Till it Stops Beating is an emotional but fun novel that follows young Maddie as she struggles with anxiety and following her heart. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this novel?
Maddie came to me when I was 15 and at a creative arts summer camp, recovering from an awful break up with my first real boyfriend. So, I created “Maddie” to help heal my broken heart. I went on to write my first novel, My Sister’s Wedding, which is a (highly) fictionalized version of that “bad romance”.
This book, TILL IT STOPS BEATING, was inspired by that same theme of heartbreak…but not only romantic heartbreak, but also the heartbreak of growing up and becoming aware that not everything lasts or is permanent and not everything can be fixed or solved.
My students, clients, and my own children and my position as a parent/teacher/therapist were major influences in shaping this novel. Specifically, my own struggle with anxiety and panic attacks were things that helped me to flesh out Maddie’s own mental health problems. It was therapeutic to write about her struggle to understand herself.
Maddie is a character that I felt I could relate to; we were all young once. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing her character?
I wanted to capture and normalize the mental health issues that tend to come up during adolescence. When I had my own bout with anxiety and agoraphobia my senior year of high school, no one talked about this and it was lonely and isolating. I feel like this book is a conversation starter about anxiety.
This novel deals with the stress and anxiety young kids feel today. What do you feel is different about the challenges teens face today that is different from your generation?
I actually feel there is only one major difference—access to information and social media—and both of those things are double-edged, meaning there are positives and negatives to them. The stats around social media use and depression in teens pretty much says it all! However, access to information about mental health has also increased the awareness and possibly save lives. There is good and there is bad.
Teens have always and will always deal with the stress and struggle of growing up, no matter if you are a boomer, Gen-X-er, millennial, or a teen today, in 2018. As a Gen-Xer with a teenage daughter, I see so many similarities in terms of the angst and feelings; she and I are able to connect on that deep level because the feelings are epic, classic, and constant!
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Though I thought TILL IT STOPS BEATING would be the last Maddie book (there are 4 in total), I have more stories to tell about Maddie’s life as she becomes an adult and navigates college and even beyond. I’ve outlined both books and am planning to pitch them to my publisher. Hopefully the first of these two will come out at the end of 2019 beginning of 2020.
Seventeen-year-old Maddie Hickman’s senior year begins with the good (the reemergence of The One That Got Away), the bad (a cancer diagnosis, not hers, but it might as well be) and the WTF (an anxiety attack that renders her writhing on the floor like an upside down crab).
Adding to her spiraling anxiety is Senior Project, in the form of I’ve Decided To Write A Book about The Other One That Got Away (And Crushed My Heart). Compounding it all is applying to college and keeping up with her friends. The ever mounting stress eventually rips her tight grip on all that she holds dear.
Her break down leads to an unexpected road trip where she is forced to listen to her wildly beating heart. It is only in the back of a convertible with pop music blasting, that she discovers she must risk everything in order to really live.
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“If your heart has ever hurt from beating wildly, whether from anxiety or love, this book is the one to read.”
This quote at the end of the book summary perfectly describes the book. This is one of those stories that is relatable and heartwarming. When I first started reading this book, I found myself swept away with the story. It is about Maddie Hickman, a girl who suffers from extreme anxiety who has found herself on a downward spiral when life becomes too much. This takes the 17-year-old on a crazy adventure in the shape of a road trip.
I immediately related to Maddie in this story because I realized I was suffering from anxiety when I was her age. I loved seeing this kind of representation in a story, dealing with both the hardships and the hope. Maddie is a strong character that must balance her anxiety with being a normal teenage girl which for her means college applications, family drama, and boys. I loved reading Maddie’s voice as she s both charming and funny. Her attention to doughnuts, in the beginning, kept me cracking smiles and added to the characters unique voice.
Author Hannah Goodman did an incredible job of capturing the voice of a teenager, which is unsurprising when I found out she is referred to as “the teenage whisperer,” due to her 20 years long career working with teenagers as a teacher, tutor, and coach. I was impressed with how she was able to tackle a difficult issue like anxiety and make a story that was funny and sweet without making light of the issue. She also treats Maddie’s problems, whether big or small, as real, not belittling them as silly teenage issues. These things come together to make an amazing story that holds an important message for teenagers and adults.
