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Gotham Kitty

Gotham Kitty by Ann Greyson is a sci-fi novel that takes place in Tanzania. Throughout this novel readers are introduced to a lot of unique characters, but the most mysterious was the feline-human-like species that crashed on earth after escaping a threatening species called the Brozians. Helpless and not sure of how to get home, a zoologist named Allison Banes comes to her aid. While Allison is obsessed with studying the alien, those in the village around her are taunted by an evil spirit like curse that gives an ominous air to the story.

This is an enthralling science fiction story with a unique setup. I was just as intrigued as the characters were when trying to figure out what new life has entered their world. The author exceptionally weaves two plots together to create a rich and engrossing story. I was expecting a bit more of a supernatural feel to the story but, besides the extraterrestrial life, the story is fairly grounded and feels like a story focused on characters rather than wild sci-fi ideas. This helps readers build a strong connection to the characters, but I would have liked to have seen Gotham Kitty given a voice.

The story is told from constantly alternating points of views that give readers a well rounded understanding of what’s going on in the story and ensures readers know the motivations of all the characters, but I would have enjoyed staying with Allison’s point of view a bit longer as I found her character to be intriguing. It all eventually comes together in the end with a great cliffhanger. I believe adding the conflict between the villagers and the evil spirit gave this story a great twist.

Gotham Kitty is a fantastic story that feels much more like a drama rather than a straight science fiction or paranormal story. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy character driven stories with hints of supernatural and sci-fi elements that color the story rather than take it over.

Pages: 352 | ISBN: 0578705060

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The Beggar Queen

The Beggar Queen by [Kelly Evans]

The Beggar Queen by Kelly Evans is an epic rags to riches tale based on historical events. It follows the journey of historical figure, Bathilde, who was captured in 7th century England and sold as a slave to the most powerful mayor in the region known nowadays as France. Throughout the book we accompany Bathilde’s life from the terrible events of her teenage years through her ascension as queen and later retirement to a religious life. Although there are many intriguing characters throughout the story, the majority of which are also historical figures, the main focus is set on Bathilde and her development as a person.

This an enchanting but dark historical fiction story. The narrative wastes no time setting up the protagonist’s life before enslavement, instead opting for a frantic pace where we are thrown into the action right from the start. This is an emotionally heavy book from the start and instills various emotions on the reader but also serves to show Bathilde’s strength. As she quickly adapts to her new life, we see her develop some of her most important friendships, all the while showcasing her intelligence and resourcefulness to the world.

The first part of the book, though smaller in scale, is well developed, as every situation moves the plot forward and is emotionally resonant. On its second part the story takes an interesting turn and then dives into kingdom politics. While the story focuses on political affairs the protagonist becomes somewhat removed from the narrative and we get a chance to see the characters at the eye of the storm.

The Beggar Queen is an riveting historical mystery that is engaging and well written. The dialogue has a beautiful flow and feels authentic and captures the time period well. The Beggar Queen is an amazing story that ratchets up the drama for a perfectly entertaining read.

Pages: 354 | ASIN: B09BNRVZZM

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Sundays at Simone’s

Sundays at Simone's by [Thomas Bauer]

Sundays at Simone’s by Thomas Bauer is set in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas about a young man named Michael McDowell. As a young boy, his parents were killed in a car accident and he was adopted by his Aunt Madeleine. His aunt’s best friend was Sheila, an unsophisticated woman who was often down on her luck. Years later, Sheila has transformed herself into Simone, a wealthy and glamorous woman who married well. Every Sunday, Simone hosts exclusive gatherings modeled after 19th century salons, where the elite would come to enjoy art and music and discuss the issues of the day. Michael is barely making a living as a piano player at an Italian restaurant. What will happen after he is invited to Sundays at Simone’s?

Author Thomas Bauer provides readers with a refreshing character driven story that is easily enjoyable. I especially liked reading the sections of the story where Michael worked in the music department for the movie studio. It was interesting to get a glimpse into that behind the scenes aspect of making a film. I also liked learning how all the characters’ lives turned out, some succeeding and others suffering failures. The ending of the book had some unexpected elements.

