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Strong Is…

Strong Is . . . by [Pulliam, April B.]

What is strong? According to Merriam-Webster, strong is not mild or weak. But what exactly does that mean? To determine if someone or something is strong you need to look at it in context and compare it to other things that are similar. Strong Is… by April Pulliam and illustrated by Amy Grantham looks at the situation through the eyes of a child. The child is relaying all the ways they have heard the word strong used to describe people and things. Each situation gives a new view on what makes something strong or not. As you go through the book you encounter funny images like a stinky dog or a hungry lion, but then it starts to focus more on people and the images become more serious; a hospital, a distraught mother. It all leads up to the end with a picture of a small child. While the book never says cancer in the story line, it is implied with the imagery and by reading up on the author’s page at the end.

This is a challenging subject and this book is a great way to introduce a young child to what might be going on. Learning that it’s okay and even when you’re little you can be strong in your own way. I think this is a great book for siblings or even a child that may be going through this to read and gain some confidence. It’s an emotional topic that is handled with dignity and simplified for young readers. I recommend this book to anyone that knows someone going through an illness and trying to explain it to a young child.

Pages: 15 | ASIN: B07NKH1FNC

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Books are Pure Magic

AJ Wootton Author Interview

AJ Wootton Author Interview

Gardening with Guns: A Memoir details the road you traveled from childhood to adulthood. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I have wanted to be a writer since reading my first novel as a child. To me books are pure magic. As my life unfolded it became more and more clear to me that my path was quite different from the norm. I felt that others would find my story interesting and that some who had experienced similar obstacles would draw inspiration from knowing they are not alone.

I appreciated how you didn’t shy away from the dark times in your life and shared them along with the good. What were some important memories you wanted to capture?

My childhood home. I have only fond memories of that house, our yard, and our garden – in spite of the negative things that happened there. I also wanted to capture my beloved grandparents. I often attribute my perseverance to them and their unguarded love for my brothers and me. It was also very important for me to capture the trauma I experienced surrounding my father’s death. In a way it is a tribute to him.

Looking back on you life after you’ve written a memoir, is there anything that you see differently?

If I could sum it up, I would say that all of the fearful and awful memories that loomed large in the back of my mind were greatly diminished and their effect on me neutralized.

I found this book to be ultimately uplifting. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Just that! I wanted very much to tell the good and bad and to show that you can overcome. The keys are self-reflection, honesty, forgiveness and love. Oh, and one more important one – courage! It takes courage to face your fears, but the rewards are immense!

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Gardening with Guns: A Memoir by [Wootton, AJ]

In the prime of her life, AJ seemingly has it all – a successful career, three thriving children and a marriage that spans two decades. Her hard-fought, adult life beams bright and in sharp contrast to the dark, gun-wielding, serial-parent changing, and starkly silent world she grew up in.

On the heels of her father’s sudden and tragic death, AJ finds herself questioning the life she has so carefully architected. Estranged from her mother, she seeks comfort in the revival of her relationship with her two brothers, all that remain of her childhood nucleus. The three siblings find themselves in a sad, yet familiar place as they bond in the midst of their loss, and relive together similar times from the turbulent and siloed childhood they shared.

In the months following her father’s funeral, AJ’s reminiscences compel her to see her current circumstances through a fresh lens. Concerns that her husband is leading a secret life turn from suspicion to fact as the void in their relationship widens, creating a troubling likeness between her marriage and the dysfunctional relationships she witnessed as a child. She struggles with the decision to honor her intuition and end her failing marriage, but the consequences of divorce still loom ominously in her memory. She realizes that she can no longer deny her buried past, nor its implications on her current situation.

This is a fascinating true story of one woman’s journey to overcome childhood trauma, and to listen to the inner voice that she has been ignoring for years. Written as a novel, her memoir traverses past and present, all the while painting vivid pictures of both her childhood and adult worlds, the similarities of which have become too numerous to ignore.