On top of the masterful rendering of a teenager with anxiety, this story also delves into the sweet world of first love. Goodman has played with the complicated and often heart-wrenching experience of love that is oh so beautiful. I very much enjoyed getting to see Maddie deal with the ups and downs of love and found her story to be heartening and sweet.
I found this to be a great summertime read and would highly recommend it, definitely 5 stars from me.
Pages: 216 | ASIN: 1684330807
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There is no relationship like the one between an owner and a pet. Each pairing is unique and has its own set of quirks and idiosyncrasies. However, there exists no bond stronger than the one between an animal and the owner when they have saved one another. That is the essence of the connection between Lily and Keisha. Lily, trying to make her way post-college and post-boyfriend, faces the heart-pounding fear and helplessness of a young woman who narrowly escapes a home invasion. On the heels of her ordeal, her snap decision to become the owner of a tiny and rambunctious ball of fur leads Lily on an string of adventures that change the course of both of their lives.
Lily Tanzer, author of Travels with the Doggie Lama, has shared her most intimate experiences with readers. These intimacies aren’t the normal ones; they revolve around the amazing connection she found with her puppy, Keisha. Their relationship goes far beyond a doting owner and a loving pup. Lily and Keisha are connected on a spiritual level, and it becomes increasingly clear throughout the book that Keisha is as much a soulmate to Lily as any human.
The author lays out, in no uncertain terms, the trials and tribulations of being a first-time dog owner. Her descriptions of the utter devastation caused by such a tiny force of a nature within the confines of a small apartment will hit home with every dog owner. Her doubts and financial fears resonate with any reader who has struggled to make ends meet while feeling the overwhelming desire to put the needs of one’s pet before his or her own.
Tanzer delicately addresses the relationship she has with her parents–another relatable element of her story. Readers are privy to Lily’s most embarrassing money struggles and her resignation when her father steps in to save the day. College graduates struggling to make their way and find ways to hide those battles from their parents will appreciate the author’s descriptions of her humiliation upon hearing from her banker father.
As a lifelong pet owner, I appreciate the way Tanzer traces the relationship between Lily and Keisha over the years and Keisha’s various reactions to the people in her life. It doesn’t take too long to begin picturing Keisha as more of a spirit than a dog. Her vibrancy and her complete dedication to Lily as she moves their two-person family across the country jumps off the page. When Lily’s life takes a turn and she finds love at last, Keisha is right there beside her to show her approval of the expanding family. And when Lily’s long-awaited pregnancy occurs, Lily’s concerns about coping with jealousy overwhelm her. There isn’t a pet owner-turned-new parent out there who won’t relate to the ride Lily takes on that emotional roller-coaster.
Tanzer’s book is well-written, easily relatable, and manages to show pet owners yet another facet of the owner-pet dynamic–one that extends beyond the closeness we all recognize and borders on the spiritual.
Pages: 366 | ASIN: B07BD2SBSH
Blindsided opens on a breezy, summery note; twelve-year-old LaTrell attends summer camp where she is thrown into a new group of friends and she wants to make a good impression. But this means defying her father and avoiding his suspicions. Soon it’s clear that she and her family are still dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s death. It shows how the family copes with the changes and react to the events following her death. The book also shows the relationships between LaTrell and her father Luis, and her nine-year-old brother Daryl.
The book is written in a simple way with a positive tone. This allows it to be aimed at families, not just young teenagers. Older children, (like Daryl) would be able to read this book with parents. The book explores a lot of difficult issues, mainly grief, but incorporates cyber-bullying and the general problem of fitting in. The positive tone encourages discussion and leaves the reader with the impression that experiencing these issues is okay.
