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Black Box

Black Box

Amaris Jensen is a regular 17 year old college girl when she gets the earth-shattering news of her father’s tragic death. Ever since the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Amaris’s father was all she had. Now she’s sent to live her life with her cousin Sandon, who is a lab scientist and a self-defense trainer for 7 other girls at Amaris’s new school. Amaris eventually grows close to them and starts to find her when she begins uncovering strange secrets about the girls and her cousin. Amaris finds herself pulled into a vortex of myths, magic, precious stones, secrets and danger.

What starts off simple and straightforward, quickly escalates to a new and exciting level in the first few chapters. Her father’s sudden death due to a sickness Amaris never knew about, shatters her idea of normalcy and routine. She is then forced to live with an estranged cousin Sandon, who Amaris expects the worst of, but the new father figure in her life takes her by surprise.

Sandon and Amaris’s relationship develops and grows effortlessly. You can really feel Amaris’s pain and longing for normalcy, and when things start to go awry you are just as confused as she is. Which makes the mystery, and the big reveal, so much better. For Sandon, Amaris is much more than a cousin, she is like a daughter. Amaris struggles with leaving her old life behind, but she finds friends in unlikely people. I really appreciated that, while the novel was easy to read, I never really knew what was coming. The protagonist’s strength of character and depth of thoughts is very well portrayed by the author and the range of moods that Amaris wanders through is deftly characterized. This is a highly emotional novel. Amaris goes from crisis to mystery and back all the while trying to cope with the loss of her family. Emotion can be a hard thing to capture in novels, but Casey Hansen does a fantastic job of showing not telling. A few editorial errors exist but they are easy to overlook when all you want is to find out what happens next.

Black Box is a clever title for this thriller novel from Casey J. Hansen and perfectly suits the mood and unexpected ending of the story. This is not a Scooby-Doo mystery; their are layers here that you must peel back slowly. When Amaris finds out that there were initially 10 girls to begin with and now 3 of them have mysteriously disappeared, just like her mother, the book really finds legs and you’re carried along for a thrilling ride. The number of ways in which Amaris’s world crumbles throughout the story is something well worth reading. This thriller is exciting, addictive and is highly recommended.

Pages: 225 | ASIN: B01MQGCJ4J

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A Higher Calling

A Higher Calling: Laura's Tale (Sam and Laura's Story Book 2)

A Higher Calling is volume 2 in the Sam and Laura’s Story novels that follow the life of Sam and Laura. With William gone, Laura has taken over her father’s estate and Sam has stepped into the role of father figure to the children with a potential romance blossoming in the horizon. However Sam’s reputation follows him into his new life and even though he’s retired from his gun wearing, law fulfilling days, his new life is threatened as the opportunity for revenge comes knocking on the door. Will he risk compromising his new life for the taste of revenge for the ghosts of his past?

A Higher Calling, written by Kwen D. Griffeth, is a beautifully written novel that is filled with charm and a dash of action and romance. This novel takes us to Missouri where Sam is learning the ropes of being a farmer, surrogate father and a well-presented man. However, remnants of his old life filter through to Sam’s present and he finds himself mingling with people from the past. People who only knew him as the strong-willed and fierce man who struck fear into the hearts of those who were caught on the wrong side of the law will be surprised at the transformation that Sam has begun to undertake. Conflicting personas lead the people close to him to wonder, is he Sam Cardiff or is he still swept up in the world of Sam Moses?

There are innocent romances weaved throughout the story as William (William and Laura’s son) meets a beautiful girl, Opal with glistening hair that shines in the sun. The relationships are built from family ties right through to lovers and long-time friends. The progression of the relationship between Sam and William was one of the highlights of A Higher Calling as you watched them learn, grow and develop themselves into a father-son style bond.

The beginning of the novel felt a little slow at times however I soon realized it was important in the development of the characters. When an evil, twisted being knocks on Laura’s door, everything begins to change with Sam being forced to question himself and the new life that he has chosen. This is where the book begins to pick up speed and rides away into a story line that will keep you hooked until the very end.

