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Damaged

Damaged by [Green, C. K.]

Kiera Blake is a girl running from her painful past in Damaged by C.K. Green. It has been eight years since she suffered an attack that left her paralyzed with fear and afraid to actually live her life. She survives by controlling her environment and not allowing many people to get too close. She basically has her job and one real friend, Anna. Her anxiety and panic attacks keep her from truly connecting with anyone though. Then, along comes Ethan Parker, someone she knows from the past. This unexpected turn of events sends Kiera spiraling out of control and frantically trying to suppress her feelings about the past.

At the begging of the story Kiera seems a bit shallow. She struggles with the trauma from her past but she is still focused on her looks, clothing and makeup. She was a character I couldn’t relate to, but I could empathize with. The writing at the beginning of the book seemed a bit forced and awkward. I noticed several places where it seemed like the the wording was changed but the superfluous words remained. But as the story progressed the writing became much more relaxed which helped it flow better. The last half of the book was a much more fluid and enjoyable read.

Ethan Parker’s character was more relatable to me. He was the police officer who found Kiera after her attack and is still haunted by it. I felt like the connection these two had because of it was haunting but deep. He went to high school with her so they have history together, with each secretly having a crush on the other. He started his own security business and relocates to Nashville because of the music scene and the need for personal security there.

Kiera and Ethan reconnect while out dancing and their chemistry is natural and explosive. From there, a deep love story develops. Some of the wording seemed a little cliché to me. There was a lot of “staring deeply into souls.” Despite that, as the story develops, I started to root for them, empathize with them, and (here’s a twist) I was able to relate to Kiera. It is clear they fit together in a natural and easy way. It’s one of the stories that makes you want to shout at them, “But you belong together!”, before you realize you’re shouting at a book.

Considering that this is Green’s first book, I think the few grammatical issues are minor and could be fixed in subsequent books. Also, Kiera’s personality grew on me as the book progressed. Despite not liking her at first, I found myself looking forward to seeing what happens to her in the second book. Plus, the last half of the book really did have me flipping pages quickly to see what was going to happen. This book takes a few chapters to grow on you, but when it does it’s impossible to tear yourself away.

Pages: 298 | ASIN: B079LZW642

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Upon Broken Wings

Upon Broken Wings by [Reedy, E.L., Wade, A.M.]

Upon Broken Wings by E.L. Reedy and A. M. Wade is not a light read, but it is a read worth your time. This dark, cathartic story is a unique meld of many genres; coming of age, gay positivity, and family all interwoven with religious flavor, life after death, angels and demons. Reedy takes us on a journey through a small, overly conservative community all the way to Purgatory in a way that makes sense. If the story has any weak points it can all be forgiven by the enthralling premise of the novel.

The story follows several boys at the verge of of adulthood; Andrew, who suffers from Aspergers, and Keenan, a brave gay boy who is coming to terms with his identity. A series of unfortunate events will lead to a gruesome assault that will require all the strength of their family and friends, dead or alive, to help them resolve.

Upon Broken Wings avoids obvious descriptions of the worst that the characters have to go through but the indication is enough to leave me seething and demanding justice. Add to it is the slow burn of sadness, loneliness and isolation that the characters feel, all the misfortune and all the lost chances add up to a dark and emotionally heavy reading experience. Reedy takes us through mud so we could feel all the anguish that made his characters behave the way they do. So when he finally, mercifully, starts to get us into a somewhat better place we feel like we earned it.

His characters are the best part of the story. They feel like real people and their motivations seem genuine, even when they are no longer among the living. And that’s a tall order with all the elements or death, gay identity and angels in it.

I felt that the dialogue was disjointed and the characters, especially young Casey, sometimes feel like intentional Mary Sues. Casey, Keenan’s brother, is a boy wise beyond his years and can also see angels. We are never given a reason for this ability. It serves the story and paints an emotional picture but I felt that it lacks depth. Similarly, Andrew’s Asperger is important for the story but we never see how it affects him in his day to day life. We are told but we are not really shown the consequences of living on a spectrum. I think this would have helped flesh out the characters.

The angels give a distinct New Age vibe. Their shallow philosophy of forgiveness and understanding along with healing crystals and other cliches works well because angels should behave like that, which gives this coming-of-age and coming-out story interesting and unexpected religious undertones. Upon Broken Wings is not a perfect story. But it is an interesting and original endeavor in this day and age that is. A rare novel, certainly worth your time.

