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 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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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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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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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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There are issues that plague all children as they grow up. Each child struggles with identifying who they are as a person, how they relate to other people and how to find out what they believe in. Children can be cruel to each other while they learn how to navigate the messy world of emotions. This can come out in the form of bullying. In The Big Cheese Festival the authors explore the concept of bullying and how it can impact the life of another. What may seem like funny and harmless words to one can truly hurt another. We’ve got a fantastical world of anthropomorphic mice, one of whom only has half a tail. He is named Stubby and due to the unkind bullying from his brother’s friend worries about whether or not he’ll find any worth in himself.
Bullying is a big issue to tackle. Some children’s books try to address this and drop the ball completely. Jackson and Raymond have bundled up the idea of bullying in their book. They take an obvious difference, like having half of a tail, and use it to illustrate how others might react to something so clearly different from the norm. It’s a cute book with the little mice getting ready for a festival. Cutter Mouse, who is friends with Stubby’s brother, is the perpetuator of the bullying. It is often someone close to the bullied who begins the abuse, which Jackson and Raymond have captured here.
While the story is simple and easy to either read or read to a child, there are a few areas in which it lacks. The mice all look exactly the same, in the same outfits. The girl mice have different hairstyles but the boy mice don’t have anything to separate who they are from each other. Different coloured outfits may have helped with this issue. The mice also don’t seem to express emotion. For a story about bullying and overcoming that, showing joy or sorrow would be necessary.
Stubby does stand up to the person who is making him feel poorly which is an important message to children. He doesn’t do it with violence or by calling Cutter names back. He uses his words. S. Jackson and A. Raymond know that children need to learn these skills to survive in this modern world. The Big Cheese Festival helps to make it less frightening and more relatable by creating a fun and entertaining world.
Pages: 37 | ASIN: B01H3S381O
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You need to be able to tap into a certain flavour of whimsy in order to write a good children’s book. Let’s not forget that the illustrations need to be catchy and colourful to hold the attention of the little ones either reading or being read to. A children’s book is most entertaining when it spins a different point of view on something that children have already been exposed to. Uncle Stubby Gets Married by S. Jackson and A. Raymond takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together. This book is part of a series with other animals and their lives. Perfect for children, this book draws out the marriage between Uncle Stubby and his betrothed Sparkles as their friends and family travel to help them celebrate it. The story is full of kindness, cheer and all the good feelings weddings are supposed to elicit.
The language in this book is very simple. It may be difficult for a child who is learning to read but it is perfect to read to a child. The pictures are bright and interesting, which should help keep the attention of the audience. At the beginning of the book there is a comprehensive breakdown of the entire story so parents or teachers can determine if the book will suit their needs or themes. As it takes place in the Valentine Forest, this is a good book to read around Valentine’s Day, if you are looking for theme-specific books.
The images are, for the most part, real photographs of various animals manipulated to be posed or displayed in a certain way. There are little additions like a crown or the plethora of sparkles and these add to the story. It is interesting for children to see ‘realistic’ pictures of animals they are familiar with engaging in very human activities. It allows them to have a sense of imagination and wonder just what exactly squirrels get up to when humans aren’t looking. The one downside to using manipulated photographs is that when a character appears that is either created by hand or through computer graphics they stand out a fair bit. This occurs with the Mouse Fairies in the Valentine Forest. Their appearance is a stark contrast to the other characters in that they are fully clothed with added hair. They are more anthropomorphic than a photo-enhanced squirrel with a sash around its waist.
Nitpicking aside, Jackson and Raymond know how to craft an interesting children’s tale. The story is cute and even though it is part of a series, it can stand alone quite well. Readers do not need previous knowledge of the characters to understand the story in Uncle Stubby Gets Married. For children, and maybe even adults, who have a fantastical view of the world this is a lovely tale of romance, happiness and friendship.
Pages: 40 | ASIN: B01MY5NJF0
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Oliver and Jumpy: Stories 10 – 12 is a collection of children’s stories featuring Oliver the cat and Jumpy and Joey, the kangaroos. Written by Werner Stejskal and illustrated by Maycee Ann Reyes and Marvin Alonso, the stories are geared toward young children and early readers. There are three stories in this collection: “Unhappy Dog,” “Kite High,” and “Butterfly Trouble.”
In “Unhappy Dog,” Oliver meets a dog who barks all the time. Instead of being angry, Oliver strikes up a conversation and learns that Barky is lonely and bored, and he can’t get out of his yard to play. Oliver enlists Jumpy and her son Joey to help Barky get over the fence, and they play games to help Barky feel less lonely.
“Kite High” is another adventure where the three friends get swept up into the sky while riding a cart with a parasail attached. They talk to seagulls, and meet some pelicans, too. There’s danger ahead for Joey, but the friendly pelicans help them land their craft.