I admire Griffeth’s ability to convey dialogue between characters that can be passionate and emotional and at times tugged at the heartstrings. The raw emotion could be felt from the character Laura as she processes emotions ranging from yearning to anger and good ole fashion love. You could feel her voice through the pages and I could effortlessly imagine her pain, her lust and even her fear. Even though the scenes at times were passionate, Kwen Griffeth keeps the story line always at a high level of class and sophistication.

I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a heartfelt and action filled novel. Will Sam fit into his new role as the rancher who raises horses and cattle or will he be drawn back into the world of guns and western criminals?

Pages: 250 | ASIN: B00LJH6J6M

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Black Inked Pearl: A Girl’s Quest

Black Inked Pearl: A Girl's Quest

An epic tale spun from erratic thoughts placed into text and delivered to the world. That is the sense that readers will get from Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan. Our protagonist, Kate, is searching for something. She is on a journey through years and lifetimes as she seeks out this piece that is required to complete her. We see this world through her eyes, her thoughts and her experiences. The tale is epic not only in page count, but in content as well. We know that Kate has lost something, that she is searching for this thing, but we don’t know exactly what it is. We are left with speculation and can only turn the next page to find out if she has achieved her goal. With songs, poetry and influences of dreams long past, this tale is one that is begging to be heard.

The way this book is written, with its dream-like prose and fractured sentences, allows this epic fantasy novel to be told in a stream of consciousness style of writing. The thoughts are thrown at the reader: fast and unforgiving. At first glance, the reader may think that our protagonist, Kate, has simply gone mad and the first chapters are from her point of view. However, the entire book reads that way and, if you are not paying close attention, you may get lost. Readers are quickly taken from scene to scene and thought to thought with barely a lull. Perfect for readers who like to be fully engaged in a story.

The words are very beautiful. The poetry both original and borrowed lends a mystical air to the story. If you view the entire book as a sort of waking-dream, it begins to make sense. This writing style is wonderful for conveying emotions and we can get a better sense of how Kate is feeling as she continues her search. The blending of a warped reality with a warped sense of fantasy lends well to the thought of this being a dream-like state that Kate has found herself in.

A whirlwind of a read is what you’ll find between the covers of Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan. The mystical sense of the book is intriguing. This is a book recommended to be finished in one sitting as you may find it hard to pull away. The dream-like madness that seems to grip the pages make for an exciting read, but this can also be overwhelming. This may be a book suited to seasoned readers who are looking for a dreamlike story of epic proportions.

Pages: 286 | ASIN: B0158VRF26

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A Sinister Combination of Joy and Pain

Alex C. Vick Author Interview

Alex C. Vick Author Interview

Breaking Magic takes place in a world where people are genetically engineered for jobs and no one is able to question their function in society. What was your goal when you started and how did it change as you were writing?

This question is interesting, because I’m not really a plotter. The details of each story tend to evolve as I’m writing, and in the case of Breaking Magic, things changed a lot. What the villain did to recreate the world of Imbera according to his own evil design was more complicated than I originally expected. It allowed me to be quite creative in terms of my protagonist’s journey. My goal was to show that everyone has unlimited potential – no matter what society tells them, or the obstacles they face. That did not change, but the story behind it certainly did!

The story follows Callax, one of the workers, as he struggles to overcome his predetermined life and learns more about the world. What was your inspiration for his character?

Callax is the storyteller, and he shares what he learns and the emotions he is feeling without much of a filter! He gets scared sometimes and he says the wrong thing as often as he says the right thing, but he’s brave and determined too. I wanted Cal to be someone the reader could relate to and care about.

In Breaking Magic the Opta are the ruling class and the Exta are the workers. What themes did you use to develop these two contrasting groups?

The overriding theme is the importance of hope, even in the face of the impossible odds that the Exta are facing. The Opta needed to appear invincible, so their leader, the Breaker, is an intelligent antagonist. The Exta are not allowed to grow up, they are engineered to be only fragments of their potential selves, and his magic uses a sinister combination of joy and pain to disorient them. Yet they never quite stop hoping, and this gives them the strength to fight.

How does this book fit into your Legacy of Androva series and what is next for Callax?