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Their Ultimate Degree

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

Pushing Madness brings your Lisen of Solsta series to a close. The series took many years to write. Was this an emotional book for you to write?

I was so focused on finishing the damn thing that I didn’t have a chance to get emotional. Writing it in concert with the previous book (Breaking Worlds) meant I wrote 200K words before I could call it done in first draft. So when I came back to Pushing Madness after publishing Breaking Worlds, it felt both new and old to me. On the other hand, there’s this which I wrote in the “About the Author” section for Blooded, book 3 in the series. “The other thing I’d accomplished [on completing the first trilogy], though I hadn’t set it as a goal, was to show a hero saying ‘let’s not fight; let’s find another way to work it out,’ thus ending a war before it got beyond its first day.” This time out with book 6, Lisen couldn’t end the war the easy way. The easy way had led to dire consequences, and those consequences played out to their ultimate degree in Pushing Madness. I saw only one way to end it–a sad and unfortunate way to end it–so I did it. But unlike the feelings ending Blooded brought out, I felt relief, relief that I could get up and walk away. It was long past time, and I was grateful.

Who were some important people in your life that helped you write this book and series?

Well, there was my canary in the mine, Daniella, who never failed to ask the precisely right, simple question when I would orally outline what was coming next to her. She was the only person I shared the raw thought process with, and she, in turn, gave me valuable feedback–questions like “how does Nalin feel about that?” when I was contemplating a story I never ended up telling. Simple question, story-devastating answer. I also turned to friends for encouragement when I fell into the abyss of I’ll-never-get-this-right. One friend constantly points out, “You’ll figure out,” and that has become a bit of a joke between us. Because it’s true; I always do figure it out. Also the writers in the workshop I attend weekly have done nothing but support me and question every possible misstep. I highly recommend a critique group to anyone who wants to write. You can never fool your peers, and if they’re gentle the way the writers in my group are, they are a true blessing. A friend I met on line and who lives on another continent offers her best to any of my endeavors. And finally my sister, who writes better than I do and offers critique and love for free.

We finally get to see what happens to Rinli and Lisen. Was this planned all along or did things change as you were writing the series?

Lisen’s journey always stretched out to at least the moment Rinli comes of age, but it was a very different story with a very different ending. As I’ve said before, Breaking Worlds and Pushing Madness were written together in response to the question “what does a world broken by Mantar’s Child look like?” 200K words later, I had the answer. But that answer did not come easily. There were many starts and stops along the way. In particular, Rinli’s motivation of the people of Thristas was tricky and required several retakes before it flew properly. I usually write with a beginning and an end in mind, and I thought I knew the ending when I started writing the first draft of the two books, but it changed several times. Lin-Manual Miranda’s words from Hamilton come to mind: “Who lives, Who dies, Who tells your story?” I may have been telling the story, but for a long time I didn’t know who lived and who died.

Will this be the end of the Lisen of Solsta world? Are you moving on to other works or do you think you will revisit this world again?

It’s the end. For now. I may go back to it one day if I live long enough. In the meantime, I’ve published a paranormal romance called Soul Doubt: A Rock-and-Roll Faust, set in the 60s, which pits a young musician and his lady against evil incarnate. And I’m working on a new YA fantasy series, working title Into the Forsaken Forest, with a young female hero who has issues with her mother. I’m enjoying building a brand new world although I’d forgotten how hard it is. Like childbirth, you forget the pain once the child is born, but the labor pains of totally new characters, totally new world and totally new plot and subplots can be excruciating. (I’m kidding/not kidding.)

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Pushing Madness (Lisen of Solsta Book 6) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]Return for one last visit to Garla and Thristas where the Thristans follow an untried leader of sixteen into war. Where a spouse and a daughter must each withhold their plans from the man whose thoughts could betray them. Where a girl of twelve may rise up to meet the challenge of trying to save her mother. Where magic sometimes exacts a price that could prove to be deadly.

