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A Different Kind of Curiosity

Michael Pronko Author Interview

Michael Pronko Author Interview

The Moving Blade follows detective Hiroshi as he navigates street level politics to solve the murder of an American diplomat. What was the direction that you wanted to take book two in the series that was different from book one?

The direction I wanted to take it is not the direction it ended up going. So, I headed more into the characters, who became more and more interesting. I focused on the roiling tumble of conflicts inside them, and what that might reflect of social, political and historical conflicts outside. I think that’s similar to book one, but because the characters are embedded into a larger framework of political pressures and international relations, their actions resonate differently. The canvas is broader in this second book, and I go deeper into Tokyo, to see the background of the characters and their choices, good and bad.

I enjoyed the mix of interesting characters throughout the novel. Who was your favorite character to write for?

I like all of them. Well, I don’t like the bad guys, but I like hating them. My favorites were maybe the bookstore owner twins and the radical leftist. They were fun to write and to put in scenes together, the twins steady and demure and the leftist stridently angry. Sakaguchi, the ex-sumo wrestler, is always fun to write for. He has this core set of values that is rock solid Japanese. When he explodes, he really explodes. And of course, Hiroshi developed and grew as a person and as a detective, in perhaps meandering ways, but human ways. The women characters are great to write for, too, as they pull the story in their direction.

It quickly unfolds that the missing manuscript was the driving factor behind the diplomat’s death. How do you balance storytelling with mystery and action to ensure readers are engaged to the very last page?

Among all the different types of mysteries, whodunnits, whydunnits, I-dunnits, I didn’t-do-its, I tend towards the why. Maybe because I was a philosophy major? Not-knowing who creates a different kind of curiosity than not-knowing why. Withholding certain pieces of information is essential. As Alfred Hitchcock pointed out, if you know there’s a bomb under the table, but the characters don’t…well, that’s suspense. And if you don’t know why the bomb is under the table in the first place, it’s really intriguing. As jazz musicians often say, and I think Mozart said it originally, the music is not in the notes, but in the silence between. I think writing should be aware of what’s not spoken, what’s not known. The unknowns make you lean in and pay attention.

Where will book three in the Detective Hiroshi series take readers? 

Book three is called Tokyo Traffic. The story revolves around a young Thai girl who gets lost in Tokyo, after running away from some horrible people. She is rescued by a young Japanese woman who lives in an internet café and plays in a rock band. Most of the story takes place in the nighttime youth hangouts in Shibuya and Shimokitazawa, another side of Tokyo. The detectives are the same, though Hiroshi has moved in with his college girlfriend and Takamatsu is off suspension. It goes deeper into the characters and deeper into Tokyo.

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The Moving Blade by [Pronko, Michael]

When the top American diplomat in Tokyo, Bernard Mattson, is killed, he leaves more than a lifetime of successful Japan-American negotiations. He leaves a missing manuscript, boxes of research, a lost keynote speech and a tangled web of relations.

When his alluring daughter, Jamie, returns from America wanting answers, finding only threats, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is dragged from the safe confines of his office into the street-level realities of Pacific Rim politics.

With help from ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, Hiroshi searches for the killer from back alley bars to government offices, through anti-nuke protests to military conspiracies. When two more bodies turn up, Hiroshi must choose between desire and duty, violence or procedure, before the killer silences his next victim.

THE MOVING BLADE is the second in the Tokyo-based Detective Hiroshi series by award-winning author Michael Pronko.

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All This Craziness Around Him

Sal Nudo Author Interview

Sal Nudo Author Interview

The Newspaperman is an intriguing horror novel that follows Seth as he encounters a newspaperman selling newspapers with bizarre stories. What was the inspiration for the newspaperman and the stories he sells?

The story stemmed from this vision I had of a swarthy-looking, rough-around-the-edges guy—Cedrick, the Newspaperman—who’s trying to be an enthusiastic gentleman but isn’t fooling the main character of the story, Seth Kesler. I liked the idea of such a guy replacing the wholesome image we’ve all seen of the young boy from the 1930s selling newspapers on the corner, so I put Cedrick in Depression-era clothing and let him go to town in the year 2016. That whole image I had of Cedrick on the street corner kind of got the story off and running. In the beginning, the stories in the C-U Journal are legitimate, but they quickly devolve into total garbage, and poor Seth is the only one who can see that. It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I wrote the first draft of The Newspaperman in one month in December of 2016, not long after graduating with a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I don’t work as a journalist for a living, but at the time I had all this fresh journalism knowledge, and I needed a new project since I wasn’t in school anymore. So the ideas I had for The Newspaperman just came pouring out. It was fun to write.