There are questions at the end of each chapter – such as ‘What would you have done if you were in LaTrell’s shoes?’ These questions are a little unusual in a fictional book, but their purpose is evident. The questions encourage interactive reading. Older children who can read alone may use the questions to reflect on what they have read, or it may allow them to bring thoughts to their parents. For younger children, parents can raise these questions with them to encourage them to discuss their feelings.
The main theme of the book is dealing with grief and it is explored in conjunction with other childhood issues. Throughout the book the children are encouraged to discuss their feelings and any hardships with appropriate adults. This then shows the positive aspects and importance of good family relationships. LaTrell’s friendship with Peaches (who focuses on the relationship with her father) shows how friends can support positive relationships to develop within families, even at a young age and highlights the importance of childhood friends.
Through the strong bond between LaTrell and her father, the importance of mutual respect, compromise and communication is shown. For LaTrell it is important that she has freedom to make her own choices, looks cool and has a good reputation with her friends. So, it is key, that her father listens to her and though he does not always agree, he allows her to express herself in ways appropriate for her age. Through this, it highlights the importance of balance in the parent-child relationship.
Although Blindsided by Chenee’ Gilbert is a book that encourages communication and positive relationships, there is a lot of different events that occur in the book. Each of these is explored but there is room to go into a lot more detail with each one. The book has mostly positive outcomes, but we know that this is not always the case in real life – therefore if each issue was explored in more depth, then perhaps parents would be a little more prepared if their children are not as co-operative as LaTrell. Overall, I thought this was a very good book.
Pages: 206 | ASIN: B077YVWM8C
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Upon Broken Wings follows teens Andrew and Kiernan as they journey to the afterlife where they must face the dark consequences of their actions. What was the inspiration behind this emotional novel?
Reedy – Our inspiration came from the unexpected loss of a family friend many years ago. My writing of the original rough draft/screenplay was a way to work through my own shattered feelings.
Later with the help of my co-author, a/k/a my sister, we rewrote the story as the novel Upon Broken Wings. Our greatest purpose we decided together was to save a life, any life, many lives. Hence the the theme of finding hope all around us.
Wade – All stories are the same in that we have our main characters attempt to achieve a goal and at the same time, it is up to us, the authors, to throw stones at them every step of the way. Being the parent of an autistic child, I included some of my own experiences into the creation of young Andrew, and as such we threw some pretty hefty stones.
Andrew and Kiernan struggle with their own demons while also trying to support one another. What were some themes you wanted to capture with their characters?
Reedy – Finding hope in the most desperate situations, learning to trust our loved one and ourselves.
Wade – Reaching out when we feel the most alone.
I find that the best books often have parts of the author in them. Did you insert anything from your own life into this book?
Reedy – I grew up during the 70s and 80s in a Catholic family, hiding who I really was from, well, every one. So I was Kiernan.
Wade – As I mentioned earlier, through me experiences as the mother of an autistic child, I was able to define Andrew.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Reedy & Wade – We’re actually working on a three book saga, involving modern day druids, ancient deities and demons, and we are sticking with young adults who must discover who they are while saving the world. Were hoping to release the first early next year.
Bound by a dark act of hate and despair, high school freshmen, Andrew and Kiernan, learn that their untimely deaths did not bring an end to their pain, but only began the suffering of those left behind. While his lost memories return, Andrew must master seemingly impossible feats, both spiritual and physical.
As a dark spirit stalks Kiernan through the borderlands of life and death, he must also face the pain his actions have caused his loved ones. To save both their souls, Andrew must convince Kiernan to return to life and open his eyes to the love and beauty which had always been there.
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Upon Broken Wings by E.L. Reedy and A. M. Wade is not a light read, but it is a read worth your time. This dark, cathartic story is a unique meld of many genres; coming of age, gay positivity, and family all interwoven with religious flavor, life after death, angels and demons. Reedy takes us on a journey through a small, overly conservative community all the way to Purgatory in a way that makes sense. If the story has any weak points it can all be forgiven by the enthralling premise of the novel.
