Blog Archives

Choker

Choker by [Moseley, Bob]

Choker by Bob Moseley is the “coming of age” tale of basketball-obsessed Mark Chamberlain who, in the course on one year went from being the black sheep of his high-school’s basketball team to team captain.

A Clifton High student, Mark Chamberlain misses an all-important throw in the final seconds of a game, which costs his team a championship victory and gets him the nickname “the choker”. However, with help from coach Antonelli and his new girlfriend Su Metha, Mark is slowly getting over the setback and dedicates himself to training hard for the next season. His love for basketball helps him deal with heartache and pain and, after becoming team co-captain, he gets better and better at the game and ends up leading his teammates to victory.

This Young Adult book deals with a lot of issues that are important for teenagers nowadays: race issues, balancing school work and sports, bullying along with social media bullying, and dealing with loss, but also touches on the positive aspects of life, like the book hero’s first love, overcoming obstacles, bettering yourself through hard work. It definitely holds a lot of lessons for the reader, and teenagers and young adults will relate to the characters. The writing is alert and quite visual, and keeps the reader connected to the characters and interested in their evolution. Some of the pages are quite moving, such as the chapters that describe the death and the funeral of Mark’s father. I liked Mark’s character development, but I felt that the other characters were black and white, they were either good or bad. I would of appreciated more nuance.

The abundance of details related to basketball was a little overwhelming at times, for instance the descriptions of some of Mark’s games, a lot of information about game strategies and techniques, or about famous players. Any avid fan of basketball will appreciate the interesting facts and minute by minute break down of the games. This is an engaging and thought provoking coming of age basketball story that is sure to appeal to teens and sports fans.

Pages: 193 | ASIN: B07GX8B4T2

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Love and Complexity

Lori Leachman Author Interview

Lori Leachman Author Interview

The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen is a memoir of your life growing up in a family that traveled often and the challenges you faced and lessons you learned. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I wrote this book for my mother- to help her heal after my dad’s death. We had spent almost 20 years dealing with his decline. Thus, it became all we could remember and all my children knew of their grandfather. I thought that if I could write the complete story, it would help all of us remember the good with the bad. Once I got into it, it helped me understand myself more fully, and set me up to live my current life which is wonderful.

This is a ‘daughters tale of family and football’. What were some ideals you wanted to capture in this book?

I want readers to feel the love and complexity of this family. We had/have big love for each other, and had a big love for football. I want readers to know that you can overcome the hang ups from your childhood. I want readers to see that race in the South was more complex than is typically discussed. I want people to know that sports can be a bridge. I want families that are dealing with the cognitive decline of a loved one to know that they can forgive themselves their impatience and frustration with the situation; we are all just doing the best we can with the situation as we understand it in the moment.

The book shows the dedication your father had towards his career and family. What is something that stands out to you to this day about your father?

My father was relentless- that was the key to his success. He was full of optimism and faith in things bigger than himself.

What do you hope readers take away from your story?

First, that my father would not have made a different choice, but he did not make an informed one. I want parents to think carefully about letting their young children engage in any kind of contact sport. I want football in general, and the NFL in particular, to think more deliberately about additional reforms to football that will make it safer. I want the general public to understand the burden CTE places on a family. And I want families that have experienced CTE to draw some comfort from reading our story.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Twitter | Facebook

The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen: A Daughter's Tale of Family and Football by [Leachman, Lori]In this memoir of a Southern childhood, football is a family’s salvation—and its destruction.

The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen tells the story of a football life from a daughter’s perspective. Chronicling a rise through the competitive ranks—from high school to college to professional coaching, and ultimately a Super Bowl championship—it also reveals the struggle to deal with the decline and death of the patriarch, Lamar Leachman, from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of that life.

With forewords by NFL legends Phil Simms and Harry Carson, this is a true story of one family’s love for a game and for each other, one man’s strength of character, one woman’s love that sustained him.

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The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen: A Daughter’s Tale of Family and Football

The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen: A Daughter's Tale of Family and Football by [Leachman, Lori]

The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen, written by Lori Leachman is the story of American Football coach Lamar Leachman from the perspective of his daughter. It follows a coach’s journey from professional player to high school coach to National Football League coach. We see the impact this has on his wife and two daughters. It is a uniquely feminine glimpse into what was ultimately a man’s world – where winning was everything!

Leachman writes of how her father’s chosen profession had an impact on herself and the life of her family. One impact was the geographical impact, always moving to where the job opportunities lay. The family had to move numerous times and she documents the effect this had on the children, in particular. They had to constantly make new friends, and learn the social mores in each new community. The children’s closest friends were often the children of the other football coaches. She describes how they were tough kids, they were coaches’ kids.