This is an entertaining story that is high in social commentary. What were some themes you wanted to focus on when writing this book?

Thank you very much. Obviously I was looking to highlight the sordid fake news we’ve all seen, which has become more prevalent in recent years. Some of those fake stories are very well written, so it can be hard to tell what’s what, especially if you don’t read news from legitimate sources that often. I love the character Meghan, Seth’s wife, in The Newspaperman because she’s such a perfect foil to her husband. He’s almost this journalistic snob while Meghan represents the American masses who mindlessly scroll through their phones all day and night looking at useless junk. She’s clueless in some ways but also lovable. Many things are exaggerated in this book to make a point, so readers should go into the story knowing that.

Beyond the issue of fake news, I wanted to write a book that highlighted the importance of journalism to society in general in a non-political way. On subsequent rewrites after the first draft, I really made an effort to do that. I love the portion of the book where readers get to read Seth’s impassioned letter about why good journalism is crucial, and also the part when he and Meghan are in bed and Seth is explaining why he’s on such a crusade to save journalism. Poor Meghan is crying because she loves Seth and doesn’t want him to step in to any danger, but he plows ahead anyway.

Seth is an interesting character that continued to develop as the story progressed. Did you plan his character progression or did it develop organically?

Thanks. I’d have to say the progression of Seth’s character grew organically as I wrote the story and he grew as he faced these issues. I knew from the get-go that Seth was going to be the one sane guy in this story who could rationally see what was going on, and as he was bumping up against these strange characters and observing all this craziness around him, as you said, his character evolved.

Some people have told me they found Seth’s personality to be rather passive considering all the madness around him, but when I read the book and see the things Seth was trying to do, I don’t view him as passive in the least. In my opinion he was trying hard to change what was around him, all the while in disbelief about what was happening.

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

This past summer I wrote a 10,000-word story called The Millionaire’s Gift, which is a sequel to a novel I wrote called The Millionaire’s Cross. It’s supposed to be published in an upcoming anthology, and I’m not sure at this point if I’m at liberty to say who the publisher is. But I hope it comes out and it gets some exposure and people read it.

I had another idea for a novel and was thinking of writing it this November in the National Novel Writing Month contest. I guess I’d better decide pretty quickly if I’m going to do that or not!

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

The Newspaperman by [Nudo, Sal]

Seth Kesler is thrilled to discover that the defunct C-U Journal is making a comeback. He loves newspapers and believes it is his—and society’s—civic duty to read them. But something is deeply off about the new publication in Champaign-Urbana, starting with the oily paper-hawker he dubs the Newspaperman, who hand-sells the C-U Journal for a mere dime on a downtown street corner. Seth’s delight soon turns to dismay when he sees the bizarre stories printed as fact and mysterious goings-on at the once-esteemed paper’s main office. He makes it his goal to put a stop to the whole shady operation, even though it means battling news titan Richard W. Fields, a multimillionaire who represents the worst of an exploitive corporate world.

The Newspaperman is a smart horror/mystery that will keep readers intrigued right up until the gut-punch ending.

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Dagger’s Destiny

Dagger's Destiny (Curse of Clansmen and Kings Book 2) by [Tanner, Linnea]

If you’re looking for a fantastical adventure with a hint of historical influence, then look no further than Dagger’s Destiny by Linnea Tanner. Beginning in Britannia when the Romans were making their presence known to the island nation, we are thrust into the center of turmoil. This is book two in a series, so it’s advisable to read the first installment before continuing. However, even if you come into the series with this volume, you will not be disappointed. With our strong female lead, Catrin, we follow the princess as she deals with the possible betrayal of her people by the one she loves, and the cold, unforgiving judgement her father, the king, passes on her because of it. This is only the beginning. It is not easy to break a curse that has been afflicted since your father’s generation. Will Catrin succeed in her father’s stead?

