Masks by Nataly Restokian is salacious from the very beginning. We’re brought into the story where two relative strangers are having a one-night stand, one married woman with a lover on the side! It may appear to be an adult erotica novel at first, but keep reading, this is only one of the many layers to the plot that got me hooked and kept me flipping pages.
The protagonist is a fiery but spirited female named Anna that is surrounded by the glitz and glamour of the television industry. She is beautiful and successful, with her own show that sets her up to be an icon to woman in her country. The background setting gives the story a more visceral feel as one goes through the story. Anna is confident, daring, unstoppable and vivacious, but she is also hurting, bitter and cynical. She puts on her masks, as props to keep up appearances, lest others take advantage of her. The story evolves quickly and picks up speed from the risque beginning. Anna’s pursuit of happiness takes the reader on an emotional ride through the dark side of fame and fortune.
The story takes place in different cities throughout the middle-east which give you the same globe trotting feeling that Anna must have felt. I’ve never visited any of these places so this all seemed magically exotic to me. The settings are genuine and natural and lend to the emotional turmoil of the story.
There is a fresh feel in the author’s approach as she has been a keen observer of the societal nuances of the region, and is able to express it in terms that I felt were original and thought provoking. People from the west are inundated with reports everyday in the media and news channels about the region’s political and economic turmoil and forgets completely about the people, as individuals, living their lives. Hoping for a better future, like Anna. That’s what I like most about this story, that it’s a human story that I could relate to, because sometimes we too wear masks. I admire this story because it casts the region and culture in a different light, one that is not a hot spot for terror but instead brings forth the spirit of resilience. The spirit that makes people persevere in the face of difficulties and yet still have a passion for life. People that are scarred by their past, but not a prisoner of it. I feel that Anna embodies this spirit. I was intrigued by the exotic setting, Anna’s complex character, and the twists and turns that the story took as she risked it all in her quest for love and acceptance. I highly recommend this book.
Pages: 221 | ASIN: B07BB6RMDS
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Bitter Awakenings is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, paranormal, and urban as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I think starting out, I had a concept in mind. I wanted supernatural elements in full swing and within a small town setting. As I wrote, however, the characters started demanding more elements be added as their individual personalities, backgrounds, and even locations dictated the overall direction and feel of the book. In the end, it made sense to combine a few genres based on the characters and the locations used in the book. The world of magic, as I found out through writing this book, tends to blur the lines between what we know, what we expect, and what is possible.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I liked them all, but I absolutely loved writing for Dusty. The mix of blood that flows through her veins makes for interesting interactions with her fellow Keepers. There are times when she’s sweet, then sour, bossy, yet vulnerable. You can sense her wanting to take charge and lead, but there’s a disconnect with her emotionally that shows up in the work, some funny, some not so much. She’s the perfect blend of “I know what I’m doing” and “What the hell just happened?” with the slightest dusting of, “Told ya so.”
The most enjoyable interaction between characters came from the conversations and situations Gordy and Niles had throughout the book. The back and forth banter of two men in love makes for some comedic moments between the more perilous scenes throughout the book. You just can’t help but smile and giggle whenever they get on lobbing one liners and can’t help but think they sound like an old married couple.
The world you’ve created is very detailed and creative. What was your inspiration for the background of your story?
Growing up I was an avid fan of comics and cartoons. Most of my favorites centered around “team” mechanics, like the Avengers, X-Men, JLA, Bionic Six, Dungeons and Dragons and many others. I enjoyed how everyone worked together to combat evil, but at times ran the show from a single perspective.
I also loved the aspect of witchcraft, the supernatural, and the unseen world. I quickly became fascinated by the massive amounts of information available on the subjects while supplying myself a healthy dose of horror cinema and books to quench my thirst. I switched between books and movies through my teen years when I learned, all too well, that ginger haired and fair skinned people do not fare well in Florida’s, almost constant, stream of burning sunlight.
I grew up in the South and among the cow pastures, orange groves, and lazy summer days of sweet tea and mosquito bites, I listened and watched. Most of the things I remembered, the people, the talks, the places all became inspiration for parts of my book coupled with my love of the supernatural and superhero worlds I so fondly remembered from my youth.
Bitter Awakenings is book 1 in the Keeper Chronicles. Where does book 2 take readers?
Book 1 set the stage when it came to uncovering secrets, opening the door for more drama, and introducing the world of the Keepers, but Book 2 will basically throw the curious head first into the magical rabbit hole.