The novel blends contemporary urban fantasy with sultry drama where we find an adulterous affair between Simone and Michael. She was married and he had a girlfriend that he claimed to love, but that did not ring true given his actions. I enjoyed the second half of the novel a lot more than the first half, which I think is attributed to being introduced to characters in the beginning, some of them not being likable, and afterwards seeing them evolve was much more interesting. They were all people who seemed to only care about their own interests and used others to get ahead without a thought for how their actions affected anyone else.

The story is told from the first person point of view of Michael, which gives readers a inside look at his motivations and ruminations, which provides more context for his actions, but it’s still left up to the reader to decide what was right and wrong. I was able to empathize with the characters and was emotionally involved in this riveting story.

Sundays at Simone’s is an emotional dramatic fiction story following the lives of stirring characters as they make decisions that change their life and affect the lives of others. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading light but intriguing romance novels.

Pages: 258 | ASIN: B08WRS1STV

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Night Air Descending

Night Air Descending: A Novel (The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz Book 2) by [T P Graf]

If you are looking for a book about family, faith, and healing, T.P Graf’s Night Air Descending is right up your alley. It follows the life of Jaime Cruz, a young man who managed to find love and healing in a Texas family. Together with his partner Billy, and his adopted family Bill, Betsy, and Sallie, he forges a new existence, one of joy and peace. This is quite contrary to the life he had growing up – one of pain and loneliness. He sends out letters to members of his estranged family, hoping to reunite and guide them to healing as well. While only one family member bites, this is enough to inspire hope in Jamie and his chosen family.

Throughout this intelligent and evocative book we learn about Jamie’s view on love and the beautiful relationship he has with his adopted family. The themes of family, belonging, and love reverberate throughout the narrative. Using the perspective of Jamie to tell the story, the author draws us in and makes it more relatable and memorable. It also helps that most of the events in the book are everyday occurrences that the average person can relate to.

Moreover, the characters are well developed, each having his or her own personality and desires – some surprising and some not so much. The author’s writing style is light and easy to read – there isn’t any use of wordy long-winded paragraphs. This writing style is reflective of the story, in its ability to find beauty in everyday simplicity.

I enjoyed the story, and the dialogue, but because there was so much dialogue I felt that there were phrases that were repeated often: “I said”, “He said”, and “She said”. I would have enjoyed more descriptions of scenes and character state of minds from a narrative point of view to break things up and give the dialogue some direction.

This is a beautifully written book that has a grounded and authentic feel so much that it feels like we are reading someone diary; one filled with the daily hassles, family and ranch life. However, if you are looking for something easy to read and that seamlessly blends Christian faith, love, and family, Night Air Descending could be the book for you. This is a heartwarming book that possesses author T.P. Graf’s distinct literary aesthetic. 

Pages: 222 | ASIN: B08R7PZ2FG

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Madam Vice President

Madam Vice President by [Julian Mann]

Madam Vice President by Julian Mann is an exciting story about Victoria Pierce, a very ambitious girl who flees her home in Oklahoma, escaping her strict parents, and moves to San Francisco where she enlists in the United States Marine Corps. She is very patient and determined, persevering and works her way up the ranks till she becomes the Brigadier General.

She gets into a dreaded love affair with the United States Senator Sam Eagan throughout her career development phase and they manage to keep it a rendezvous from everyone except one anonymous stalker. She goes ahead and joins politics where she befriends Grace Brandon who gets suspicious of Victoria’s past and poses a threat that could change Victoria’s future in politics when she is elected president.

Author Julian Mann bases this riveting story on real-life situations that are based on a real 25th amendment law that raised his concern. He uses his writing to connect with a larger audience and the vivid way the story is written makes it more relatable to readers. The flow of events creates suspense at the end of each chapter; this made it very hard for me to pick a place to set the book down. The story is filled with rich, believable, dialogue that feels engaging throughout this novel; which is important because this is a character focused drama.