Leachman provides an interesting view of Black Civil Rights and how views differed among places. Her view of mixed race friendships were simple; if she liked someone she would be their friend. That of course, contrasted with the views many adults at that time had. She describes briefly living in Cartersville and being confronted by “Blacks Only” signs at the theater and the confusion she felt when she realized African Americans weren’t allowed to swim in the pool. This must have been a bewildering time for a young girl who was immersed in the professional world of football – where African Americans were respected for their skill.

Although her father’s career may have had some negative impacts for her, as she gets older she realizes that her lifestyle had some benefits. Leachman recounts the day she realized her family had some money to spare – something a lot of families did not have.

Tragically the person impacted most by his career choice was the coach himself. Leachman describes how her father’s mental capacity began to decline, and how he was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy attributed to injuries he received during his career.

This memoir is cleverly written, as it progresses through we see Leachman begin to understand her father’s talent as a coach, she recognizes his skill and determination and love for his wife and daughters. The only criticism of the book would be that on one occasion Leachman jumps back and forth between decades which interrupts the flow of the story.

This memoir is an interesting insight to the life of a professional coach, his dedication to the sport, and the impact and experiences for both him and his family.

Pages: 230 | ASIN: B07BRSTNNZ

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Forgotten by the Sun – Trailer

Amika Fernandez’s life is nothing out of the ordinary…until she meets Rhayne Welkins. Soon captivated by his very presence, Amika finds herself wrapped up in this mysterious intruder into her world—and the secrets he’s brought with him.

In a world where nothing is as it seems, and stories once believed to be mere myth are anything but, an ordinary teenage girl must decide between the life she knows, and the life she might have—if she can handle the truth about the world in which she lives.

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Really Real

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Mylee in the Mirror explores young romance and school drama with an infusion of Greek Mythology. What were some themes you wanted to continue from your first book and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore?

Well, in Daisy, Bold & Beautiful I wanted to create a situation for my main character that would demonstrate the same moral of the story that I find within Persephone’s story – it is important to stand up for yourself. The story in Mylee In The Mirror is very different, but I arrived at it in the same manner – I wanted a story that would demonstrate the moral of the story I find in Aphrodite’s story – you can’t force someone to love someone else. I hope to do that with all the books in this series – decide on a moral of the story for each god/goddess featured in the book and create a story that demonstrates that moral.

I enjoyed Ty and My’s characters and interactions. What was the inspiration for their relationship?

Hmmm… well, I didn’t really have a specific relationship in mind when I was writing it. I developed each character (for instance, Ty is loose combination of my [real life] Trampoline & Tumbling teammate, Ty, my dad, and my brother, Will), then had them interact the way I imagined those characters would interact with each other. I have a friend, Peter, who I joke around with, kinda like Mylee and Ty joked around together, but My & Ty were friends longer than Pete and I have been and they’re closer than Pete and I are.

How has your writing developed and changed from book one in your Greek Mythology Fantasy Series?

I don’t know exactly how my writing developed and changed from Daisy to Mylee, but this book was really different to write because Daisy was all about 6th graders and I was a 6th grader when I was writing it, so I could really relate to what they were doing and how they were acting. Mylee is about ninth graders AND Ty was my first male main character. Obviously, I don’t know anything about being a boy, and certainly not a 9th grade boy, so I had to talk with my brother quite a bit to decide what Ty would do and how he would act. I also talked quite a bit with my mom about the two moms in the story and Grammy Jean. Grammy Jean was based on my real-life great grandmother, who passed away last winter. The character wasn’t exactly like my Grammy Jean, but pretty close. So, I guess I can say I worked more and worked harder this time trying to understand motivations to make the characters feel really real, know what I mean?

What are you currently writing and when will it be published?

I’m just starting work on book 3. This will feature my first god (instead of a goddess), and the main character will be a boy this time. I hope to be done with it sometime this spring, so hopefully it’ll be published sometime in the summer. I’ve been busy, though, because this is competition season for both my gymnastics team and my tramp & tumble team. Last weekend we traveled down to Oregon for a meet and this weekend we fly to Reno, Nevada for another one. Between all that and school there isn’t a ton of time for writing, but I’m really anxious to share this next story, so I’ll find the time! 😊

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Facebook | Website

Mylee in the Mirror (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 2) by [Collins, Ellie]

Freshman year is just starting, and already Mylee fears her family is falling apart. She’s not interested in dating or any of the high-school drama it brings, but that’s just what she gets when Sam, the most popular guy at school, invites her to the Homecoming dance. Mylee needs advice, so she summons Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, her secret confidant.

Tyler is worried about Mylee, his best friend and teammate. Already sad about her family woes, he’s livid that Slimeball Sam is trying to ooze his way into her life. And she seems to be falling for Sam’s act! Worse, Ty is worried all this attention from such a popular guy will place Mylee officially out of his league.

