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The Journal

The Journal by [Stevens, R. D.]

The Journal, by R.D. Stevens, is the story of a young man’s search for his older sister after she goes missing in Cambodia and the police have given up looking for her. As he navigates an unknown country without any real plans, he realizes his trip isn’t just about finding answers to questions about what happened to his sister, it’s also about finding answers to questions he has about life. In his travels throughout Southeast Asia, as he meets people along the way who help to uncover the events of his sister’s life, he learns to challenge what he thinks he is capable of and to see the world in a different way. In the end, he learns a lesson about what is really important in life.

I thought this story was captivating and that Stevens did a great job of pulling the reader in through a relatable narrative. The narrator shares his thoughts, feelings, and fears with the reader in a way that seems real, relatable, and honest. The regular use of aphorisms in the story is a unique way to not only give the reader some food for thought, but also to help the reader understand the characters better and to get insight into what they are thinking. The way the author plays with time, switching between the current story line and the events of the past, helps to keep the reader’s interest and to slowly develop the characters and their personal histories in an interesting manner.

Although the book itself was compelling, I don’t feel like the title is. It’s vague, nondescript, and, in my opinion, doesn’t really capture what the story was about. In addition, although I found the plot to be well conceived, it bothered me that everything seemed to be a bit too perfect in some parts, a bit too coincidental in the way everything seemed to work out. I felt that the conclusion felt rushed. After taking so much care to build up the characters, the ending came in a few quick paragraphs that didn’t do justice to the complexity of the characters.

That being said, I really enjoyed the book. Although I think there is some room for improvement, the overall quality of the writing was exceptional and the story was engaging.

Pages: 253 | ASIN:  B078C7SH7N

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Discover the Compassion

Kaylin McFarren Author Interview

Kaylin McFarren Author Interview

High Flying follows stunt pilot Skylar when she’s flung back in time and has a chance to investigate her origins. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?

I have always loved time travel stories and have been intrigued by the idea of changing our personal history if given the chance. Our parents have a great deal to do with who we are as individuals but sometimes we don’t understand them and knowing about their past lives become a true education and door to our future. In addition, my father worked for United Airlines for years and I remember sitting on his shoulders, watching planes take off from the tarmac at LAX. I’ve had the opportunity to virtually fly around the world and the idea of bringing my passions together seemed perfectly natural.

Skylar is a well developed and endearing character. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in her character?

I wanted to creating a troubled young woman who was damaged by the choices her parents made and negatively impacted by the people she’s lost in her life. By being forced to experience her parents’ lives first-hand, she has the opportunity to grow, let go her anger and self hatred, and ultimately discover the compassion she holds inside.

Skylar is orphaned when she was young and she tries to reconcile that throughout the book. What were some driving ideals that were important for you to explore?

I initially wanted to make readers aware of the thought process behind cutting—a troubling behavior that was introduced to me by a dear friend. It is more common that people would like to admit or believe and is becoming a common practice among young girls in our society. Bullying and isolation often leads to this method of dealing with anxiety, as well as physical or mental abuse. Skylar finds her release through martial arts and eventually flying. Her struggles with overcoming the neglect she’s known is what makes her a stronger person and a more endearing character in this story.

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

I’m currently working on a sci-fi thriller that involves reincarnation and stolen souls. So I guess I’m pushing myself to try genres outside of my comfort level, which has been great fun thus far. I typically write one book a year, so I would watch for this one in 2020!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

HIGH FLYING by [McFarren, Kaylin]

Skylar Haines has struggled with personal demons most of her life, going to dark extremes to subdue anxieties rooted in her tragic past. On a perpetual hunt for the next adrenaline hit, she discovers a passion for flying and becomes a hard-edged stunt pilot, verging on obsession. In the sky, following her most daring airshow, she encounters a mysterious storm and almost collides with another aircraft, sending her into a perilous dive. Guided by a mysterious voice, she manages a safe landing but finds herself transported to another time.