There is never a dull moment in this book, which is useful to those who may be experiencing the series for the first time. Tanner has a clear grasp on the historical aspects of her setting, showing that she has put in some research. This is a fantasy novel, of course, so there are liberties taken. Even so, the way she crafts the tale could make one believe that these are the true stories of an age long gone. It can be difficult to jump into a series without reading the first installment, but Tanner shares enough of the previous book and background so that those who are potentially new, or who have taken a long break between, will not be lost. Because her story is so intricate it’s easy to get caught up in what’s happening. This is a wonderful skill that successful writers hone for years.

It can be difficult to make a book exciting, full of action, romance, and fantasy and still balance it with great characters. Catrin is our lead: she is strong, special and proud. A princess of Britannia who is in love with a man of Rome. A love like theirs is not welcomed in this age: her beloved is the enemy and she is seen as a fool. Despite her challenges, Catrin continues to rise above them, even if she is knocked down for a short period of time. This character creation shows the author’s dedication to telling a great story. So often tales that are full of action boast flat characters. Catrin seems to be alive within the pages of this book.

If you are looking for an exciting adventure that leaves you wanting more, do not pass up Dagger’s Destiny. Boasting fully developed characters and a well-defined setting, this book caters to all readers. The romance, fantasy, action and subterfuge are sure to win over readers from several genres. The core of the story is stable and the writing is excellent. A great addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

Pages: 333 | ASIN: B07G3G4G55

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An Unknown Space

Eleanor Tremayne Author Interview

Eleanor Tremayne Author Interview

Destiny Revealed begins with Gabby in a precarious situation, one that propels readers into an intriguing adventure. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?

The 1960’s was a fascinating time to be a teenager, although none of us realized it until much later in life. The historical events, music, art, pop culture, all contributed in many ways to who we are today. I knew many “Gabbys” in my high school in California. I experienced the loss of a “Jake” at an early age, as a result of the Vietnam war. In college I studied Literature, graduated with a BA and MA in English and became a high school teacher. Those years resulted in my continued appreciation for every author that I taught, even those that I was not always fond of. It was always my desire to be a writer. And, although I believed I could be successful, those years were so busy, teaching, raising a family, living life that there was little time for writing. Finally, once retired from teaching, and moving to the Midwest, my passion to write returned. As I met other people from this region, one thing that we all had in common was our memories of the ‘60s. This is when I decided to create a story that my generation, and hopefully others, could relate to; the desire to sometimes want to revisit those wonderful early years, and even reflect on what might have happened differently based on our choices.

In Destiny Revealed, the sequel to my first novel, Destiny Revisited, it begins where the last one ended, Tybee Beach near Savannah, Georgia. Gabby has come full circle and is still struggling to understand why happiness is eluding her.

My objective with this novel, was to answer all of the questions that still remained at the end of the first novel, now that all of the characters are approaching middle age. This is why I provided the history backdrop to the the two main characters, still living, Caden Cassidy and Sterling Powers. Destiny Revealed hopefully will add a new dimension that readers will appreciate.

I enjoyed how Gabby’s character continued to develop as the story progressed. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character and the relationship with the men in her life?

Gabriella, means , a gift of strength from God. In this novel it will take her as much patience and self reliance as possible to make it through her complicated life. Each of the men in her life, Jake Girard, Caden Cassidy, Alex Blair, and Sterling Powers have contributed to her growth as a woman. But, it is not until she meets the mysterious lady, Maggie Mendoza, born on the same day she is, forty years later, and experiencing the same life threatening experience, on the same day, two thousand miles apart, is she able to realize how strong she is. Although I provide clues to the reader about what will ultimately happen, I am hoping that the conclusion is powerful and surprising.

The story has underpinning of a supernatural force at work, but I felt that the novel was well grounded in reality. How did you balance this while writing?

Balancing the supernatural with reality happens everyday, people just don’t always realize it. Whether it is prayer, or astrology, or a Shaman who performs rituals in Catemaco, Veracruz, people are in search of relief from their pain. By including Jake’s journals, Gabby believes she will be connected to him, even in death. The coincidence between Maggie and Gabby are both mysterious yet, realistic. We just do not always have the opportunity to meet our doppelgängers. My intention is to lead the reader into an unknown space without making it uncomfortable.