“Butterfly Trouble” starts when Oliver meets a butterfly named Bluey. Bluey needs Oliver’s help because a boy with a butterfly net is trying to catch him. Jumpy and Oliver stop the butterfly hunt, save the day, and free Bluey’s friends from captivity.
I shared these stories with a three-year-old girl, and she declared that her favorite story was “Butterfly Trouble.” The illustrations are vibrant and full of expression, inspiring her to take the time to point out the little details as we read. The book looked wonderful on the tablet computer – the colors and images were perfect, and it was easy to read.
All the stories emphasize friendship, helping others, and they include a bit of mischief. There is one potentially scary scene in “Kite High” prompting my young friend to exclaim, “Uh oh!” she also pointed at the pelicans helping our heroes. Every story ends happily, and no one is hurt.
One thing I noticed is that the author is clearly aiming for a global audience. Readers in the U.S. may notice a difference in words or usage, but they aren’t incorrect. It’s just the subtle difference between US and European English.
If you’re a parent, you can’t go wrong with this delightful book. It’s perfect for reading aloud to toddlers or a fun addition to your early reader’s digital library. All the Oliver and Jumpy stories are available on Amazon and several are on YouTube, narrated by the author.
Pages: 25 | ISBN: 9781625174079
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Bean Takes a Walk is a short, colorful, and educational adventure book for kids. What was the inspiration for Bean in the Garden?
Matt originated the idea of a children’s series about a bean walking across a garden. As we explored it further, we realized that Bean could be an aspirational character for young children, and we could use him to teach kids about acceptance, kindness and friendship. These are lessons we’re both trying to instill in our own children, so it felt right to do it in the series. Before we knew it, we had a whole town full of veggie people!
The story is about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids. In such a short book, how did you balance story telling with the delivery of those messages?
We try to keep it lighthearted and fun. We want kids to engage first and foremost with the characters and the story. The lessons are baked in, but there’s nothing preachy about it. I believe that kids have an intuitive understanding of fairness and kindness, so it’s easy for them to grasp these concepts!
The art in this book is wonderful. What was the collaboration like to make such colorful works of art?
Matt is just ridiculously good. It’s an honor to work with him. We’ve been working together for almost 10 years on website and logo design, so we know each other well. Even so, this was a brand new adventure for us! It’s been really fun figuring out all the characters and how the different scenes might look.
On Bean’s adventure he takes three toys, one of them is The Amazing Pickle #1 comic. So cute! Why did you choose these items?
We wanted things that would be simple and identifiable to kids – the kinds of things they might have in their own backpacks! As for the Amazing Pickle – well there might be some special superhero adventures in Bean’s future!
Bean Takes a Walk is book 1 in the Bean in the Garden series. What’s next for Bean in the Garden?
There are so many characters to explore in our little world! Coming up, you can expect more stories about Bean’s family and his best friend, Bella.
Bean in the Garden is a series of delightful, lighthearted picture books and videos aimed at teaching preschoolers how to be brave and kind in everyday life. In Bean Takes a Walk, Mrs. Berg entrusts Bean with a beautiful stone to trade with Miss Tots for some chamomile tea. Along the way, he makes some new friends and learns that not everything is what it seems!
Posted in Interviews
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Bean in the Garden is the first book of the children’s series, Bean in the Garden, by Ann Bevans and Matthew Ethan Gray. The books are designed with preschool children in mind, so Bean in the Garden is short, colorful, and easy for young children to understand.
Bean sets out to take a walk around the garden, and packs his favorite toys in his backpack. On the way, he meets Mrs. Berg, who has a new teapot but is out of tea. Bean offers to get her some tea as part of his adventure. Along the way, he meets three little peas who are about his own age, and they all have toys just like his. When he discovers a hole in his backpack and all of his toys are gone, he realizes the three peas were trying to return what they had found. The story is all about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids.
The first thing that struck me about the book was the illustrations. Mr. Gray’s artistry fills the page with bright colors and engaging images. This is a world of vegetable people. Bean is, of course, a bean and his mother is a lovely red beet. His neighbors include a friendly lettuce, Mrs. Berg, and a potato, Miss Tots. The clues to Bean’s toy dilemma are right there in the pictures so adults can encourage their children to search for the “lost” toys as they read along. Kids may also want to look at the pictures and imagine their own Bean adventures.
Another message I got from the story is that some things that seem bad, like a hole in your backpack, don’t have to be a big crisis. Bean reacts with shock when he realizes his toys are lost, but instead of being angry, he realizes that the three peas were trying to help him all along. It’s a good way to teach children about kindness and understanding, especially since kids who will be reading this are learning how to control their expectations and emotions.
There are three books in the series thus far, each available in both print and eBook formats. For toddlers and preschoolers, you can’t go wrong adding this book to their reading list. You can get more information about the authors, the series, and links to purchase the print and eBooks at http://beaninthegarden.com/
Pages: 36 | ASIN: B01LNRBK7K
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