undiagnosed mental illness struggles from my own, first-hand experiences. However, a lot of the more ‘hardcore’ stuff, like owing the biggest drug dealer in town a bunch of money, is fiction.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about addiction?

That only ‘bad’ people can become addicted to drugs. That it’s only a certain group of people that can fall victim to it. It can be anyone. It can be you. You probably love someone who is suffering from addiction and don’t even know it. So, reach out to your friends, let them know you’ll support them, and tell them you love them.

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

I’m actually going back to my roots. 🙂 I’m working on the Experiment X Prequel, which is told from Jack’s POV. I don’t have a date yet though…sorry.
Broken Melody was a way to heal old wounds and hopefully help people understand addiction and mental illness without any fluff.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | GoodReads | Instagram | Website

I think a demon lives in me. Her name is Sunshine and she wants the numbing chemicals of cocaine. She craves the sweet, disgusting taste of heroin and the sharp flavors of crystal meth. We’re often told that drug addicts are lowly humans that drop out of school, can’t hold down a job, and they always come from a life of abuse and pain. I have friends who love me, parents who care about me, and a beautiful girlfriend who I adore. I was a straight-A student in high school. I was at the top of my class. I’ve been getting high since I was a kid to self-medicate mood swings that feel like whiplash on a good day. And I’ve messed up. Big time. Now, I owe the biggest dealer in town thousands of dollars! If he finds me, I’m dead. I can’t get the money and I can only hide out for so long. I have to get sober so I can get my head straight and figure this out. All I need is one more hit.

Trauma and Tragedy

Janine Ellis-Fynn
Janine Ellis-Fynn Author Interview

Your characters were all well developed and interesting. Who was your favorite character to write for?

My favourite character was Diane as I can identify most with her having suffered some of the same traumatic events in my own life.

What were some themes you felt were important to capture in this story?

I wanted to write a book that many women from all walks of life could identify with. I have suffered much trauma and tragedy in my life so each character I have developed is modelled on my own experiences.

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

My next book is called ‘When the Sparrow Weeps’ and will be available towards the end of 2021.

Author Links: GoodReads| Twitter | Facebook | Blog

Five women are carrying dark secrets and wrestling with crippling heartbreak. Overwhelmed by the demons chasing them they are all drawn together through a women’s support group, ‘Apples of Gold.’ Here they find the help and comfort they are longing for.But one night, in the blink of an eye their lives are shaken to the core through one random act of blind fury. As the women wait to find out the consequences, they are drawn together through strong bonds of friendship and camaraderie.As each woman confronts her inner turmoil, hearts are healed, souls are soothed and lives are changed forever. The women make peace with their Creator and finally find the freedom that has eluded them most of their lives.

As the Daisies Bloom: A Novel

T. P Graf’s As The Daisies Bloom is as enchanting as it is charming. The story is intimately and poetically told. Like a well-written symphony, it has a rhythm and magnetism that is undeniable. It is especially hard not to fall in love with the main character, August.

While it is a work of fiction, this novel gives a heartfelt account of August’s life that is so touching, so authentic, and for lack of a better word so human. It is clear that this character was so thoroughly thought out, his experiences so beautifully brought to life.

Although the book starts with a chance encounter between August and a young family just freshly arrived in town, it ends in an interweaving of lives that we never see coming. The author also does well explaining the details of August’s life before this chance meeting and how the past has spilled into the present in interesting ways.

The fact that this book is written in August’s own voice, even with the accent and all, gives it an authenticity reminiscent of a memoir. What is more captivating though is that the author has managed to use this man’s seemingly simple life to draw attention to serious societal issues.

By easing us into topics like racism, sexism, faith, patriotism, and homophobia, he has personalized them, given them faces, invoking empathy and deep introspection. With neither insults nor judgment, he has made me think deeply about what it means to be human, to love, and to be loved.

Apart from the use of descriptive and almost poetic language, I also love that the author took his time to fully develop the characters in this book. Even though they are described as seen through August’s eyes, I could clearly picture each character. And not just physically, but who they are as a person.

It was clear what each one stood for and what was most important to them; something difficult to fit into 184 pages. Unexpectedly I found myself laughing with the characters and mourning with them, their struggles seeming so real to me somehow.