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

Seven Days in Lebanon, my third novel, takes a totally different approach than my first two novels. It is based on the true story of my grandmother’s exile from St. Petersburg, Russia during The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and her marriage to the last Prince of Kiva. This is a historical fiction that is now complete and will be available at the first of next year.

The Mermaid’s grandmother is my next novel that I am currently writing. Although not completely “fleshed “ out it will be a story told by an aging mermaid that lives a normal life with a few idiosyncrasies. Her grandson, also part merman does not have any idea about his heritage. The bond that the two of them share, will offer readers a new perspective on some traditional legends.

Author Links: Amazon | Twitter

Destiny Revealed by [Tremayne, Eleanor]

“Where the hell are you, Gabby?” Is what Caden Cassidy wants to know and Destiny Revisited readers are also asking. It is also what Gabriella Gerard Blair wants to discover.

Floating in the freezing Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ashes, Gabby has no idea why she is at Tybee Beach and who saved her from drowning. It is Sterling Powers, a man from her past, who she turns to for some answers.

What Gabby finds is more questions than any answers. Can Caden convince Gabby that fate has finally allowed them another chance at happiness? What secrets are Sterling keeping from Gabby, and why? Will Jake’s journals be her guidebook to the parallel universe?

Perhaps the answers will finally be found at The Hotel California, in Todos Santos, Mexico when she meets the proprietor, Eleanor Rigby. It is here when Gabby, in desperation, decides to visit a Shaman located at Catamaco, Veracruz, the capital of sorcery.

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Dark Karma: Sword of Vengeance

Dark Karma is a fascinating tale of vengeance and dark magic by author, Laura Simmons. Laura Simmons does a beautiful job in creating an epic tale that creates an array of whirlwind emotions. Simmons’ writing is flawless and thought-provoking, great for any avid reader of suspense and mystery novels. This is a book that provides everything you would expect from a novel that surrounds itself in magic, tension, mystery and revenge.

The narrative of Dark Karma is extremely captivating and strong. It has been written in such simplicity, but is highly effective for all readers. Luke Decker is introduced to the readers as the protagonist. He is banished by his evil enemy into a hell-like alternative dimension. Luke has to deal with the fact that his whole world has been turned upside down, and what is more, he is on trial for murdering his beloved Nina. However, the plot twists dramatically throughout the novel, and the reader is constantly left wanting more. I kept trying to guess what was going to happen next, but then just gave up and went along on this eventful and thrilling ride.

The plot throughout this book is strong, creative and imaginative. Laura Simmons structures her book beautifully and your imagination is left running wild. I think that the mystery elements in the book really kept me wanting more. Readers are able to dive into a world that is based on pure imagination. Simmons use of magic is embued with a dark energy throughout that is creepy, enticing, and begs you to keep reading. I think I read this whole book with a raised eyebrow. Dark Karma is a beautifully told story that, I think, is suitable for readers of any genre as it first focuses on telling a great story before delivering the unique qualities of it’s genre.

Dark Kara does an amicable job at creating an evil magical dimension that is just detailed enough to allow your imagination to fill in the blanks. The characters and the plot are strong, and Laura Simmons shows that she is a writer to be reckoned with. Overall, I think the story, twists, and characters are great, and I really enjoyed reading this book.

A fantastic attempt at creating a novel that blends and transcends genres. An enjoyable read which really dives into a different dimension, making the reader want to know more as the story progresses.

Pages: 192 | ISBN: 1977201555

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Inspired by my Love of Art and Music

Mallory O'Connor Author Interview

Mallory O’Connor Author Interview

American River: Tributaries follows three immigrant families struggling to pursue their dreams during the turbulent 1960’s. What served as your inspiration while writing this book?

My love of Northern California, the place where I grew up, and the wonderful history of the area. I was also inspired by my love of art and music and my passion for social justice issues.  Immigration and ethnic diversity are the cornerstones of the story.

This book has so many fascinating characters that are well developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your characters?