Pages: 199 | ASIN: B07BZXWNBJ

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Red and Blue: A Reimagined Fairy Tale

Red and Blue: A Reimagined Fairy Tale by [Dubriel, Jolie]

Jolie Dubriel’s Red and Blue is a fascinating, re-imagined tale that combines both classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes with many twists and turns. Dubriel takes old favorite characters and story lines you knew, loved, and memorized during your childhood story times and weaves them together as one beautiful story of secrecy, heartbreak, and the power of love. Obstacles and setbacks are sprinkled in along the way on the journey from once upon a time to happily ever after. Nostalgic characters Little Red Riding Hood and Little Boy Blue are now grown-up characters who play the lead parts. Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole, and other classic figures also pepper this amazingly creative compilation.

Like any classic fairy tale, this book is not without tragedy. As is par for the course, there are separations of young children from parents and premature deaths of parental figures. There are hearts broken and healed. Red and Blue are coming of age characters who are growing up, discovering who they are, who they want to be, and who they begin to have feelings for. Stories from the past surface that throw wrenches in plans and change life trajectories. The story is full of conflicts and characters trying to solve them. The dynamic as old as time, good vs. evil, is also prevalent in parts of the story.

I love a good anthropomorphic animal or inanimate object, and those characters seen in the Kingdom of Rhyme do not disappoint in this area. Animals and objects are personified throughout the story. Fish, salamanders, cats, and dogs walk around in suits as servants and guards in King Cole’s castle. A dish runs and talks with a spoon through the forest. A cow jumps over the moon. These are the kinds of things that a nostalgic childhood reader will love. The half human/half animal or object cast of characters are reminiscent of those kinds of splits found in The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, The Sword in the Stone, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

I like the twist that Red’s story takes regarding her relationship with wolves. Red and her grandmother have their classic encounter with the Big Bad Wolf, and miraculously survive. Later, her loving stepfather gifts her with a little wolf pup that grows to be her best friend and companion. It’s refreshing to see the girl have the upper hand over a wolf in one of these tales.

What classic tale would be complete without magic? The ultimate symbol of magic in this story is Little Boy Blue’s golden horn. He is unaware of its power, but has been cautioned to keep it with him always. Blue has grown up with the horn strapped to his back while working on a farm. It is only later that Blue will discover his true identity and the power that the horn truly holds.

I really enjoyed how Dubriel took so many classic and loved stories and characters and wove them together into one cohesive story. It is truly a feel-good kind of read. It is a love story that keeps its innocence. There is some tragedy and conflict, but I think it’s appropriate for pretty much anyone. Middle schoolers through adults will enjoy this book. Jolie Dubriel may have written a “new classic” with this book.

Pages: 192 | ASIN: B079WCF5ZF

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A spider, Baseball and Birthmark

Kirk Raeber Author Interview

Kirk Raeber Author Interview

Forgotten Letters follows Robert and Makiko as they overcome many obstacles for family, love, and faith, during a tumultuous time in history. What was the inspiration for this heartfelt novel?

The inspiration for my story was a dream that I had 15 years ago. The entire story was in my dream. I did not have a recurrent dream ever again but the story was always on my mind. I would think about the story frequently but told no one about the dream for years. I then told my wife and several good friends my dream. They were spellbound and when I finished they said I should write a book. I put the project on hold for over 10 years and started to put the story on paper 4 years ago.

Robert and Makiko deep and well developed relationship. Was there relationship planned or did it develop organically while writing?

Robert and Makiko’s relationship was always part of my dream.  As the book developed so did their relationship change.  I had several beta readers help make very good suggestions during to project.  In fact we added a few sentences to the book just before printing that solidified their relationship.

You wrote this book with Mario Acevedo. What was the writing collaboration like?

Mario Acevedo is a very talented and professional author who has produced a number of very good books. To name a few “Werewolf Smackdown, Blood Business, Rescue From Planet Pleasure” and many more. Mario was very easy to work with and has a wonderful imagination. Mario and I worked very well together and I thank him so much for all his input.

This book was able to get many historical and biblical details correct. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?