The fact that the author has managed to write the book in an agrarian setting and still bring out women empowerment throughout the growth of Victoria’s career increases the book’s appeal (at least to me it does) and is a role model for strong female protagonists.

The friendship between Victoria and Grace would have been a good one if not for Grace’s envy which sparks curiosity, raising eyebrows that make her poke into Victoria’s past. Despite the bad decisions she made, the young Vera Ochman still fights against all odds to become successful.

Madam Vice President by Julian Mann has a seemingly endless flow of intriguing events that ratchets up the suspense in this dramatic political fiction novel. I think this novel will appeal to anyone looking for an engrossing political thriller that knows how to build compelling characters.

Pages: 297 | ASIN: B08TK9GM3H

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The Seventh Circle

The Seventh Circle by [Thomas Bauer]

The Seventh Circle by Thomas Bauer is an impassioned historical fiction novel demonstrating the human race’s inhumanity towards others. The novel is a literary gem set in the little Bavarian town of Fussen during the Third Reich (Nazi Germany), showcasing horrors endured by people due to inhumane laws. Karl, the son of an affluent business owner, is accused of homosexuality, which is illegal during this period. He is kept in a Nazi concentration camp and endures physical, emotional, and psychological trauma at his captors’ hands. Will Karl survive this horrific trial, or is he doomed forever?

In an intense and soul-wrenching manner, Thomas Bauer writes traumatic incidents that will stay with you long after you have finished reading the novel. The writing is unfeigned brutal and keeps you engrossed till the end. Some of the scenes are sexually explicit and horrific. The details unfold in a manner that makes it difficult to experience for a sensitive reader. One of the book’s beauties is the relationship between Karl and his mother, who is aware of her son’s sexuality and supports him, but this relationship isn’t explored much. Other than the phenomenal storyline, the structure of the book is also well organized. The chapters are synoptic and meaty, with no space for fluff writing or floundering. The story begins as a simple love story, but slowly turns into a sinister tale of terror, betrayal, abuse, and survival instinct.

The only issue I faced with the book was the use of uncommon and unfamiliar terms for which I had to use a dictionary. Still, it increases the writing’s authenticity, and improves my vocabulary. Bauer is unmercifully realistic and honest in his depiction of this story. His attention to detail and detailed descriptions give the reader some visceral experiences.

The book is an extraordinary tale that brings awareness to the crimes against sexual preferences and society’s discrimination, which is prevalent today. The book will interest anyone who loves reading emotionally charged historical fiction that accurately portrays the time frame. While the subject matter is depressing, it is a must-read for the present generation, unaware of the degree of historical oppression faced by the LGBTQ community.

Pages: 230 | ASIN: B08FMTTP69

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Inspiration to Endure

J.R. Alcyone
J.R. Alcyone Author Interview

The Stars That Govern Us follows a young surgeon who struggles with his own fallibility as many lives hang in the balance. What were some sources that informed this novels development?

When I was working on my first novel, Five Fathoms Beneath, I decided the main character’s father would be a heart surgeon. I ended up doing a lot of research into early pediatric congenital heart surgery as background for that character, but very little of that material actually made it into Five Fathoms Beneath. The story of the development heart-lung machine wouldn’t leave me alone, however. It was such an incredible achievement, and it had every element to make a great drama. I was surprised no one had tried to write a novel about it before.

I ended up settling on creating two fictional surgeons who are best friends (I think the term “bromance” applies to Alec and Pete), building them historically accurate backstories, and fitting them into what was happening in 1956 as realistically as I could.

Alec’s character was intriguing and I enjoyed how you developed him throughout the story. What were some ideals that guided his character development?

Alec is very much an #ownvoices character. An #ownvoices character is a character from a marginalized group who is written by a member of that group (in this case mental health). Characters with mental health issues are typically represented in media and literature as stereotypes — and harmful ones at that, such as those which equate mental illness with violence. With Alec, I hoped to force the reader to reconsider what, exactly, mental illness looks like. I drew heavily off my own experiences in dealing with generalized anxiety disorder and a mood disorder in writing Alec’s character. The thought helixes he experiences, and the crippling self-doubt he feels, are things I wrote from the heart. (Being an author with an anxiety disorder isn’t exactly easy.)