Eight months before she was born. One week before her father was murdered.

Though baffled by her circumstances, Skylar soon arrives at a single certainty: Before her lies a remarkable chance to change her family’s destiny drastically for the better — or possibly even worse — depending on the choices she makes, before her window of opportunity closes.

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My Own Voyage of Discovery

Robert Campbell Author Interview

Robert Campbell Author Interview

Mandarin Ducks continues to follow Li in 1630’s China as he continues to learn about his heritage and seeks to marry but is thwarted by politics between families. What were some themes you wanted to carry over from the first book and what were some new themes you wanted to explore?

The continuous thread throughout the whole series is Li Bing’s progress through the career trajectory of civil service scholar/administrators. At the same time, I want to provide readers with a glimpse into various aspects of Chinese culture and everyday life. The various subplots are meant to punctuate the contrast between the ideal and the real.

As with the first book, I found this story to be both educational and entertaining. Was it your intention to write stories this way or did this happen organically while writing?

I definitely set out to provide both education and entertainment in the series. In a sense, I’m documenting my own voyage of discovery, as I learn about the history and culture of a country about which outsiders know very little, and which is often misrepresented in Western depictions.

You stated in a previous interview that you taught and traveled through China. What were some of your stand out moments from your time in the country?

You are continually confronted by the contrast between the old and the new. One minute you can be standing in ruins that are thousands of years old and the next minute you can be traveling 300 km/hr on a high speed train. Another interesting aspect is the way in which the people reflect the unitary identity of being Chinese, while at the same time strongly identifying with the culture, food, language, and traditions of their own region or ethnic group. There are many Chinas within China.

This is book two in your Kaifeng Chronicles. Where does book three, Grand Canal, pick up?

Book three takes place on the Grand Canal, as Li Bing travels north to Beijing to write the metropolitan examinations.

Author Links: Website | Twitter

In late autumn 1630, Li Bing prepares to depart for Beijing to write the metropolitan examinations. Before he goes, he learns more about his heritage from his maternal grandfather and hopes to marry his childhood sweetheart Xiaoyun. However, political intrigue between his father and hers has the potential to derail more than just his marriage.

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Scooter Nation

Scooter Nation (Unapologetic Lives Series Book 2) by [Funkhauser, A.B.]

Scooter and Carla have to deal with lots of drama and backstabbing behind the scenes. They face off with Jocasta Binns. On the other hand, there is also a scooter bound gang led by a silver haired goon wreaking havoc on the gardens in the most contemptuous way. The Funeral Service is saddled with tension between the ‘siblings’.

The author has weaved quite the hilarious tale set in a funeral service establishment. The story highlights the inner workings of managing such an establishment which, it turns out, is like any other family business. The story is so vividly narrated that the reader cannot help but join the world.

The plot is well developed and fast paced and the characters are multi-dimensional. This makes it easy for the reader to visualize them and get acquainted. It is particularly interesting how Jocasta is introduced to the reader. She is introduced with her crackling fingers and her scandalous origin. She is not fazed by her old age and remains stoic and a force to be reckoned with. The Jocastrator can withstand anything and anyone. She inspires the kind of admiration that is mixed with fear. Then there is Scooter, who seems very sweet and charming. He is like the sunshine that peeks through the curtains in the morning. Then Charlie, the poor old man who has been turned into a mere informant for the brothers. Every character has a backstory and their uniqueness shines through regardless of their role in the story. This is one of the biggest strengths of this book.

Scooter Nation contains all the elements of a great novel. Thoughts and ideas flow seamlessly while moments of laugh out loud humor keep you engaged in a story that is surprising at every page turn.

This is a book I can see myself reading again because the characters, incontinent though some may be, make you want too keep coming back. It has managed to surpass expectations which were already high from the first installment in the series. A perfect book for a good chuckle.

