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Neutral Space

Neutral Space by [Tran, Rebecca]

Neutral Space, written by Rebecca Tran, is a story told through the eyes of Jackson Eli Peterson; a man raised on a planet in the Sirus Seven. The Sirus Seven are planets named after the seven deadly sins in the Bible and were the catalyst for the war between the Kelsairans and humans. Jackson has a chance encounter with a beautiful Kelsairan woman which changes both their perspectives on the government and war. They soon realise that they may not have been told the truth about the opposition and its race, leaving them both to make decisions that will change their lives forever. A trial will begin, and secrets will be revealed in an epic futuristic tale where exposing the truth will have you killed.

Neutral Space is set in the year 3006, in a world where intergalactic races have intermingled with humans. Technology and territory were shared, but like most trade agreements, alliances were broken causing an unruly war between Kelsairans and humans.

Corrupt governments and evil agendas will mean that the characters may not all be who they seem. Allies will be formed, and friendships will be created, regardless of the race. Through the new found friendships, the authority will be questioned- and betrayed- to save the people they care about the most.

I loved how the novel incorporated futuristic ideas such as new races, advanced technology and ideas while still implementing familiar scenarios such as court scenes, jails and friendship. There’s even cultural food such as Italian and Chinese that are twisted into the plotline, giving the story an almost realistic feel. With human governments still participating in dodgy deals and corrupt politics, you can practically imagine the future in the 3000’s being very similar to what you find in Neutral Space.

Between the battles of war lies a love story that will have you eager to learn how it all ends. Rebecca Tran writes with a momentum that fills the pages with layers of action, romance and intergalactic adventures. The story was easy to read, but the characters were complex, with parts of their past being told as the plot line progressed. Rebecca Tran cleverly transcribes the character progression in a way that makes you feel attached and invested in the outcomes of their lives.

The story switches between past and present and Jackson recounts his encounter with the Kelsairan woman. This builds up the relationship and gives the reader an insight into the minds of both races. There were many parallels to how today’s society may have felt during a time of war with other countries, especially regarding the unspoken political agendas. An element of family is also present in Neutral Space as it hints at the everlasting values of humans and their desire to protect and create a family of their own.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys futuristic style novels with action, friendship and a dash of politics.

Pages: 170 | ASIN: B076GHGTJD

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With Angel’s Wings

With Angel's Wings by [Collins, Stephanie A.]

With Angel’s Wings, by Stephanie Collins, is one mother’s raw and heart-wrenching account of her life with two daughters with special needs. Written as a third-person account with name changes, the author describes each and every obstacle encountered as she struggled to come to terms with her daughters’ challenges while simultaneously dealing with a long string of physicians, specialists, and therapists. Laura, as the author calls the young mother, fights an uphill battle from the moment she is told her days-old infant has a heart defect–the first of many. While facing a seemingly unending barrage of personal hurdles, Laura somehow learns to cope with the endless physical and emotional demands placed upon her family by tiny Hannah’s diagnosis of Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome.

This author’s life story as a work of fiction is almost indescribable. I do not believe I have ever read a book that kept me as breathless and as anxious as this one. Laura’s laundry list of traumatic events ranging from her newborn’s purple feet and hands to her seizures lasting for hours on end is mentally exhausting to read. Her life is so full of twists and turns and drama surrounding Hannah’s diagnosis and subsequent health scares, the author has no need to embellish with flowery language and lengthy stretches of narrative. There is, literally, no room or time left to dress up her text. This book reads as a journal of heartache peppered with true love.

Collins is honest and open with her feelings about her daughters’ diagnoses. As Laura, she sugarcoats nothing. As strong as she is, Laura reveals her vulnerability as an overwhelmed young mother. The reader aches to watch her contemplate, time and again, a way out. Her frustration as a parent fighting her way through the healthcare system is one with which many readers will be able to relate. In addition to her day-to-day battle with fevers, seizures, hospital visits, and mounting financial woes, Laura faces the virtually indescribable audacity of an ex-husband who lacks not only both sympathy and empathy but a soul, as well.