Breaking Magic was a great opportunity for me to take a minor character and bring him into the limelight in a standalone book. I expect that Cal will turn up again at some point, but for the sixth book I am writing Galen’s story. Galen is a seventeen-year-old Androvan magician from Seeking Magic, the third book in the series, who abandoned his world two thousand years ago for love of a Terran girl. I plan to return to the core series in the seventh book!

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Breaking Magic (The Legacy of Androva #5)

Callax is fifteen, and he already knows he won’t ever grow old. Twelve years after leaving the childstation he will be summoned to the Gathering, where life essences are taken by a deadly, irresistible spell. On his world, this is one of the many ways in which the Exta serve the Opta. His best hope is to avoid an early binding by staying out of trouble.

But in protecting his younger brother Benedar, he was noticed by the Breaker, the evil magician in charge of the Gathering. The closer Callax gets to the ruling house and the girl who lives there, the more he learns, and the greater the danger. A danger he might not understand until it is too late. Callax thinks the Breaker’s defeat will save him, but he is wrong.

Additional information: Although Breaking Magic is part of the Legacy of Androva series, it can also be read independently. If you have read Controlling Magic and want to know more about Imbera, Breaking Magic is Cal’s story. The book retells part of Controlling Magic from Cal’s point of view. Recommended for lower young adult.

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A World of Wonder

A World of Wonder by [Ford, Brent A., Hazlehurst, Lucy McCullough]

A World of Wonder by Brent A. Ford and Lucy McCullough Hazlehurst is an educational combination of photographs and poetry, designed to be enjoyed by parents and children together. Giving the latter an interest in the world and to act as a starting point for appreciating its wonders. It consists of 41 high-quality, color images of nature and natural phenomena across the globe, each paired with a relevant, short poem – some newly written for the book, and some classics. The interactive copy has links to further information related to each photo.

The first thing that struck me was the quality of the photos, which are expertly-framed, beautiful shots of a range of animals, scenery, and weather across the globe, as well as views from beyond the upper atmosphere. As an adult, I still wonder at many of them, so it must be magical for a child. They evoke multiple emotions – some are dramatic, some cute, some calm – but all are of a suitable nature for young children, as should be expected.

The accompanying poems are apt for the stated age range of 3-8, and grade level K-2; they’re short, accessible and fun to read aloud. Some are humorous, while many are more instructive about the habits of animals or natural processes. They match well with the photos, and explore different aspects of life on Earth.

The combined variety of photos and poems are ideal for promoting conversation of all kinds between parents and children; it’s easy to tell that the authors have experience in education. Not just parents, but teachers could certainly get a lot of use out of this book, too.

It’s not particularly long, and because it’s designed to be picked up and put down, it seems perfect for different attention spans and available periods of time. It could be used at bedtime, or for car journeys.

The amazing choice of photographs enables you to revisit this book many times, so parents can ask different questions to highlight different points and to introduce more complex ideas as their child grows. This flexibility of use would is a huge draw for parents. It would be ideal for guessing games – trying to remember the photo from the poem, or even the poem from the photo. Budding artists could get some great inspiration from it, and it could be a very useful starting point for crafting projects or for guided research about animal habits and habitat.

I appreciate the authors’ aims and the work that they have put into the book in order to achieve them. A World of Wonder truly delivers on the wonder that it promises.

Pages: 88 | ASIN: B072LJWBSZ

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False Gods

False Gods (The Sentinel, #2)

False Gods is a classic tale of angels and demons with a modern twist. Following his adoptive father’s untimely death, young Cormac is inducted as the Seventh Sentinel. Under archangel Michael’s celestial watch, Cormac acquires a team of quick witted, and often-times humorous, powerful beings. Sworn to protect mankind and his loyal sentinels from the ever-impending threat of demons and evil forces, he is thrust into the steep learning curve of what it means to serve his Lord. Cormac must now confront not only his worst nightmares, but the missing pieces of his past as well.