Basically, the story focuses on the creative search for meaning, knowledge, compassion and understanding in a tumultuous world filled with prejudice, obstacles, jealousy, and betrayal. As my characters encounter these obstacles, they discover their own strengths and weaknesses and grow beyond their self-centered ambitions.

I thoroughly enjoyed the historical backdrop to the story and how well researched it was. What historical milestones were important for you to highlight in this book?

The Gold Rush had a tremendous impact on the population and culture of California. Before the Gold Rush, the population consisted mainly of Native Californians and Californios (settlers and landowners of mixed Spanish, Native Californian, and African descent). But gold fever brought people to California from all over the country and the world. The Anglo Americans (of English, Irish, or Scots descent), other Europeans (including Italians, Russians, Greeks and East Europeans), Chinese, Japanese, African Americans, and many more who came and stayed. This changed the makeup of the state’s population making it one of the most ethnically diverse in the country. So, this cultural diversity sets the scene for later entanglements.

 Most of the story takes place in the 1960s, that decade that Time Magazine recently termed “The decade that changed a generation.” So, I take the reader down memory lane as my characters encounter the major issues of the time: immigration, racial prejudice, migrant workers, gay rights, women’s rights and the Vietnam War.

This is book one in the American River Trilogy. What can readers expect in book two, American River: Currents?

In Book Two, American River: Currents, a cavalcade of disasters—both personal and public—threatens to overwhelm the scattered members of the McPhalan, Ashida, and Morales clans. Alliances fray, relationships dissolve, divisive secrets are revealed, and promises are broken as the members of three California families struggle to salvage their shattered dreams.  The story follows the character’s journeys to places as distant as Cleveland, Ohio, Venice, Italy, and Kyoto, Japan. From the concert halls of Europe to the artist’s lofts of Manhattan, American River: Currents is filled with passionate and resolute characters who refuse to let go of their unique visions of success—even as life’s tumultuous currents threaten to sweep them all away.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookWebsite

American River: Tributaries: Book One of the American River Trilogy by [O’Connor, Mallory M.]In the mid-1800s, three immigrant familiesIrish, Japanese, and Mexicansettle along the American River in Northern California. A century later, only one family remains.

Owen McPhalans Mockingbird Valley Ranch is still a thriving family business in 1959. But when his wife, Marian, leaves Mockingbird to follow her dream of becoming a successful artist, she ignites a firestorm that impacts the descendants of all three families. As artists, musicians, writers, and politicians inherit their immigrant parents hopes, they are torn apart by ambition, prejudice, and deception while struggling through the turbulent 1960s. From the concert halls of Europe to Kyotos ancient avenues, and Manhattans artists lofts to San Franciscos North Beach, they each learn the price they must pay in order to realize their dreams. But just as the river is drawn to the sea, they eventually find themselves pulled back to the place that forged the original link between their destiniesa place called Mockingbird.

American River: Tributaries follows three California families as the descendants of Irish, Japanese, and Mexican immigrants embark on unique journeys to pursue their dreams amid an unsettled 1960s world.

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Lifeliners

Lifeliners by [Vucak, Stefan]Wow, the details in this book are simply superb! Literally from page one of the story you are drawn in by the excellent attention to detail.

The main character, Nash Bannon, is hopelessly interesting and charming from the very first chapter. We learn so much about his past, his family life, siblings, and upbringing that by chapter two you are utterly fascinated and rooting for him no matter what. His love interest, Cariana Foster, is equally enchanting and the dialogue between these characters is so raw that you can’t help but fall in love with them. There is a huge elephant in the room regarding their relationship, but I don’t want to give away any big spoilers so let’s just say that it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The idea of the Lifeliners; human beings that have evolved into some other state of existence not yet fully understood, is absolutely engaging. The way the author writes about the political atmosphere of the world surrounding these super-humans is realistic and you can feel the pain of their humanity (or non-humanity?) and the fear elicited from them by the rest of society.

The politics in this book is one of my favorite aspects. Because of how realistically the author conveys these ideas you feel like you’ve been transported into Nash’s world. Even though the idea of co-existing with humans who have super-natural abilities is un-realistic and physically unrelatable, the dialogue and world view portrayed in the book is so natural and believable that you feel like you are really dealing with the emotions of the characters on every page. The relationship between Nash and the homeless child Aleya (a lifeliner) is touching and tragic at the same time. To think of a world that can cast aside children like garbage just because they have different abilities is really upsetting to think about.