As a parent and a teacher, I have never read a more authentic and touching account of life as a mother or a more revealing account of what caring for a child with special needs truly entails. Emily’s early signs of autism hit home with me as a teacher. No one knows the struggle of helping a child on the autism spectrum like a parent. Laura begins accommodating for Emily’s needs long before her diagnosis. She modifies, plans, and tries to remain several steps ahead of meltdowns from early on in Emily’s life. Parents of children with autism will appreciate reading about the way Laura intricately weaves a web of plans on a daily basis to compensate for Emily’s developmental delays.

Though the book is primarily focused on the battle to save Hannah and come to grips with her many needs, the author does a beautiful job of illustrating the relationship Laura develops with Daniel. Daniel, the one shining light in her darkest days, is a rather unlikely saviour. Their love, apparent from early in their friendship, is one that only intensifies through the rigors of identifying and finding ways of successfully coping with all Emily and Hannah’s needs.

There aren’t any options for stars beyond 5, so I am restricted to giving With Angel’s Wings 5 out of 5 stars. The author’s life story, now Laura and Daniel’s as well, is an absolute must-read for any parent, teacher, or caregiver of a child with special needs. There is a love like no other born out of a relationship with these children, and Stephanie Collins has handed readers everywhere the key to unlock hearts and minds and build a better understanding of the struggles faced by many of our family members and friends who have children with special needs living lives like Laura’s.

Pages: 304 | ASIN: B01DL9AXAI

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Titch the Itch

Titch the Itch

Titch the Itch, written by B.C.R. Fegan and illustrated by Lenny Wen, is the tale of an animated little itch who wants nothing more than to make friends the only way he knows how–by doing his job. When his wayward, “no-reason-at-all” itching isn’t appreciated in the home of one large family, Titch the Itch seeks to make friends outside the home. Trying his luck with a cat, a neighbor, a police officer, and a park full of children, Titch learns that life is hard for an itch of his sort. His journey leads him to the hospital where he soon learns that he has had a bigger impact than he realized.

B.C.R. Fegan has constructed a touching story centered around the personification of a lowly itch. The author has managed to take a difficult concept and design a precious plot surrounding the poor little itch’s desire to be needed and to have lasting friendships. Titch is a memorable character with whom young readers will empathize. As he moves from one character to the next, he experiences rejection and disappointment. Fegan has included some important lessons in this wonderful picture book. In addition to friendship, the author teaches the benefits of being determined and the results of perseverance.

As with any children’s book, it is essential to include those moments of humor. Fegan does not lack in this area. The unforeseen circumstances surrounding the conclusion of the book are whimsical and encourage children to reread the book to find things they may have missed–a wonderful aspect to include to inspire young readers to delve further into the intricacies of text. As a teacher and parent, I more than appreciate those small amounts of mystery which energize readers. Kudos to the author!

The illustrations for Titch the Itch are fantastic. Lenny Wen’s vision of Titch is a cross between a ghost and a friendly dust bunny–exactly how one might visualize an itch. The facial expressions of Titch absolutely make the story. His woeful looks tug at the reader’s heartstrings. The color schemes chosen to brighten the pages make this a beautiful story to read aloud.

B.C.R. Fegan’s story of the needy little itch just looking for friendship is a sweet tale perfect for teaching young readers about the value of friends and loyalty.