In the first few pages of False Gods, I felt much like what I imagine Cormac did in his first few days as the Seventh Sentinel; confused and unprepared. It felt as if I had been dropped into the halfway point of a dense novel. At first, it drove me crazy. I couldn’t keep characters straight, and between the jumble of formal language and modern day jargon it took me a while to surmise this was taking place in present day. Not to mention Cormac and his team are traipsing all over the globe to the point where I had to drag out a map. Albeit, I started to enjoy the confusion. As small pieces came into focus I quickly became fully invested in Cormac’s journey.

Cormac, young and freshly out of being sworn in as the Seventh Sentinel, quickly realizes that his life is now filled with danger at every turn. He acquires a team of powerful individuals, each with their own strengths. The reader watches as Cormac stumbles through his first few weeks of this new position under the watch of mighty angels. Like any hero’s journey, he is given a quest, one that will lead Cormac and his team all over the world in search of artifacts.  That is, unless demons get to them first.

This book was so poignant and filled with emotion that it left me wanting a bit more at times. False Gods is on the razor’s of emotional drama and a non-stop celestial action with faint notes of romance and intimacy.

The writing is skillfully crafted around Cormac and he comes to life right in front of you, his disposition immediately so infectious in a way that makes you wish you could be one of his paladins. The loyalty of his team and his emotional confrontation with his past grips you harder with each page. The quiet and intimate moments between characters, such as Noelle and Connor, or Cormac and Rachel, are visceral and evocative. Cormac’s team of gifted paladins are a bit hard to keep straight, the descriptions come to light very quickly in the beginning and are easily lost as the story becomes more involved. However, their personalities start to differ, and by the time the book comes to a close I found myself touched by each individual’s support for their Seventh Sentinel and clinging to Cormac’s unwavering determination.

Pages: 312 | ASIN: B01B7FMFDG

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Rage and Desperation

mari.reiza Author Interview

mari.reiza Author Interview

Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?

This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.

Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?

On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.

On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.

I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?

Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.

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

Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Physical: The catastrophe of desire“A book about female desire.

In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…

Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”

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Fathering the Fatherless

Fathering The Fatherless by [Johnson, Todd]3 Stars

In a charming, short, non-fiction tale we read about the struggles one man has had in terms of understanding and becoming a father. Fathering the Fatherless is written by Todd Johnson who tells us his experience growing up in a fatherless home. He recounts how this impacted his life and shaped the decisions he has made. It is clear that this is a topic that has affected Johnson greatly as he attempts to convey how his life was damaged by not having a father present in his life. Johnson shares statistics regarding fatherless homes and lays out the potential damage that can be done with such a significant absence. Johnson details how he found God and in that Father he was able to come to understand what it truly means to lead and care for children.

The book is a short read and is written very earnestly. Johnson speaks from his personal point of view and lays out his argument that fatherless homes are becoming an epidemic in the United States of America. This is an issue he strongly believes in and he uses quotes from the scripture to remind readers what a father should truly be like. By sharing intimate details of his life Johnson creates a connection with his readers. We learn about his struggles, his poor decisions and the choices he has made in order to better himself. Johnson grew up in a fatherless home and almost inflicted that same pain on his own children. He details how finding God helped him see the potential he was wasting. It is clear that this is Johnson’s mission: his purpose is to enlighten others of their misguided ways and show them a path towards true fatherhood. All he wishes for is a world where children are cared for and loved by their emotionally and physically present mothers and fathers.

While the basis of this book is endearing, the execution needs work. A multitude of spelling mistakes break up poor grammar and fractured sentences. At times it can be difficult to follow what the author is trying to get across to his readers. Statistics are used to support certain points of view, however they’re not referenced properly, which makes it difficult to separate the statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and the statistics provided by other sources. This book would greatly benefit from an editor and proofreader. It has a specific point it wishes to share with others, but that gets lost in the poor execution of writing and style.

If you are looking for an endearing, non-fiction read about how fatherlessness has been affecting children in the world, then Fathering the Fatherless by Todd Johnson is a short and sweet read. By seeing past the short-comings the reader can see how much care Johnson has put in to crafting his tale that reads more like an academic paper. At the end of the book there is a delightful interactive section that can help readers identify what fatherlessness is and how it can be addressed. There’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Pages: 60 | ASIN: B06XGHGDT7

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This Human Emotion

Jeanette Gray Author Interview

Jeanette Gray Author Interview

Kiss Billie for Me is a true story based on the trials and tribulations of William Edward Pedder “Billie”, and a secret he took to his grave. Why was this an important book for you to write?