The research we did was a great deal of fun and good learning experience. For a majority of the facts we used Google but we each relied on our military backgrounds to help with those facts. In the beginning of my dream there was a big earthquake in Japan early 1900’s. I thought Japan always has earthquakes so I did research for that time period . I found that in 1923 the “Great Kanto“ earthquake destroyed both Tokyo and Yokohama with shaking and fires. The fires were started by the open hibachi stoves in most houses at that time.

Remember three things when reading Forgotten Letters a spider, baseball and birthmark.  These three items will be introduced at the beginning of the story and again introduced  later on.  I think the reader will smile at reading each of the words again.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookWebsite

A trove of forgotten letters reveals a love that defied a world war.

In 1924, eight-year old Robert Campbell accompanies his missionary parents to Japan where he befriends a young Makiko Asakawa. Robert enjoys his life there, but the dark tides of war are rising, and it won’t be long before foreigners are forced to leave Japan.

Torn from the people Robert has come to think of as family, he stays in contact by exchanging letters with Makiko, letters that soon show their relationship is blossoming into something much more than friendship.

The outbreak of total war sweeps all before it, and when correspondence ends with no explanation, Robert fears the worst. He will do anything to find Makiko, even launch himself headfirst into a conflict that is consuming the world. Turmoil and tragedy threaten his every step, but no risk is too great to prove that love conquers all.

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Book of Matthew: House of Whispers

Book of Matthew: House of Whispers by [DuBois, Catalina]

Catalina DuBois’s Book of Matthew: Part I. House of Whispers is a tale of forbidden love that, at times, seems Shakespearian in its delivery. The story begins in rural Missouri in 1850, a tumultuous time in the United States. Slavery was still very much in practice at southern plantations. Along with the master/slave dynamic came secret, taboo romances between captive slaves and free, white plantation owners and their family members. Matthew, the plantation owner’s son and heir, and Sarah, a slave owned by Matthew’s father, are two star crossed lovers trying desperately to navigate through social stigma, away from the plantation-dominated south, and toward freedom.

Barely a few pages into the first chapter, Matthew’s lust for the slave girl, Sarah, is evident. This is shown through a very sexually explicit scene that turns out to be a dream. There are a few of those scenes like this scattered throughout the book. Over all, I didn’t feel they detracted from the book, but might be a little too graphic for some readers.

The book seems accurate in its depiction of slavery. Slaves are subjected to unwanted sexual advances, beatings, whippings, and, in some cases, death. Families are ripped apart. Mixed race children are born in slave quarters. Secrecy is rampant. Slaves aren’t legally recognized as people. They are merely property. They are bought and sold as simply stock on store shelves. They are forced into unwanted marriages. They are denied a proper education, and are often punished if they find a way to become literate. They have no rights. They have no choices. This is a grave, but important reminder of America’s past.

Thank goodness for the few characters besides Matthew and Sarah who seem to have some common sense about them. A handful of characters, even during that timeframe, believed in equality. They are reminded at a point that race didn’t matter at all in God’s eyes, even if men’s eyes had such skewed filters. They find help from some unlikely sources as they try to outrun those who would rather see them dead than together.

The book keeps interest piqued through all the obstacles that Matthew and Sarah overcome to try to be together. There are similar story lines that play along parallel to theirs. Other pairs of seemingly mismatched lovers run and hide and jump through hoops to be together as well. This story based on love is not without its hindrances. Villains walk amongst them in their treks toward love. Menacing characters sabotage, violate, abuse, and even murder their victims throughout the story. They still don’t give up on each other. Even in such dire circumstances, love finds a way to unite. Ultimately, love conquers all.

DuBois’s story reads easily and quickly. I didn’t want to put it down. I found myself cheering for the more righteous characters, and hating the more deviant of them. The plot flows nicely, and loose ends are tied up neatly by the end. I’d love to read a Part II and see where DuBois takes Matthew and Sarah’s journey.

Pages: 233 | ASIN: B076ZS21T6

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The Cursed Girl

The cursed girl by [Vermisoglou, Maria]

Eva, a sixteen-year-old witch, lives with her mother and friend Ritta in 13th century Spain. Eva is a renowned healer who wishes to live a simple life among human peasants. One day she meets a boy named Johnathan who is more than he appears to be. Together with her friend Alec, and her faithful familiar Midnight, the trio travel across medieval Europe to help save the human world from war and the powers of darkness that threaten to engulf them all. Along the way Eva and her friends discover that friendship and love are a powerful type of magic that may help awaken the ultimate power lying dormant inside of Eva.