Pages: 33 | ASIN: B076342B9D

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Song

Song

Set in the world of Perilisc, Jesse Teller returns to this world with another series sure to captivate readers. The Manhunters series starts off with Song, and tells two story lines that intertwine. Rayph Ivoryfist is an immortal magician that has his own personal demons to fight, but is bound by honor to protect the land and the boy he believes to be the next great ruler. When the prison he built is destroyed and all the evil had brought to justice is released he knew he needed help. Rayph than builds his own army of powerful beings, with his old friend Smear at his side. Parallel to the story of Ivoryfist preparing for battle is the story of Konnon, the father that wants a cure for his daughter’s paralysis. To help his daughter Bree, Konnon must work with his partner Glyss. Together the two of them have a reputation for being unstoppable and deadly. They live up to this reputation, knowing each other inside and out. The two pair’s separate missions will unavoidably end them up together in the town of Song, the question is, who is alive in the end?

Jesse Teller has a way with describing the setting that really makes you feel like you are there. The swamps that Rayph visits, you can almost feel the mud clinging to you, smell the decaying woods and animals used for sacrifices, and feel the tension that the people around the main characters create. The level of detail that goes into settings, also goes into the action. While this is great for really getting into things, those with a weak stomach for gore might not be pleased. Teller describes in detail the torture of some characters, and details the death of many. This level of detail may not appeal to all, but Teller can also detail the compassion and love between two characters just as well. The example of Konnon and his daughter Bree. There is no question about the devotion and love he feels for his daughter, it is relatable and pulls at the heart strings. A father’s undying love and willingness to do whatever he must to save her, no matter what the cost is to himself.

One of Teller’s greatest skills is relationships. Not romantic quest love relationships, but bonds between people and spirits. These bonds draw the readers in sometimes more than the story lines do because they are so powerful and relatable. As I read Song, I felt the bonds that form between Rayph and his army. The magic that makes it so they can all be connected is just a piece of the puzzle, they genuinely build a brotherhood and work as one. Konnon and Glyss while not blood brothers move as one unit together, they are bound and know each other so well there is no need for words. It is a great read for the relationship factor alone. If you enjoy studying and reading about human (or in this case non human) relationship Teller will not disappoint. Through his use of many magical creatures from humans, to fairies, to demons, all working together for a common goal the passion for survival and willingness to put all differences aside for is apparent. Perhaps it is a good lesson for modern society, put our differences aside and work together to defeat the evil looking to rip our world apart.

Pages: 319 | ASIN: B074GP13JC

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East of Mecca

This award winning moving and unforgettable novel, East of Mecca, tells a timely, harrowing, and heartbreaking story of love and betrayal, the transcendent power of sisterhood, and the ultimate price of oppression. Driven by financial desperation, Sarah and Max Hayes are seduced by promises of a glamorous expatriate lifestyle in Saudi Arabia. Sarah surrenders her career when Max accepts a prestigious job with Ocmara Oil Company and they relocate their family to the shores of the Persian Gulf. Locked inside the heavily-guarded Ocmara compound, Sarah becomes invisible within the male-dominated, fundamentalist, Islamic Kingdom, which is governed by sharia law. Gradually, she is drawn into a clandestine, illicit friendship with Yasmeen, a Muslim Saudi woman. Together they find freedom beneath the veils and behind the walls of the Saudi women’s quarters—until inconceivable events force Sarah to make life-or-death decisions. Told with riveting authenticity and exquisite detail, East of Mecca explores gender apartheid through the abuse of absolute power with an elegant balance of cultural nuance and moral inquiry. Long after you have turned the last page, you will be haunted by the vivid characters and powerful scenes illuminating this tour de force. Winner of 2015 Silver Nautilus Book Award and also received an IndieReader recommended 5-star review.

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Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale

Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale

Charles Creath McCormack’s book Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale is quite a book: a frank autobiography centered around the theme of the pursuit of happiness and a meaningful life, from a man who has sat both on and beside the psychotherapy couch; or as the author himself describes it, “a story of the follies and wisdom’s of the human condition”. Mr. McCormack is fully aware of both the theories and the realities of mental health, although the book contains no technical language at all. It’s an accessible account covering every stage of his life, from his youngest years into his partial retirement. Not to give too much away, but as the imagery of the title implies, his tale starts in darkness, and concludes with a breakthrough, with all the usual human drama of a life lived fully.