In terms of Alec’s arc in the story, many early cardiothoracic surgeons did leave the field, just as Alec seriously considers doing. These surgeries were incredibly dangerous and many, many children did not survive. For Alec, his inspiration to endure and continue on as a heart surgeon comes from his making peace with the fact that someone must do this work, as difficult and as painful as it is.

I enjoyed the medical drama in the story and found it very compelling. What research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate in your book?

I did a huge amount of research into the medical aspects of the story, to the point that I actually bought a cardiothoracic surgery textbook from the early 1960s to try to get a better understanding of the techniques. I probably read at least two dozen books and articles on everything from surgery to the heart-lung machine to some of the personalities who appear in passing.

Otherwise, this was a place where networking with other authors really paid off. My friend, Dr. Brandon Beaber, author of Resilience in the Face of Multiple Sclerosis, volunteered to read the manuscript for me. Although he is a neurologist not a heart surgeon, Dr. Beaber’s help was invaluable.

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

I’m in the planning stages of a novel set in 1962 that is positioned between my first book, Five Fathoms Beneath, and The Stars That Govern Us. It is designed to tie the two stories together. My working title is The Sweetness of Adversity.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

A gifted young surgeon. One of the 20th century’s boldest inventions. And the unconquerable, fragile, and amazing human heart. 
As one of two dozen teams worldwide performing congenital heart surgeries in the middle 1950s, Alec Serafeim and his best friend, Pete O’Neill, excel in an unforgiving field where the line between life and death is eyelash thin. But while Pete is satisfied with all they have accomplished, Alec aches to do more. Desperate to save more children, he also wishes to be remembered for something other than his mental breakdown ten years earlier.
Alec’s opportunity arrives via a chance to join the race to perform Australia’s first open-heart surgery using total cardiopulmonary bypass. Swept up in the competition, with a heart-lung machine cobbled together in the hospital basement, Alec charges ahead with surgery on a gravely ill child over Pete’s misgivings.
But the heart, for all its amazing strength, is a fragile organ. And when events conspire to shatter Alec’s heart, he is left questioning everything. With sick children’s lives hanging in the balance, as well as his career as a surgeon, he must find a way to cope with his fallibility–if he hopes to finish what he started.
Set in a fictionalized version of Perth, Western Australia in 1956, The Stars That Govern Us is a captivating, poignant, and unforgettable medical – historical novel set against the backdrop of the development of the heart-lung machine and the birth of open-heart surgery.

Carried Away

Carried Away by [A. E. Brouhard]

It’s the summer before senior year and Leila is excited to start this new phase of her life, preparing for adulthood, alongside her best friend Trin, both of them will find that love and friendship can become enemies very quickly. She’ll have to navigate the ups and downs of life and what originally started as a way to mend her broken heart proves to be a challenge to her loyalty. She’ll have to make polarizing decisions that could shake her world up.

Carried Away by A.E Brouhard is a coming of age story that shows us an intriguing life through the eyes of the main character. Carried Away is a riveting teen drama, where we are introduced to the life of Leila, following her in her daily routines, learning about her desires and getting a good glimpse into her social life. Brouhard does a fantastic job of humanizing the characters, making them each relatable and authentic. While the story may feel monotonous at times, it picks ups with the introduction of new characters and their dynamics with the protagonist livens things up. Leo, for example, we meet him very deep into the story and he shifts the narrative and brings tension between the two main characters that has to be resolved or else they’ll face consequences.

The narrative felt appropriate for a young adult audience, with simple words and a consistent delivery of dramatic events makes the pacing feel quick and makes it hard to put the book down. We are also let into Leila’s inner monologue which adds depth to her character.

Carried Away is a contemporary drama that will appeal to readers looking for a romance story that’s grounded in reality but still has passionate and believable characters. Author A.E Brouhard has written an entertaining romance novel that explores life, love, and friendship.

Pages: 232 | ASIN: B0873VHYHP

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