Pages: 193 | ASIN: B08CMPHL28

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Broken Melody

Broken Melody by [Nikki Haase]

Broken Melody is a contemporary fiction novel that follows the life of Alana, alias Sunshine, and her assorted friends. Nikki Haase drew motivation for writing this book from Casey Clayton, her friend’s journey of addiction, recovery and death. The book is a voice for those struggling with drug addiction, depression and other mental illnesses. Alana was the perfect daughter and student, acing her grades and making her parents proud. But deep down she was fighting monsters that only she knew of.

Nikki Haase has an enthralling way of introducing fascinating characters to readers. This book is an invitation into the mind and life of a young person struggling with addiction. It is heart-wrenching to see the potential in a person slowly chipped away at.

The main theme of the book is drug addiction. Nikki Haase has captured the struggles and raw emotions that most addicts grapple with, and I appreciated the unfiltered view we’re given. Alana’s journey is a sad one, although not a completely lonely one as she has her friends like Skylar and Xavier and her girlfriend Casey. The prose captures the voice of new adult angst and gives the characters an authenticity that makes them endearing and their stories all the more tragic. I think that by the second or third chapter I was interested in Alana’s character, by the mid point I wanted to know more, and by the end I was desperate to know more. Will she survive her addiction? Will her friends stick with her throughout the process? Will Casey love her beside all her inner demons?

The author shows the importance of friendships and speaking out when going through hard times in life. The story seemed too real to be cliché and the author has done a good job of incorporating supporting themes like mental illness, love and friendship. Nikki Haase has a unique way of bringing out serious issues through humor. The other unique thing about Broken Melody is that the author shows the other side of addiction, one that most people do not know about. For instance at the end of the book, readers are introduced to the other side of Rabbit. Throughout the book, Rabbit is known to be a hardcore drug dealer but he does something at the end that surprised me. I would recommend the book to fiction lovers, people struggling with substance abuse and those living with addicts.

Pages: 302 | ASIN: B08B2Q5YDP

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Stockboy Nation

Phillip Doherty is a 40 something year old writer living with his long-term girlfriend Melissa in California. After publishing two books, the first one being a success and the second one the opposite. He is left with the feeling that his career is going nowhere and he has no steady job.

His girlfriend Melissa, tired of her jobless boyfriend and their financial status; encourages Philip to find a job. After many twists and turns, Philip decides to make a big change in his life and sets himself on a path of exploration into new romantic relationships and professional possibilities, discovering that life might be more complicated than expected.

Stockboy Nation is a contemporary fiction novel revolving around Philip, his romantic aspirations and his concerns about his professional and personal life. It’s a levelheaded look at what it means to be satisfied with your life. Phillip’s life, muted by failure, has potential to go in some interesting directions, and the novel does well to make these elements of choice and possibility stand out as characters of their own.

Thomas Duffy’s intriguing novel takes place between New York and San Diego and unfolds in what feels like a natural pace. Told from a third person perspective, it mainly presents Phillip’s outlook and shifting sometimes to other main character’s point of view, which was a nice change of perspective, but the star of the show remains Phillip.

Dialog is a big part of the narration and make up a significant percentage of the story. I felt that Duffy dialog feels like a natural interaction between the characters. Sort of an Aaron Sorkin level of intrigue, without the speed, and Stephen King’s depth, without the horror. I like the insightful atmosphere the book brings and I enjoyed the story’s pace however sometimes the dialog slowed the pace a bit.

The plot itself is relatable, because it comprises common issues that we all face throughout our lives, the kind of dilemmas adults encounter when decisions such as marriage, love and career goals are at stake. In addition, it tackles a very specific and current worldwide topic that any reader will relate too.

Phillips character went through a heft amount of changes and I enjoyed watching him evolve, but I would have also like to see that same shift in the other characters in the book. However, the main character’s personality is very well defined which made it easy to picture the story and get into the atmosphere.

The climax of the story was short and almost unnoticeable, it was nothing too dramatic, it felt like a story you hear from your friends over drinks, which can be good. I would recommend this book to people looking for a light reading experience or someone who is eager to have an introspective moment.

Pages: 228 | ASIN: B08B1BRTTX

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