I found the style of writing very interesting; it perhaps relates to his experience as a psychotherapist. He makes use of imagery, not frequently, but when he does it’s usually a long, in-depth passage. Thankfully they don’t feel convoluted, because they exemplify his points well.

The imagery adds well to the overall narrative, which is compelling. If I’d had more time, I’d probably have read it in one sitting. Although the author references forward and back to events distant by dozens of years and pages, I was never left feeling confused or lost, so it was neatly accomplished. There was a clear sense of reflection as to what the reader may be thinking, and at points it almost felt like I was part of a conversation. However, I thought that near the end the narrative became a little unfocused, with some unnecessary repetition and description of his family that doesn’t always feel directly related to his main subject – his state of mind.

I want to describe it as a generous story, because I was given extremely honest details about Mr. McCormack’s life that many would have found embarrassing to tell. But he hides no faults or uncomfortable thoughts, and constantly admits when he was wrong. In one chapter the author relates the unfortunate stories of some of his patients. In this way, the book truly covers the full gamut of human experience – warmth, love, friendship, loneliness, unhappiness, violence, despair: life and death.

Despite the author’s wishes that we might take responsibility for our happiness, his book is not a manual for how to obtain it. Observant readers might pluck helpful wisdom from its pages, but this isn’t written as advice – just as he says he does with his patients, he places no obligation on us to try it.

Overall, I would recommend this to any adult reader who is willing to confront life’s uncomfortable truths and those who enjoy a fly-on-the-wall tale of other’s joys and sorrows. I enjoyed trip.

Pages: 373 | ASIN: B06XFG5G3M

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Einstein’s Fiddle

Einstein's Fiddle

Einstein’s Fiddle begins with a man by the name of Davy Calhoun doing the unthinkable act of abandoning his child on a doorstep of a stranger’s home. You will then be transported to the past where you learn the events that have occurred to lead Davy to this very moment. Follow a journey of a lost and broken man that borders reality and dreams and flits between the past and present. Teenage romance, twisted events and a road trip will take you through the moments Davy Calhoun’s entire world turned upside down. What could have possibly possessed a man to make such an extreme decision?

Einstein’s Fiddle, written by W.A. Smith, will take you through the life of a man full of despair. Broken hearts, broken dreams and a broken future sets the tones of Davy Calhoun’s life. Loyal friendships, complicated relationships and family secrets will take the reader on an epic journey of love, life and redemption.

The plot would sometimes take an emotional twist as you delve deeper into Davy’s life. Throughout the novel, you meet various people of Davy’s past, and the characters come with their own set of perks and lurks. The folk throughout the story range from your neighbours, to best friends and long lost lovers and each person will help shape Davy into the man that he is.

Puppy fondness, pure infatuation, sweaty lust and unrequited yearning are just some of the phrases W.A. Smith uses to lure the audience into an addictive trance where you will be unable to turn away until you are satisfied you know what happens next. Follow along as Davy stumbles from childhood to manhood and the emotional confrontation that shapes his personality and life choices.

Throughout Einstein’s Fiddle, Smith flips between the past and the present and although the transition is sometimes confusing, it provides a deep understanding of Davy’s character, his family life, friendships and first loves. With the first events feeling so shocking, I felt drawn to find out exactly why he could have made the terrible decisions that he does.

Smith’s style of writing is classy and descriptive, providing a template for beautiful imagery that at times makes you feel as though you are watching a movie rather than reading a book. I almost felt like the novel could have had its own soundtrack and theme song! The reader will be pleasantly lost in the words and you will feel an instant attraction to Davy as his character’s progression takes twists and turns throughout the timeline of his life. Davy’s thoughts are often filled with twisted memories that are masked by the sting of liquor and unfortunate events will leave you feeling empathetic to his character.