What does an ancient Greek goddess know about modern teenage romance? Can My and Ty save their friendship and discover what matters most?

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Gerald of Kerk

Gerald of Kerk by [Keenan, Paul Thomas]

Gerald of Kerk was an interesting read. I can’t say I have ever read a book that was written quite like this one; seemingly a fictional biography of the main character, Gerald. Although rather than covering his entire life we only read from his late grade school years until around his senior year of high school.

At first, I was little confused with the progression of the book because it didn’t seem to be reaching any sort of a climax or striving toward any particular purpose. Come to find out, the book would continue this way and end this way as well. Actually, I was surprised to have found myself at the end of the book and kept thinking I was missing another chapter, at least. I think I would have to say that overall, the entire book felt similarly abrupt. For instance, in the scene where Gerald exhibits a bit of bravery in going to rescue his bicycle from the neighborhood bullies, I felt a little letdown because the build up to this scene was emotional and the outcome was not what I expected. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, I just feel it could have been less abrupt and more fulfilling for the reader. But then again, the fact that Gerald’s experiences aren’t over the top and dramatic is what makes the book so relatable.

The charming aspects of the story are the childhood memories and experiences of Gerald that the author takes us through. I think that the feelings and thoughts and experiences are very familiar and relatable to the average reader, and they make the story compelling enough to be a page turner. While the writing could use some polish the story and characters are written well enough to be touching.

The relationship between Gerald and his childhood friends is the focal point of the story, as is his developing sense of self and morals. I really ended up loving Gerald’s character for his common sense and tendency to do the right thing even in the face of peer pressure. I think this book would be a great read for pre-teens, boys and girls alike, because it does a great job of illustrating how your life will not be ruined if you don’t always join the crowd. By the time Gerald reached his teenage years I really felt invested in his story and wanted to know what he would make of himself in college and beyond. I guess this is why I was a little disappointed with the story’s ending point. I could be wrong, but I feel like there has to be a Gerald of Kerk Part II on the way. If there was, I would definitely want to read it.

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Pages: 106 | ASIN: https://amzn.to/2Q4Ra78

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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Along with You

Along with You by [Areaux, Michelle]All Blair wanted was to fit in and find a place where her dark past wouldn’t keep following her and haunting her. After many moves Blair and her parents end up in the small farm town of Shady Oaks Kentucky. Having always moved around from one big city to the next, a small farm town with country side and horses was the last thing Blair expected to find and fall in love with. Here in Shady Oaks, Blair finds real friends and starts to imagine she could have a real life there. Than someone from her past shows up, and everything crumbles. Would she be able to stand her ground and overcome her past here with the new friends she has, or will they turn on her like everyone else has in the past?

Being a teenager is hard these days, the world is hung up on social media presence, how many followers do you have, is your life documented one image after another for all the world to see? No matter how much we may try to delay this, it happens, our children are exposed to the world online and it has permeated even into their education system. Parents can no longer protect their kids from the world online. The increase of social media has made bully’s even more prevalent, no longer is it teasing on the playground, the bullies follow their victims’ home and even when they move to their new homes. Michelle Areaux does an amazing job at showing how this can impact their lives. Written for this age group, they can relate to the characters, the school groups, the feeling of being the new kid. The story is relatable. It is not so far-fetched, even with Blair’s secret, to believe this could be any kid in the school with them. The feelings are real, and the personalities are believable. Hunter is very endearing, and you want to love him from the start, same with Grace. I was drawn to all the characters, I felt like I could have been Blair, or Grace at different points in my life. Now I relate to her parents as I navigate the world of mental illness, bullying, cyber-bullying, and all the other stress that kids these days face with my own children. They thought moving all the time was what was best for Blair, they wanted to do the right thing for her, to make her life easier. It is what all parents want, to give their kids a better life. Moving to Shady Oaks was the best thing they could do for Blair and their love and frustration at helping her find her normal is easy for parents to relate to as well.

Along with You by Michelle Areaux is a young adult novel that is filled with topics we should all be talking to our teens about. This would make a great book club or family reading novel to share with young teens that are facing a world filled with technology and social media. It covers topics of bullying, cyber bullying, and the fact that once things are online they never really go away.

Pages: 232 | ASIN: B079ZPSFJ6

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Survivor

Survivor (The Survivor Series Book 1) by [Duke, Samantha K.]

Survivor is Book 1 in the Survivor Series by author, Samantha Duke. This book offers a little bit of everything – romance, darkness, and humor embedded within a great supernatural adventure.