Pages: 196 | ASIN:  B07RQ92W83

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Underground: Revelations – Trailer

The war the world feared finally came except this was a different kind of war. One fought between the living and the dead. The living lost.

Liam, a former soldier in the war against the dead, had done everything he could to hold back the enemy but in the end he joined the other survivors in the only safe place left— underground.

Now Liam helps keep the last of the living safe in the subway tunnels, scavenging food by day, hiding by night, all the while haunted about how they lost the world above them. He always believed the dead had help but he could never prove it.

He would soon learn he was right all along and that there is no safe place to hide from extinction—underground just might turn out to be everyones tomb after all.

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The Optical Lasso: Beware of Neptune’s Dark Side

The Optical Lasso: Beware of Neptune's Dark Side by [Corwin, Marc]

Commander James Cody disappeared into a wormhole created by his own invention 100 years ago and is currently only a fable. This is all unbeknownst to him. He shares a cell with a creature so perfect she might as well have been conjured up in his head. She is the leader of a fierce group of fighting women. With mutual mistrust between them, can they come together to make it out alive?

The author has woven a delightfully strange and completely engrossing plot that bounces between James past and his present. The story evokes different kinds of emotions at different junctures which leaves the reader feeling bereft when the story comes to an end. The story pulls the reader in and goes on a whirlwind journey through different time periods as well as through Commander Cody’s mind.

The story moves quickly and efficiently. The setting is drawn so realistically, and scientific facts handled so deftly, that it’s hard to tell fact from fiction at times.

The book has a classic plot that is elevated with unrelenting wit and some lighthearted moments. The Optical Lasso is filled with shocking twists and action packed scenes colored with creative genius.

I enjoyed the characters in this book and thought they were all uniquely different yet relatable. Lt Cat is not to be messed with but she still maintains her femininity in a way that makes her character likeable. Commander James is friendly and extraordinary all at the same time. I found him to be a wholesome contradiction. Both characters were unexpected but still captivating and interesting.

This book is suitable for young adults and adults alike. It has characters the YA crowd can admire and be inspired by. They might not completely connect with the interactions but they will for sure love the plot and Marc’s imagination. The adults can relate to the characters and simply enjoy the adult adventure they embark on. You’ll feel like you’re on a first name basis whit the characters by the end of this book.

Pages: 349 | ASIN: B07QFC1WZL

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Knightshade: Perdition Bleeds

King Gravynmere of Vanosia has sent some of his best soldiers to investigate strange stories in the nearby border town of Faxon. The men will soon learn there is more truth than fancy to these stories, for something walks in the fields, something with cloven hooves and fire dripping from its hands.

The king rallies his son, Prince Quinn, his entire army and all of the Kingdom of Vanosia to confront the very forces of darkness in an epic tale of adventure, magic and mystery as the veil between their world and Perdition grows thin.

Join the Prince as he battles for his land, his people and his beloved on a mission that will take him to ends of the world and back, through pain and sacrifice, war and horror as what is below claws its way to above.

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Resurrected Darkly

Resurrected Darkly (The Darkly Series Book 5) by [Smith, Tarrant]

Ena and her father are coping with multiple sudden changes in life as they have known it for centuries. They are giving up Ena’s younger siblings, and they are watching as the age-old practice of the pleasure dens are done away with. Nothing is as it should be in their world. When Ena is approached by Blodeuwedd, the matchmaking goddess, to run what she describes as a simple errand, Ena takes the opportunity. Little does she realize that agreeing to help Blodeuwedd will lead her to some of the most challenging moments of her life while opening her eyes to her true self.

Tarrant Smith jumps right into the action with Resurrected Darkly. From the first pages, the reader is swept into Ena’s world and given a myriad of clues as to her origins. Ena’s willingness to appease the goddess, Blodeuwedd, and venture into a strange castle alone make her an appealing character and one worth calling a favorite. Readers following Smith’s Darkly series will be pleased to see that Ena, in previous books, is the focus of this installment. As intriguing as her character is in the previous books, Ena endears herself to readers with the unique characteristics she possesses as both a dragon and fey.