If you are looking for a novel that will make you laugh, cry and feel deeply, then this is the novel for you. I would recommend this for those looking for a well-written novel with relatable and heartwarming characters. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see W.A Smith up there with the big named authors of the future and look forward to reading his other works.

Pages: 463 | ASIN: B01MXM99FT

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I’m With You

I'm With You

Allie Frost’s debut book I’m With You, is a passionate and gripping novel that draws the reader into her world with dynamic characters and an engaging story line. Ciarán and Remiel are siblings that have lost their mother. Their father has lost his mind due to her death and blames Remiel for the death of his wife. Remiel was born with an unusual gift, the ability to see a person’s death before it occurs. Five years after their mother’s death, their father has put out a hit job on his daughter, saying that she must die for the world to be right again, claiming that Remiel is a demon that kills. Ciarán loves his sister and when he learns of the plot to kill her he takes matters into his own hands and sets out to save her. With the help of an unlikely bunch of strangers, Ciarán and Remiel set out to escape the assassins that have been sent after Remiel.

The novel starts out in Kevlar a city in the realm of Empirya. This is a typical industrial city, similar to the early industrial periods of America. After learning of the plot to kill Remiel, Ciarán literally runs into to vagabonds, Ramus and Valkyrie. Fate brought them together and they help the two siblings escape Kevlar. Once away they are quickly found by the assassins hired to kill Remiel and they add a young prostitute names Camilla to their group. As they travel barely staying one step ahead of their enemy’s they add to their growing company Kaz the circus fire juggler, and Mitzi the librarian. Together they encounter danger and learn surprising things about one another. They bond together in the common goal of keeping Remiel alive and getting her and Ciarán home again.

Allie Frost tells the story from the view of Ciarán. His perspective is insightful for a young 15-year-old boy. While he seems more mature at times, there are defiantly times where his young age is apparent and the other characters’ step in to guide him. Ramus takes on the fatherly role for Ciarán and Remiel while Valkyrie is more the depressing voice of reason that battles internally between keeping to himself and away from trouble, vs doing the right thing and protecting the kids from the dangers after them. Camilla starts off as a very shallow character and through the novel builds into a deep meaningful part of the story line. The same is for Kaz and Mitzi, they evolve from the time they are introduced all the way to the epilogue. The bond that is formed from this unintended group becomes a family. Circumstances of the story give each character a chance to grow and evolve. Frost does an amazing job showing the transformation and growth while keeping the perspective in Ciarán’s eyes.

For a first novel Allie Frost, has created a dynamic world, taking the reader all over, showing a multitude of cultures and communities while keeping all relatable to modern earth. So, while the land is a work of fiction, many of the religious beliefs and cultural references are easy to relate to and understand. I’m With You is a perfect title for the novel as all the characters form a bond and grow together to create a family that Ciarán and Remiel  lacked ever since their mother died. This is a captivating novel that will keep the reader engaged from the first page to the last.

Pages: 241 | ASIN: B01MAYT60F

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Stirrings

Descendent Darkness: Book One: Stirrings5 Stars

Descendent Darkness: Book One: Stirrings, begins in 1982 in Clarkes Summit, Virginia, where an evil curse causes unimaginable horrors to the town’s favourite families. Fast forward 21 years later and three men are once again facing the terrors they thought they had diminished forever. Richard Gaston, Father Ryan Bennett and deputy sheriff Tom Campbell find themselves facing nightmares and tortured souls of evil that will pull them into the depths of their darkest days. This skin prickling adventure will bring your nightmares to reality as they face an evil, cold presence; guaranteed to chill you to your bones.

Descendent Darkness, Stirrings, written by A. J. Macready is a supernatural novel set with a dash of crime and drama. There are tortured souls, family bonds and mysterious servants of darkness in this edge of your seat vampire styled thriller. The story line follows several families as they face horrors and challenges that will threaten the relationships of everyone involved. Hold tight as you are thrown into an adventure where the characters fight evil even when they are in the shadows of exhaustion- in order to save the ones they love.  The story will leave you hungry for more, as bullets race across the page and violent killers storm through the darkest of nights.