Friendship is one of the first key themes that the reader is drawn into. All Max Wilson wants is to do is fit in with everybody else. Set in a typical high school, Max attempts to befriend a girl called Amy. They hit it off and everything seems to be going swimmingly, until the sudden disappearance of students from their school. From here, the book takes a dramatic twist which is where creepy paranormal elements start to permeate the story. When the students are reported dead, and Max is accused of abducting them, the novel continues by unwinding the plot and working out what happened to the students, and what this has to do with Max.

Although the plotline is well-thought out, I think that the author could have divulged more about paranormal activities. I like to feel a sense of escapism, but I also like to feel a sense of realism. I think this book is great at promoting escapism, but lacks in realism. This is a thoughtful book full of emotion, but I was unable to connect with the characters because I didn’t understand their emotions in certain moments and some of the language used to convey those emotions was inconsistent.

One of the great things that Duke does articulate in her writing is her originality.  The author of Survivor creates a story line that is  endearing, especially the ending. I really enjoyed how the novel ended on an optimistic tone. Many YA novels recently forget that we want to feel good after reading a book, and Samantha Duke knows how to deliver a suspenseful yet endearing story. With this ending, I think there is a great chance to continue the series. A few editing errors aside, Duke proves to have a great writing ability.

Having read this book, I believe this book adds something unique and interesting to the paranormal genre. Although I struggled to comprehend some of the narration, I can appreciate the author’s attempt to create an enthralling and exciting novel.

This novel could be listed under the young adult genre, but I think anyone would very much be interested from beginning to end. Survivor is a noble attempt at creating a novel in the young adult paranormal genre that would be enjoyable read for the right reader with an interest in friendship, survival, and innocence.

Pages: 276 | ASIN: B01N7GNVRW

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My Broken Heart

Hannah R. Goodman Author Interview

Hannah R. Goodman Author Interview

Till it Stops Beating is an emotional but fun novel that follows young Maddie as she struggles with anxiety and following her heart. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this novel?

Maddie came to me when I was 15 and at a creative arts summer camp, recovering from an awful break up with my first real boyfriend. So, I created “Maddie” to help heal my broken heart. I went on to write my first novel, My Sister’s Wedding, which is a (highly) fictionalized version of that “bad romance”.

This book, TILL IT STOPS BEATING, was inspired by that same theme of heartbreak…but not only romantic heartbreak, but also the heartbreak of growing up and becoming aware that not everything lasts or is permanent and not everything can be fixed or solved.

My students, clients, and my own children and my position as a parent/teacher/therapist were major influences in shaping this novel. Specifically, my own struggle with anxiety and panic attacks were things that helped me to flesh out Maddie’s own mental health problems. It was therapeutic to write about her struggle to understand herself.

Maddie is a character that I felt I could relate to; we were all young once. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing her character?

I wanted to capture and normalize the mental health issues that tend to come up during adolescence. When I had my own bout with anxiety and agoraphobia my senior year of high school, no one talked about this and it was lonely and isolating. I feel like this book is a conversation starter about anxiety.

This novel deals with the stress and anxiety young kids feel today. What do you feel is different about the challenges teens face today that is different from your generation?

I actually feel there is only one major difference—access to information and social media—and both of those things are double-edged, meaning there are positives and negatives to them. The stats around social media use and depression in teens pretty much says it all! However, access to information about mental health has also increased the awareness and possibly save lives. There is good and there is bad.

Teens have always and will always deal with the stress and struggle of growing up, no matter if you are a boomer, Gen-X-er, millennial, or a teen today, in 2018. As a Gen-Xer with a teenage daughter, I see so many similarities in terms of the angst and feelings; she and I are able to connect on that deep level because the feelings are epic, classic, and constant!

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

Though I thought TILL IT STOPS BEATING would be the last Maddie book (there are 4 in total), I have more stories to tell about Maddie’s life as she becomes an adult and navigates college and even beyond.  I’ve outlined both books and am planning to pitch them to my publisher. Hopefully the first of these two will come out at the end of 2019 beginning of 2020.

 Author Links: GoodReadsTwitter | FacebookInstagramLinkedInAmazonWebsite

Till it Stops Beating by [Goodman, Hannah R.]Seventeen-year-old Maddie Hickman’s senior year begins with the good (the reemergence of The One That Got Away), the bad (a cancer diagnosis, not hers, but it might as well be) and the WTF (an anxiety attack that renders her writhing on the floor like an upside down crab). 

Adding to her spiraling anxiety is Senior Project, in the form of I’ve Decided To Write A Book about The Other One That Got Away (And Crushed My Heart). Compounding it all is applying to college and keeping up with her friends. The ever mounting stress eventually rips her tight grip on all that she holds dear.

Her break down leads to an unexpected road trip where she is forced to listen to her wildly beating heart. It is only in the back of a convertible with pop music blasting, that she discovers she must risk everything in order to really live.

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