The Cursed Child by Maria Vermisoglou has everything a young adult fantasy reader could wish for. Supernatural creatures, handsome young men, and a feisty heroine who seems to always find herself in the middle of a major catastrophe – a catastrophe only she can solve. While all the ingredients are there for a delightful supernatural adventure, although sometimes predictable.

The story begins with our heroine, Eva, explaining to us that she is a witch and that witches live for hundreds of years and protect humanity from demons and other dark forces from taking over the earth. Eva has a best friend Ritta who is also a witch and lives with her and her mother in a humble house in the village. One day Eva runs into Johnathan, a handsome boy who asks her to attend the royal ball. Eva agrees begrudgingly and thus begins an adventure across 13th century Europe. Without giving away too much of the plot, Johnathan turns out to be the heir to the throne of Spain, but his ascension to the throne is far from guaranteed. Johnathan’s father and uncle have both been warped by their privilege (and in Johnathan’s father’s case – an actual demon) and end up turning on their own son/nephew to try and take the throne from him. Luckily, Johnathan and his best friend Alec, are interested in being better rulers than their relatives and accompany Eva as she magically wisks them around Europe trying to escape civil war and evil demons.

While Vermisoglou’s main trio, Eva, Alec and Johnathan, are a captivating and entertaining bunch, I wanted more unexpected twists to be thrown at the group to see them continue to develop and make them truly engrossing. Eva and Alec are best friends but nothing more. Eva continually berates Johnathan for being stupid but seems to very quickly and neatly change her opinion as things wrap up at the end of the novel. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book however is the great descriptive flair of the author. The fabulous ball gowns and wedding dresses are described in specific detail that leave enough room for the reader’s imagination to make them come alive.

All in all, The Cursed Child contains enough magic, political intrigue and heartwarming moments to keep its young adult audience enthralled until the last page.

Pages: 574 | ASIN: B07BV423FK

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Eternal Bloodlines

Eternal Bloodlines by [Brennan, J.C.]

In Eternal Bloodlines by J.C. Brennan, Amanda Rain Holston is a young woman living a very boring life. Her parents have been dead for five years and lives completely alone. She works as a waitress and finds it hard to even get up in the morning because of her tedious existence. A point that is captured perfectly by the picture frames she has with stock images of people in them. The one thing she does that she actually enjoys is going on long walks. It is on one of these walks that she discovers a ghastly sight: a dead body in the snow. This discovery changes everything and Amanda’s life will never be the same.

The book is set in Skidway, Michigan. Amanda has spent her life in the town and expects to grow old and die there, probably from boredom. She longs to escape the confines of the small town. The only good thing she has there is her best friend, Jessica.

The paranormal plot of this book has promise. It starts as a standard tale of a fantasy come true but with some quirky additions that turn this piece into a unique supernatural thriller. It definitely gets interesting when Amanda meets Mihnea. They bond immediately and their love story is sweet. The story loses me a bit with the attempts at making the dialogue fit a different time. It does not always work, and sometimes seems stilted, but it’s saved by the intriguing relationship that develops between Amanda and Mihnea.

I really enjoyed this book, but I found that there were some editing mistakes, to the point where I was a bit distracted; having to go back and reread some sections to make sure I understood them correctly. The book did pick up toward the end. The story became so interesting that I was able to overlook the mistakes a bit more easily. In my opinion, all the book needs is a good editor and I’ll be begging for more. I wanted so badly to focus on the unique and suspenseful story, because under the typos is a fresh take on the vampire genre, one that puts its methodically developed characters into a deadly and captivating world.

Pages: 177 | ASIN: B075G1GK4F

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Blowout Summer

Blow Out Summer by [Stock, Denise Ann]

Dee Dee is a surfer, an aspiring tennis player, and a girl who is always up for a good party. One summer in particular stands out in her memory as she reflects upon her life. With her close band of friends around her, Dee Dee sets out to thoroughly enjoy her summer off and does not hesitate as she goes about seeking the company of friends new and old. Her “blow out summer,” as she calls it, teaches her some valuable lessons and gives her time to reflect on her own choices as she learns who is worthy of her affection and trust and who falls short.