Unlike a typical demon styled novel, Stirrings storyline is complex and filled with clues and details that far surpass any other supernatural story I’ve read for some time. Forget the Twilight era, this novel is filled with the traditional scares and fight scenes fit for a warrior. I found myself unable to turn away as I dove deeper into the novel, growing attached to the characters and their unknown fate.

The characters in Stirrings are surprisingly relatable and the fear for what may be lurking in the dark is a feeling we have all experienced. The relationship between the siblings Holly and Mike Gaston is one to be marvelled as they battle odds together, sacrificing their bodies and souls to pursue a mission with the belief that nothing is more important than family. As well as being siblings, they have a beautiful friendship and you can feel how much they genuinely care for one another as they battle against the odds. However it seems their family are bound for tragedy and the reader will feel emotionally connected to each family member as they fight for what they believe to be right.

Macready’s marvellous way of using descriptive language will have you huddled up and feeling the chills on the back of your neck. I found myself peering around the corner wondering if the cool breeze was the wind or was actually evil materialising its face in the darkness. The narration flows easily and feels like a picture is painted on the page with how beautifully the story is presented.

This is a heart-stopping novel and would recommend this to anybody who loves supernatural stories mixed with crime, drama and friendship. I look forward to reading the other stories in the series!

Pages: 199 | ASIN: B016WLQTS2

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Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon

Nickerbacher by [Barto, Terry John]
4 Stars

The story of Nickerbacher takes you on a journey of mystical beings and starry-eyed dreams. It’s an adventure with a dragon and a prince and princess. Nickerbacher is a dragon destined for a life of working as a protector of princesses- a job that was proudly held by his father and his father before that. However, Nickerbacher dreams of something more and wants to perform on The Late Knight Show where he can show off his comedic value. With the help of a leprechaun, a prince and other magical beings, can Nickerbacher change the hearts and minds of all La La Land?

Nickerbacher, written by Terry John Barto, is a fun-loving children’s novel based on the story of a dragon and his friends. Nickerbacher dreams of being something more than a dragon protector of princesses and sets his sights on becoming a comedian. There is an underlying message that children will love as it promotes following your dreams even if other people may not believe that you can achieve them.

Throughout the story, the fantasy characters participate in modern-day activities, like taking selfies with mystical beings or trying to fit their feet into the prints of famous celebrities. This provides a modern twist to a classically styled fairy tale that combine beautifully in this incredible city. My favorite character is Miss Phoenix, a receptionist who rises from the ashes to greet the unlikely trio. She is dedicated to her work but has a heart of gold which sings true to the end.

Pictures are included throughout the novel which brings to life the extraordinary fun loving characters. My favorite image is one that includes ghosts and goblins at the Fairywood Forever Cemetery, royal chariots at LAX and the Medieval Tar Pits. The images are a mix of castles with high rise style buildings that replicate a similar style of what I would imagine LA would look like if it had been sprinkled with a touch of fairy dust. I love how the imagery complements the text and helps with engaging the reader in expanding their imagination.

This story will help children to learn the importance of friendship and believing in yourself. Nickerbacher also touches on issues such as family, societal expectations and breaking through the barriers of life in a fun and engaging story line. Children will relate to parts of the story and see parts of themselves in each of the magical beings. I love the relationship between Princess Gwendolyn and Nickerbacher and how they break the stereotypes of the typical dragon and Princess friendship.

I would recommend Nickerbacher to any school-aged children who wants to be lost in the magic of La La Land. This book would be perfect as a bedtime story to be read aloud as Terry John’s Barto’s wonderful way with words will delight all children and adults alike.

Pages: 34 | ASIN: B00SKKX2AW

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