Pushing Madness brings Lisen of Solsta’s saga to a close with battles waged in both Garla and Thristas using weapons of war and the defenses of the mind. Lisen’s daughter Rinli has vowed to “break the world,” and the havoc that ensues as she endeavors to fulfill that promise could obliterate the peace Lisen instituted sixteen years earlier with the Treaty of the One-Day War. Only one opportunity remains to avoid destruction, and it all rests in the hands of a twelve-year-out girl.

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Unstoppable: Challenge Accepted

Unstoppable: Challenge Accepted by [Bogale, Tariku]

Life is not meant to be a straight and smooth road. It is always inspiring to meet someone who has survived the obstacles from travelling a long and bumpy road. Tariku Bogale is one such person. He is not shy about letting the reader into his world, about letting the reader see the great, the bad, and the downright dirt. He is honest and transparent. His narration of his life is colored with moments that should be embarrassing but in retrospect are quite significant to the man he is today.

Unstoppable: Challenge Accepted chronicles the life of Tariku Bogale. He talks about his life as an abandoned child all the way to the glamorous city of New York. He talks about his journey from a self-reliant 8 year old with barely enough to get by to a global business mogul renting high end New York residences. He talks about his roots. They are quite weak to begin with but they become stronger as he grows up. His resolve is seen from an early age when he brings his mother to live with him regardless of his father’s wishes. He faces and survives heartbreak before the age of fifteen. It does set him back a little bit. A fact he is not afraid to disclose but he gets up and dusts himself off anyway. As he says, there were angels at every point of his life. The kindness of strangers has helped him a great deal. It is admirable that he has chosen to credit them where necessary.

This story is wonderfully told. The author is looking to show the struggles he has been through on his journey to the man he is today. It is well written. It is thrilling and interesting. Often, we look at successful people as super humans but this story confirms that they are mere mortals just like us. They make mistakes and bow to urges just like us. It renews the reader’s courage and motivation.

The author has a proper grasp of the English language. He understands the nuance of storytelling and applies it quite effectively in this book. This story is captivating and vivid. However, there seems to be large chunks of the story missing, chunks that would have contributed to the value of the story. The book could use a brush over from an editor. However, that does not quite take away from the inspiring quality of the story. It is still a great story.

Tariku Bogale is an inspiring man. He tells this book in a semi-casual way. One will probably be able to take more out of it than if it was told in a formal demeanor. The author’s life story would make a good movie. Very dramatic. But then, what is to be expected considering the meaning of his name.

Pages: 234 | ASIN: B074HGR6LD

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Be Unstoppable: No Excuses

Life would not be as vibrant without the curve balls it likes to throw at us. You know you are definitely going to face challenges but there is no way of knowing the challenges you are going to face or even when those challenges will show up. The only thing to do is to charge forward. To be ready for whatever comes. To know that falling is inevitable but will be meaningless if you do not get up and keep going. To be unstoppable without using the said challenges as excuses to slack off.

The author of this book has lived a very eventful life. A life colored with challenges and triumphs in almost equal measure. The story of his life is told in his first book Unstoppable: Challenge Accepted. He has followed it up with the gem Be Unstoppable: No Excuses. The second book talks about success and hurdles on the path. He talks about time, courage, sacrifice, forgiveness, and hope. All factors that could make the difference between one who tries, fails then remains a failure and one who tries, fails then tries again.

Some of the most valuable tidbits is the part about being decisive and acting quickly. This balances quite well with the risk bit. The author also talks about confidence and mental strength. All these are aspects of the journey to success. A change in the perception in these factors could make all the difference. I found this book to be both enlightening and uplifting.

This book gives advice in a way that leaves the reader feeling energized to work harder as opposed to drained of all hope. The writing is clear and affirmative. It is well thought out and sober. The author has done a good job of outlining his points in a sensible manner. A way that seems chronological. It is engaging and captures your attention right from the beginning and delivers a profound yet sensible message without entangling you in a web of complicated thoughts.