This book was very important for me to write because after my father passed away and I found a box full of letters, I had so many questions that would have stayed unanswered. I had to find out the truth about my grandmother and clear up all the questions and rumours. As it turns out, the book really took on a life of it’s own and is really a lesson about post natal depression and healing from the past.

Kiss Billie for Me focuses on topics such as mental health, family and the importance of understanding the stigma surrounding postnatal depression. What is something you hope readers take away from your story?

I hope that readers can take away the importance of getting treatment for any type of mental health. Not only that but also being aware of mental illness in ourselves and others is a step in the right direction. The past is the past but I think we can all learn and grow form it and become better people.

What kind of research did you do to ensure the story was as accurate as possible?

My research was extensive. In fact, this book took 14 years to write. Most of the information I gathered was from Ancestry, and Government files which I researched and purchased. I also received some of the information from my father before he died and my mother who is still living, not to mention my own memoirs. So everything in this book is either knowledge gained from printed material or straight from someone who knows.

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

My next book will be a self help book delving into the emotion – Grief. I have been through many different aspects of this human emotion and can speak or write about it with a degree of experience and from the heart. The plans for this book are in the first stages, I would say it should be available by next year – it won’t take 14 years anyway!

Author Links: Website

Kiss Billie for Me Xxx: A True Story“In 1929, Betty Trainer, a beautiful, twenty-year-old woman immigrated to Australia from Scotland. Brave and ready for the unknown, she embarked on a new life, including getting married and having two children. But challenges developed, and soon she dealt with an abusive husband and postnatal depression, a tragic mix that led her to kill one of her sons and attempt to kill the other.”

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Paradoxical: What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

Paradoxical: What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married4 Stars

Paradoxical: What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married, by Richard Homawoo, is a book that is summed up by the title. The author gives the exact tools and techniques that anyone, who is hoping for an honest authentic relationship, can use. Homawoo goes chapter by chapter unpacking his title and gives the readers easy morsels of information to digest, while also sharing his experience and knowledge of marriage and relationships. He covers the whole spectrum from knowing “yourself” to knowing what works within a relationship. He does this while still maintaining a very conversational tone, unpacking any jargon or other complicated terminology as it comes up. Overall, it comes across as an accessible book for anyone with passing interest in love.

What struck me first with this book, is how upfront Homawoo is with himself and why he chose to write on this topic. Love is often a complicated and complex thing to understand, especially in the context of marriage, yet here he has managed to simplify it enough to contain it within 200 pages. His writing is very clear and his roadmap is easy to follow as he goes from topic to topic.

Being recently married, I found some of the subject matter rather self-explanatory, if not obvious, but then Homawoo clearly aims to give this book to those who have yet to fall in love and experience it. His approaches to the various topics of compatibility and working with your partner are practical without any hiding the often “messy” reality. He maintains a very honest tone, especially with describing how love can feel at the outset, but also after the “honeymoon” phase as well. Love is no picnic!

Despite Homawoo’s own admittance that he is a shareologist not a therapist or counselor, I appreciated his incorporation of other writers and thinkers, such as Freud and Socrates. If nothing else these earlier thinkers help engage those readers, who may be seeking supplemental reading and could pursue those writers after reading Homawoo’s. It was one feeling I did receive from reading this book, which is that it felt like an introduction. He does mean this book for young couples and those just beginning to understand the often “paradoxical” nature of love and what that entails.

The best piece of advice, for even a seasoned “lover”, was his tips for managing certain aspects of the relationship. These aspects include stress, decision, and conflict management. I believe I’d heard of such things in the past, but Homawoo is able to explain them in a succinct and linked way that makes it part of a greater whole. I would say that most of this is connected to a greater whole, because it is love after all.

I’d recommend this book for high schoolers and college students, especially those in serious relationships. It would even be a good read for those of us in long term relationships, because it is always nice to have a reminder.

Pages: 226 | ASIN: B01NBJ68R9

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