I also enjoyed the scientific aspects of the story. Literally no detail is left out when it comes to the genetic anomalies of the Lifeliners and Cariana’s work as a geneticist is fascinating. While liberties were obviously taken (as this is a fictional story), this aspect of the book is also frighteningly realistic. I felt as if this evolution within the human species could actually happen and that these types of moral dilemmas might really someday face the human race.

Overall, I would recommend this book, it was a page turner from start to finish. There aren’t many books that I can see myself reading multiple times, but Lifeliners is definitely one of them.

Pages: 431 | ASIN: B07GN8QV83

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Love After Life – Trailer

Can it be true that soulmates can share a love so deep that it can transcend more than one lifetime? That is what James tell his loving wife Kathleen before they suddenly die in a tragic car accident that snuffs out their lives and perhaps their love. Will they be able to find each other in the next life to rekindle the love they share, and who will believe them if they do?

Joseph, only six years old, is haunted in his dreams by a woman and scenes he doesn’t initially recognize. Sweating heavily while twisting and turning in his bed, he sees flashes of the mountains, the beach and a beautiful young woman. He awakens suddenly, hearing himself scream, “Kathleen(!).” He is drenched and dazed, not realizing that his dream is a replay of the final scene of his past life as James with his wife, Kathleen. A few years later as his dreams continue, he recalls more clearly Kathleen’s soulful singing, bubbly personality and sweet smile as well as his deep love for both photography and her.

As a teenager, Joseph loves to watch singing competitions on TV shows, especially when teenage girls are singing. One day he sees and hears Kimberly singing on one of these shows and his heart skips a beat. He does not know why, but her singing consumes him. Kimberly grew up a sad little girl. She knows that something is missing in her life, but for the life of her, she cannot identify what it is. Only singing lifts her spirits, even if just for a little while. Joseph is drawn to her immediately. He has to meet her.

What happens when Joseph meets Kimberly? You can find out by reading Richard Sieg’s novel, Love After Life.

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Poisoned Touch

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This collection of poetry will cause readers to relive their youths. Poisoned Touch by Monica V. McCormick is full of angst and youthful recollections of a time gone past. The graphics help portray the words of the poetry in a visual sense and add a delightful element to this collection. Poisoned Touch focuses on romantic ventures gone past and are broken into sections that relate the age of the author when she wrote the work. Beginning at the age of eighteen and carrying on until the age of twenty-two, readers will get an intimate view of McCormick’s adolescence within these pages.

Youth is a difficult passage we all must go through to reach adulthood. The path is treacherous as we try to navigate the world without the constant support of those who want the best for us. It’s not that their support isn’t offered, it’s that we are trying desperately to show that we can handle our own lives and make our own decisions. This message comes across in some of the pieces of this collection. The readers will be able to identify with the youth who is trying to discover herself and who is trying to understand what love is. Written as a helpful reminiscence on her youth, this collection attempts to provide support to those who may be struggling with the same difficulties. As long as you are over eighteen.

While the imagery of the poems are consistent with the idea that love is a poison, present in both words and graphics, this collection of poetry is raw and unrefined. There is no doubt that the poetry can evoke powerful feelings and shares a dark tale, but the meaningful pieces drip with angst and teenage folly. The constant changing type-face also posed a problem for me and was distracting.

The rhyming scheme found in most of the pieces paired with the cartoonish, yet very high quality, drawings make this collection reflective of high school nostalgia. There are several individual pieces in this collection that I found to be moving and raw.

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Made of Stone Trailer

Made of Stone introduces readers to Desiree Palmer’s first fictional creation, Satori Stone. She is a carefree and witty single mother living in the Midwest. She embarks, unwillingly, on mystical journey being torn between good and evil. Her world begins to spin out of control when she goes home to visit her mother for Christmas. Her quirky neighbor Naoma and a stranger she meets along the way quickly turn into her new life support system. She will face a decision to accept her new fate and learn to use her natural powers or lose her family forever. Will she decide in time?

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