Set in Huntington Beach, California, Blow Out Summer, by Denise Ann Stock, reads less like a novel and much more like a memoir. The conversational tone of the book makes it a quick and easy read. Dee Dee’s reflections on her experiences with the drug trade and her laid back approach to her participation in drug trafficking read shockingly smoothly. For as deeply involved as Dee Dee seems to be in buying and selling illegal substances, she seems much less concerned than she should be. I attributed her naivety and lack of real concern to the time period, the mid 70’s.

I found myself waiting for that one point in the story that would point to a gripping climax. Everything in Dee Dee’s eventful summer points to an action-packed high point. However, with all her close calls, second guesses regarding her associates, and her relationship woes, there never came that one moment where the entire book seemed to pull together. Reading much more like a diary of the summer, I was a little disappointed not to see a resolution to many of the dilemmas created by the main character and her friends. I believe I was more determined to find answers than Dee Dee herself.

The one scene providing the most harrowing visual comes when Dee Dee’s friend, Jaycee, makes a frantic call about a possible overdose. I felt, as a reader looking for answers, this was an ideal opportunity for the plot to tie neatly together with some life-changing decisions being made on the part of both Dee Dee and her friends. As in real life, however, secrets prevail, and not much changed for those most deeply entangled in drug use and trafficking.

As pleasant as Dee Dee seems throughout the story and as much as her remembrances of her eventful summer kept me interested, I felt the overall story was missing something. The memoir style of writing Stock uses is appealing and will suit readers seeking a fairly light read without highly stressful rising action.

Pages: 360 | ASIN: B01C58JXJI

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Forgotten Letters

Forgotten Letters by [Raeber, Kirk, Acevedo, Mario]

Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of family, love, faith, and war that focuses on Robert Campbell, an American and his love interest, Makiko Asakawa, who is of Japanese descent. The two meet as children when Robert’s family stay with Makiko’s family in Yokohama during the 1920s to 1930s. It’s during this time that a relationship is formed between the two. Robert’s family eventually moves back to the United States while he is still in school, but Robert and Makiko vow to see each other again and maintain their bond by writing letters to each other. It is not until the 1940s, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War II that the two are reunited. The novel delicately pieces together the story of these two individuals living through death and devastation as they fight to get back to each other.

Kirk Raeber does an excellent job of handling the intricate details of the novel. There are a lot of historical components to this piece, and the author weaves his fictional story into American and Japanese history among other components of the novel flawlessly. Firstly, Robert’s father is a preacher; therefore, a lot of his lessons for a young Robert are based on scripture and particular Bible verses. Robert often returns to these Bible verses during trying moments in his life. It’s clear that the author had some knowledge of the Bible and took great care in picking out the right verse during difficult moments in Robert’s life. Secondly, the author seems to be aware of American and Japanese culture during the time period that the novel spans. Also, even though this is a fictional story, there are historical elements weaved into it, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Raeber does not skip over these aspects of history, but rather he weaves them into Robert and Makiko’s story, illustrating not only how these unfortunate events impacted these two fictional characters, but it can also be reasoned that his telling of their story resonates the mood and despair of those that actually lived through the experience. It’s clear that Raeber took care while writing these events to make sure that he handled them with accuracy.

A small note of criticism lies within the secondary characters of the novel, Robert and Makiko’s son and daughter. The whole story begins when the adult children are going through their deceased parents’ belongings and stumble upon the letters that the two lovers exchanged long ago. This then leads into Robert and Makiko’s storyline, and the reader isn’t returned to the characters of the adult children until the end of the novel. While Robert and Makiko’s story is obviously the focus of the novel, it would have been nice to be returned to the adult children periodically throughout the novel. The placing of these two characters at the very beginning and very end of the novel creates a disconnect with them, and it leaves one questioning their purpose overall. It’s very possible that Robert and Makiko’s story can be told without the mention and inclusion of their children as characters.

Overall, Raeber’s Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of love’s triumph over distance, death, and war. This novel is highly recommended to those that might have an interest in World War II, 1940s Japanese culture, or anyone who just enjoys a good love story.

Pages: 406 | ASIN: B01HQFFXYY

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Till it Stops Beating Book Trailer

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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