I was excited to see Crank as the male focus in this book. I tend to gravitate toward secondary characters in novels, and Crank is one who caught my eye in previous books. His gruff demeanor and bluntness add an element of humor to Smith’s books. Crank, however, takes a dark turn in Resurrected Darkly. Readers will hurt for him as he faces a struggle beyond anything he has faced before. The guilt he bears is overwhelming and has grown into a burden that is almost more than he is able to bear.

Smith includes descriptions of “the enchanted” in her work; humans who have been taken into the fey realm to serve the fey. They seem to live simple lives, almost robotic, but their roles are quite complex. Ena, who has more of an affinity for the enchanted than most, shows actual emotion over the enchanted.

I found Resurrected Darkly to be the most engaging of the books in the series. The dynamic between Ena and Crank is simply enchanting. The impact that Ena, a hardened soul herself, has on the tormented Crank is just short of miraculous. I enjoyed watching the growth that took place between the two.

Smith brings together a multitude of characters from the first four books of her Darkly series as she heals one of her most engaging characters from an unspeakable trauma. Readers who enjoyed the first four Darkly books will be more than pleased with Smith’s fifth installment–a fantastic addition to the romantic fantasy series.

Pages:282 | ASIN: B07NMKM7CH

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Black Family Addicts

Primary Storyline: A family’s predilections treat their PTSD in delusion only. Subtextual Storyline: The extent of crutches people have to cope with life.

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Surrendered Darkly

Surrendered Darkly (The Darkly Series Book 4) by [Smith, Tarrant]

Cora, not part of the upper crust of society, is considered a low ranking fey. A handmaiden with an iron-clad memory, Cora has not forgotten Neb and the hurt he caused her in the past. Neb is as unseelie as he is unsavory in Cora’s mind, but he has other plans for the two of them–plans over which he has no control. While a romance is the furthest thing from Cora’s mind, she has no way of knowing that Neb will be the one to make plans for so very much more than a fleeting romance. Neb is about to change the course for both their lives no matter what it may take.

Tarrant Smith has added yet another colorful book to her Darkly series. Surrendered Darkly follows Cora and Neb on their journey back to one another and along a tumultuous and unlikely courtship. Cora is a strong-willed fey with a mind of her own, and Neb is determined to figure out why he feels so drawn to Cora, a woman he is convinced he should remember.

Blue, a mother figure to Cora and a goddess in her own right, is a truly interesting character. She has many layers Smith reveals throughout the book. Perhaps Blue’s most striking characteristic is her tendency to mother over Cora. As with all of Smith’s characters, I am always amazed and somewhat taken aback by their appearances in human forms. Sometimes I feel as if I am reading two different books.

Smith shows readers a little more of the reactions given by mortals. When Neb finds himself in town, readers are able to witness along with Neb the reactions of the humans around them when Neb isn’t quite in his full human form. It’s refreshing to see that the mortals around the seelie and unseelie are not totally oblivious to them. I find that adds a nice layer of believability to the fantasy being woven by Smith.

Of the Darkly books, I find this one to be the most steeped in romance though it lacks the frequent love scenes. The basis of this installment is the relationship, or lack thereof, between Neb and Cora. The entire plot centers around deep feelings taking over Neb and how he will deal with them. Cora, on the other hand, has a battle to wage within herself as she faces Neb a second time following her previous heartache. Readers who are fond of deep-seated romances will enjoy this fourth book in the series.

I am always intrigued by Smith’s abilities to write characters who are tied together emotionally and by their abilities.

From the first page, this romantic fantasy engages readers with the lives of colorful characters and explores realms via two headstrong main characters, Neb and Cora. Theirs is a story fans of romance won’t want to miss.

Pages: 266 | ASIN: B005ZWIIWK

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