I think this is a great book to read for people who are in business. They will learn how to stay ahead of the curve by enhancing the most valuable asset they have: themselves. For people looking to go into entrepreneurship. They will learn to be strong and unstoppable ahead of time instead of just gaining strength once they have hit the tides. It is a great book for people starting out in their careers. Tariku Bogale is a great believer in education and his passion shines through this book.

Pages: 104 | ASIN: B078866Y19

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I am Still a Rose: In Spite of it All

I am Still a Rose: In Spite of it All by [Barbee, Tonya]

Tonya Barbee’s memoir, I am Still a Rose, details the struggle of a modern woman to find stability and true love for herself and her ever growing family. This book is Tonya’s version of events of her childhood, tumultuous love life and her change of heart. She has written this aiming to promote a healthy understanding and level of accountability for bad relationships and to educate women, young and old, about the dangers of unhealthy partnerships.

The book is refreshing to read. It’s a text about relationship struggle that does not place all of the blame on the male perpetrator or plead for sympathy from the readers. It is actually written in a very matter-of-fact and frank tone. Even when there are episodes with heightened emotion, which often occur in life, they certainly seem to have been written with a clear head.

One of the most prominent themes is the importance of family and motherhood. Tonya seems to rate her confidence in her weddings based on how many of her family turn up, and she is always grateful for the help her family, particularly her mother, provides in times of need – when she cannot rely on her current husband. Throughout her adult life she always does her best to provide for her children and stresses the importance of financial stability, which she did not have when she was growing up. Even when she suffers periods of illness and relationship breakdown, she still goes to work and earns a living for her family. She choses each man believing they will be beneficial for her children, as well as herself, always wanting to complete her family.

Due to her hard-working attitude, she represents female empowerment. She is the only constant parent in her children’s lives, despite her efforts. None of the fathers come to visit the children so she has to be both mom and dad. She even makes sacrifices for children that aren’t hers – as she wants her children to know their siblings. Whatever trouble comes her way she always bounces back, ready to conquer the next hurdle. Throughout her many relationships and responsibilities, she continues to climb the ladder at work and gain qualifications.

Tonya clearly explains that she takes responsibility for not listening to her gut instincts and the mistakes she has made and works to overcome them. Admitting this takes guts, and to admit it publicly and open yourself up to the world in writing takes bravery and pride. She uses her life experience with the view to educate women and to encourage them to listen to their own and their family’s instincts. She wants women to trust themselves enough to make bold decisions and to go it alone if they have to, because she knows they are more than capable.

She might not have had the fairy tale ending like she wanted, but did end up with a great sense of pride and independence and a very strong bond with her children and family.

Pages: 159 | ASIN: B07DSTYFWR

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The Ghetto Blues

The Ghetto Blues by [Brooks, Tammy Campbell ]

The Ghetto Blues by Tammy Campbell Brooks unexpectedly won my heart. The book’s full title is The Ghetto Blues – An Autobiography of Tammy Campbell Brooks’ Trepidation, Tragedy, and Triumph, and it follows the life of Tammy from childhood through adulthood. In the opening pages of the prologue, Tammy’s daughter writes, “In this book, you will go through different stages of emotions from tears, laughter, happiness, and joy of growing up in poverty and impoverished environments, but not letting the circumstances define you.” As I began the book, I was skeptical that I would experience all these emotions, but as I concluded the final chapter, “Bells Will Be Ringing,” I found that Tammy’s daughter had been entirely right all along.