The story follows several boys at the verge of of adulthood; Andrew, who suffers from Aspergers, and Keenan, a brave gay boy who is coming to terms with his identity. A series of unfortunate events will lead to a gruesome assault that will require all the strength of their family and friends, dead or alive, to help them resolve.
Upon Broken Wings avoids obvious descriptions of the worst that the characters have to go through but the indication is enough to leave me seething and demanding justice. Add to it is the slow burn of sadness, loneliness and isolation that the characters feel, all the misfortune and all the lost chances add up to a dark and emotionally heavy reading experience. Reedy takes us through mud so we could feel all the anguish that made his characters behave the way they do. So when he finally, mercifully, starts to get us into a somewhat better place we feel like we earned it.
His characters are the best part of the story. They feel like real people and their motivations seem genuine, even when they are no longer among the living. And that’s a tall order with all the elements or death, gay identity and angels in it.
I felt that the dialogue was disjointed and the characters, especially young Casey, sometimes feel like intentional Mary Sues. Casey, Keenan’s brother, is a boy wise beyond his years and can also see angels. We are never given a reason for this ability. It serves the story and paints an emotional picture but I felt that it lacks depth. Similarly, Andrew’s Asperger is important for the story but we never see how it affects him in his day to day life. We are told but we are not really shown the consequences of living on a spectrum. I think this would have helped flesh out the characters.
The angels give a distinct New Age vibe. Their shallow philosophy of forgiveness and understanding along with healing crystals and other cliches works well because angels should behave like that, which gives this coming-of-age and coming-out story interesting and unexpected religious undertones. Upon Broken Wings is not a perfect story. But it is an interesting and original endeavor in this day and age that is. A rare novel, certainly worth your time.
Pages: 199 | ASIN: B07BZXWNBJ
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I really like a good mystery. The Lethal Legacy by JL Phelan was just that. I was flipping through pages as fast as I could. That is always my highest praise. The book opens with the discovery of a death on a beach in Costa Rica in 1914. The dead woman is an heir to the Mariani Cacao Company. Her name is Briana Mariani Delaney.
The story then jumps to present day to the interactions between Dr. Samantha Delaney and Karina Mariani Ortiz. They are the current heirs to the Mariani fortune. They do not know each other, but that is about to change as they try to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Mariani family. What starts as a simple curiosity to know more about family history soon becomes something else altogether.
One of the main draws for this book is its varied setting. It goes back and forth between New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Costa Rica, Geneva, Caracas, Colombia, Paris, and Bordeaux. I found the descriptions of these cities very evocative. The action also moves seamlessly between time periods from 1881 to the present. Because of the skill with which the author moves between time period and characters, the reader never gets a chance to be bored.
Briana is at the heart of the book. She marries John Delaney and has 4 children. Despite the fact that she is a woman in a time when women did not take charge, she ends up largely running the Mariani family empire. As the Mariani family goes through many trials, Briana manages to keep them mostly on track.
Somehow, along the way, the family loses the company. This is the mystery that Samantha and Karina end up trying to solve. Along with the help of Samantha’s husband, Brett, Karina’s husband, Martin, and Karina’s father, Richard, they all become immersed in trying to find out what really happened on that beach so long ago. Nothing is what it seems though. Adding to the intrigue, they find themselves being anonymously threatened as well. Cryptic notes telling them to quit digging are left for them. They find themselves facing very real dangers along the way.
The book is very well written. It flows in a smooth and logical fashion, especially for a book with so many different time periods and locations. The author does an amazing job of keeping it all lively and interesting.
The only negative thing about the book is that, very occasionally, some of the dialogue felt stilted. At times, it seemed a little too formal. That was very rare though. It was very good. Any negatives were far outweighed by the positives. The fact that I could not wait to turn the page to see what was going to happen made this book a very quick read.
The book is also the third book in a series. I had not read the first two before reading this one. Reading The Lethal Legacy had me quickly adding the first two books to my “to read” list. That said, the book reads well on its own and didn’t require reading the first two to enjoy the story.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B07C2973M1
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In your book In Search of Truth: A Course in Spiritual Psychology you provide insight into death, the afterlife and the purpose of life itself using your knowledge. Why was this an important book for you to put together?