Typically, authors are referred to by their last names in reviews, but after reading Tammy’s story, I feel it only right to call her by her first name. Tammy’s story was incredibly challenging for me to read at the beginning because it is so disparate from my own experience in suburban America. Growing up in the projects of San Antonio, Tammy had an upbringing that is almost unbelievable for most readers – gunshots, emotional and physical abuse, poverty, extreme hunger – but she avoids writing about her experiences in such a way as to say, oh woe is me! Completely the opposite, Tammy describes herself as driven and dedicated. Even though she experiences setbacks and succumbs to vices that will have readers wanting to call her up and say, what were you thinking?!, she does not let her weaknesses or mistakes define her, and she is always striving for the best out of herself.

Tammy’s autobiography is written in an almost spoken format, and not at all how Strunk & White might have preferred. While the typos and grammatical errors irritated me at the beginning on the book, I came to realize that if it had been written like Faulkner, for example, it would not have truly been Tammy’s autobiography. Her story is edgy and uncomfortable, and sometimes painful to read. It is the opposite of polished, but it is honest and eye-opening. That said, the book would have benefitted from some additional editing to correct some of the simple spelling errors and word usage errors. Those glaring errors are the only reason I would give the story four stars instead of five, because Tammy’s story is undeniably a full five stars.

Describing Tammy to someone who hasn’t read her autobiography feels almost as if she must be fictional: how could one woman overcome all those challenges thrown at her? Not only is Tammy an inspiration, but she was also eye-opening to me. I knew nothing of the ghetto lifestyle in the projects that she describes, and her story reiterates the age-old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” At the conclusion of her autobiography, my overwhelming emotion was one of thinking that Tammy’s story would be amazing to share through radio or podcast. The courage and strength that it took Tammy to share her and her family’s story with readers should not be underestimated, and I hope that many readers have the opportunity to learn from her experiences.

Pages: 257 | ASIN: B07BFKCQZ9

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Dare to Be the Change

Dare to Be the Change by [Metoyer, Annella]

Dare to Be the Change, written by Annella Metoyer, tells the story of Annella’s life and how she overcame adversities to be the change she wished to see in the world. Annella faces a world of segregation and judgement based on the color of her skin, but is determined to push through the racism and have people see her for who she truly is. This begins a world of firsts for Annella, from being the first colored cheerleader to the first woman of color to work in her local bank. Her life journey will inspire, and enlighten you as you learn what it takes to make a difference in the world.

Growing up in a small town of Louisiana, Annella lives in a time where racism was prevalent in the community. With society segregating everyone into two groups of “colored” and “white”, Annella struggles with her identity. This segregation continues throughout all of her schooling years; however, it was several teachers and adults in her life that showed her that she didn’t need to accept the injustice and inequality that society expected her to endure.

I admired the relationship Annella had with her parents and in particular the strength and support her father showed her throughout her life. Rather than allowing racism to control their lives, he would take a stance and voice his concerns about the unfairness of how children were treated due to the colour of their skin. He was also the instigator of her career as the first woman of color at a bank, forming the pathways of her strength and persistence for change.

Dare to Be the Change enlightens the reader with racial situations or expectations that show an unfair and unjust part of our history. Conditions such as separate school buses or being unable to enter a cafe through the front door if you were colored seem like a preposterous idea, but sadly they were the real-life situations that people had to endure every day.

Throughout the story, you can tell the author Annella Metoyer radiates a certain positivity and gratitude that I believe led her to achieve so many significant changes. There are times where she could have relished in the negativity, but instead, she talks about the positive people in her life that helped her grow and become more confident as a woman. Annella’s endurance and strength to stand up for what is right is a trait to be admired and one that we don’t often see in the world. Annella’s hard work ethic and ability to prove herself in her career is just one way she initiates change as she begins to show others that there is more to a person than the color of their skin.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for an inspirational story that will motivate you to be the change you wish to see in the world.

Pages: 91 | ASIN: B079QM5MNC

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An Incurable Optimist

Jim Cronin Author Interview

Jim Cronin Author Interview

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.

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Recusant (The Brin Archives Book 2) by [Cronin, Jim]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.

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