For close to a decade my column on religion, philosophy and culture has enjoyed tremendous success. Over the years my views have changed, a refection I believe, of my own growth and inner conflicts pertaining to life, God and spirituality. The book conveys this conflict and what I refer to as, the evolution of spirit. I selected some insightful articles that are sure to evoke strong reactions in support of, and against my beliefs. Scores of articles have been left out but I do feel that this work, despite its paradoxical tenor is systemized and thematic.
Given the growing spirit of individualism in the face of excesses by the so called religious, I think the book is very timely and in many ways, a product of the cultural zeitgeist.
This book was about faith, but wasn’t directed at any one faith, and I appreciated that. Was this intentional or is this where your understanding leads?
Spirituality, religion, faith in something bigger than self, or faith in one’s own strengths, are part of our constitution. It is important for us to recognize and respect the divers opinions out there. Uniformity of thought in any discipline or pursuit, is counterproductive and an enslavement of the human spirit. More than ever, with the revolution in communication, we have a unique opportunity to learn from each other.
This is a collection of selected writings. What was the process like in selecting and putting this book together?
Great question. I could have looked at readers’ response to articles when they were first published and selected those that were most popular. I guess the result would have been an anthology or compilation of best articles based on ostensible appeal. However, I featured the most thought-provoking writings, those that buck the trend and allow for critical thinking and introspection. This is where I am at in my evolution, and I wanted to share my inner turmoil as I wrestled with life’s mysteries. At the same time, I was able to convey moments of self-assurance and the joy of self-discovery.
What do you hope readers take away from this book?
The book raises soul searching questions on so many subjects that we have grappled with since the dawn of time. What is truth? Is there an afterlife? Is suicide ever justified? Is reincarnation possible? Are there limits to human potential? I also delved into transpersonal psychology and consciousness studies…and of course, eastern spirituality. This is an eclectic offering that will definitely stir debate.
In Search of Truth: A Course in Spiritual Psychology by Glenville Ashby is an anthology of the author’s work. Ashby is a scholar in Philosophy and New Age Thought who first became involved in finding answers to the mysteries of spiritual life when his mother passed away in 1980. The culmination of his search resulted in a collection of writings with the latest, In Search of Truth, being something of a magnum opus that spans from 2003 – 2018. Ashby offers insight into a host of common questions from enlightenment and reincarnation to suicide and the hour of death, covering a plethora of topics in between, from the evil eye, to the third eye, to keeping an eye on the spiritual world (including a section on Ouija boards).
This is a fascinating collection offering something different than your usual books on spiritual psychology. It is fully accessible for those who may want to refer to it time and time again for spiritual guidance. If you are looking for an intellectual and stimulating read, with an openness to many different outcomes, look no further than In Search of Truth.
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Wyndwrayth finds Nick living in an old farmhouse overlooking a mysterious island in Wales where he becomes intrigued by its ancient and deserted mansion. What served as your inspiration whilst writing this book?
Once, when travelling, I came across this deserted, majestic old mansion house. It looked ancient, decrepit, left mouldering to sink into the landscape. It was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by overgrown trees and shrubs. It had lichens and green moulds staining its walls, ivy had invaded its broken windows which seemed to stare at me menacingly. The house had a presence, a brooding, ominous spirit that looked like it could swallow you whole. I remember thinking that it must have many stories to tell.
Having moved myself from Manchester to Wales the landscape here was also a big influence. The ancient monuments, the Norse connection and the lakes close, by inspired my research and my story grew from those influences. The Celtic connection to water and their mythology along with the Norse mythology also wove their way into my consciousness, combining with the memory of the intriguing mansion and Wyndwrayth was born.
Nick Swann is an intriguing character that I felt gained layers as the story progressed. What were some themes you wanted to capture while creating his character?
I wanted to create a male character who is childless, approaching and becoming middle aged. I wanted to explore how he became stuck in a time gone by because of the death of his wife and how he falls back on those times when he’s in trouble. The character has a deep loneliness, which creates a certain unhealthy introspection and self medication. In addition, I wanted to explore the usual problems of middle age; ill health and death of parents, changing of roles from son to carer and changing of profession. A lot of his character is established during the first book, Powderfinger, which creates his move to Wales. Nick knows he needs to shed the past and move on, to evolve. He is looking for a new place to be, a new profession, a new life. The unexpected appearance of Wendy Finch becomes an exciting turning point and I’m looking forward to seeing the long term effects it has upon him in the stories to come.
This is the second story in the Nick Swann Series. Where did you want to take this book that was different from book one?
In Powderfinger Nick is a probation officer who almost accidentally becomes embroiled in historical research into strange occurrences, which lead him unexpectedly into the world of the supernatural. His degree in History suddenly becomes of use to him and it reawakens his passion for discovery. It lifts him from his boring, hermit-like, everyday existence, bringing excitement, a sense of accomplishment and a possibility of a different future. It is this that I wanted to explore in Wyndwrayth. Here he moves from living in the past to exploring it. I wanted to establish him in this story as a professional researcher and investigator of both historical and supernatural events.
In addition I wanted to move his character forward, to becoming more pro-active in the story and to create a new partnership with Wendy Finch, to lift him from his lonely existence.
What is the next book you are working on and when will it be available?
My next Nick Swann story has the working title of Shacklady Rest and is presently in its first draft. It will team Nick and Wendy together in another dark and mysterious adventure, set in the brooding mountains of Snowdonia. I anticipate it will be ready to publish sometime next year.
This is the second horror novel in the Nick Swann series. This scary story finds Nick now living in an old stone farmhouse on the lonely and mysterious shores of Llyn Isaf, in Wales. He becomes intrigued by its mist-covered lake island, Ynys Y Niwl and its dark, ancient and long deserted mansion, Wyndwrayth.
Its moldering edifice holds many secrets and treasures, some of which draw Nick and his old friend Alan, into dangerous realms. Death stalks the island and as the dangerous spectral figures of The Millar of Souls, The Paladin and Gideon reveal themselves, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern between reality and dreams.
As the death toll rises, Nick finds himself, along with his new partner, Wendy and her Wolf, Mir embroiled in a struggle not just to maintain sanity but to stay alive.
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In Eternal Bloodlines by J.C. Brennan, Amanda Rain Holston is a young woman living a very boring life. Her parents have been dead for five years and lives completely alone. She works as a waitress and finds it hard to even get up in the morning because of her tedious existence. A point that is captured perfectly by the picture frames she has with stock images of people in them. The one thing she does that she actually enjoys is going on long walks. It is on one of these walks that she discovers a ghastly sight: a dead body in the snow. This discovery changes everything and Amanda’s life will never be the same.
The book is set in Skidway, Michigan. Amanda has spent her life in the town and expects to grow old and die there, probably from boredom. She longs to escape the confines of the small town. The only good thing she has there is her best friend, Jessica.
The paranormal plot of this book has promise. It starts as a standard tale of a fantasy come true but with some quirky additions that turn this piece into a unique supernatural thriller. It definitely gets interesting when Amanda meets Mihnea. They bond immediately and their love story is sweet. The story loses me a bit with the attempts at making the dialogue fit a different time. It does not always work, and sometimes seems stilted, but it’s saved by the intriguing relationship that develops between Amanda and Mihnea.
I really enjoyed this book, but I found that there were some editing mistakes, to the point where I was a bit distracted; having to go back and reread some sections to make sure I understood them correctly. The book did pick up toward the end. The story became so interesting that I was able to overlook the mistakes a bit more easily. In my opinion, all the book needs is a good editor and I’ll be begging for more. I wanted so badly to focus on the unique and suspenseful story, because under the typos is a fresh take on the vampire genre, one that puts its methodically developed characters into a deadly and captivating world.
Pages: 177 | ASIN: B075G1GK4F
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