Readers will get a chance to check in on Leesa amid the Utah landscape and how she’s been handling life with Lee and Myrna. An uncovering of a “friend” involvement that builds on the revelations in Book 1 will put Truddie Mae and Niles in the line of fire way out in the swampland of Louisiana. A ghost from the Keepers’ past makes a return visit that could spell the end for them all while a new Keeper joins their ranks in the most unforeseen way.
Expect more drama, more supernatural mischief, and more revelations as the Keepers struggle to maintain the veil while dodging a conspiracy to finish them off. Can they uncover the secret agenda meant to end them before it finally does?
It had been a quiet three years for Truddie Mae Watts, an almost immortal woman sharing the body of an eleven-year-old girl alongside an injured demon. As a Keeper, those chosen by the fates and granted supernatural powers to protect the veil between our world and the astral planes, she has grown accustomed to the tranquility of her home magically hidden away within the swampy wilderness along the outskirts of Dade City, Florida. That is until the veil calls out for her assistance urging her back into action and into the path of a sinister new enemy.
Something has breached the veil into our world. An entity that marks her and those she loves, for death. Driven by a ravenous appetite for energy, a craving for the occult, and a desire to end all of Keeper kind, it will stop at nothing until this world, her reality, is erased.
Now, forced to work alongside the tri-blooded Dusty, her adopted son and nature mage Niles, and Valda the snobby ice enchantress, they must race to stop this new evil that is hell-bent to destroy them and ultimately cause two worlds to collide that would unravel the universe.
Against all odds and against a ticking monstrosity of devouring evil, the Keepers must rally and protect not only their reality but also themselves before time runs out for them all.
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Paradoxical: What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married, by Richard Homawoo, is a book that is summed up by the title. The author gives the exact tools and techniques that anyone, who is hoping for an honest authentic relationship, can use. Homawoo goes chapter by chapter unpacking his title and gives the readers easy morsels of information to digest, while also sharing his experience and knowledge of marriage and relationships. He covers the whole spectrum from knowing “yourself” to knowing what works within a relationship. He does this while still maintaining a very conversational tone, unpacking any jargon or other complicated terminology as it comes up. Overall, it comes across as an accessible book for anyone with passing interest in love.
What struck me first with this book, is how upfront Homawoo is with himself and why he chose to write on this topic. Love is often a complicated and complex thing to understand, especially in the context of marriage, yet here he has managed to simplify it enough to contain it within 200 pages. His writing is very clear and his roadmap is easy to follow as he goes from topic to topic.
Being recently married, I found some of the subject matter rather self-explanatory, if not obvious, but then Homawoo clearly aims to give this book to those who have yet to fall in love and experience it. His approaches to the various topics of compatibility and working with your partner are practical without any hiding the often “messy” reality. He maintains a very honest tone, especially with describing how love can feel at the outset, but also after the “honeymoon” phase as well. Love is no picnic!
Despite Homawoo’s own admittance that he is a shareologist not a therapist or counselor, I appreciated his incorporation of other writers and thinkers, such as Freud and Socrates. If nothing else these earlier thinkers help engage those readers, who may be seeking supplemental reading and could pursue those writers after reading Homawoo’s. It was one feeling I did receive from reading this book, which is that it felt like an introduction. He does mean this book for young couples and those just beginning to understand the often “paradoxical” nature of love and what that entails.
The best piece of advice, for even a seasoned “lover”, was his tips for managing certain aspects of the relationship. These aspects include stress, decision, and conflict management. I believe I’d heard of such things in the past, but Homawoo is able to explain them in a succinct and linked way that makes it part of a greater whole. I would say that most of this is connected to a greater whole, because it is love after all.
I’d recommend this book for high schoolers and college students, especially those in serious relationships. It would even be a good read for those of us in long term relationships, because it is always nice to have a reminder.
Pages: 226 | ASIN: B01NBJ68R9
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The Jealous Flock by Ashley Borodin is a realistic fiction story that centers around the slightly strained relationship of a married couple and their lives as individuals in partnership and their young adult son. The narrative drops readers directly into the lives of the characters featured and lets you explore their lives and innermost thoughts as they struggle with identity and the maturing of unique ideas. Heavily geared towards deep thinking, challenging societal ideals, and the mass acceptance of those who are different, The Jealous Flock is a story that is designed to open the audience’s mind and heart and think outside of the box.
What seems to be an ordinary, white picket fence family in England takes the spotlight in a vivid narrative from each character’s point of view. Hints of tension between Doris and Martin, a married couple both caught up in their jobs, play their part on their son John who is beginning to phase into his adult life from that of a teenager. As Martin travels to Afghanistan to help stop a potential blood bath with jihadists, Doris is left at home to struggle through the differences in her personal opinions and morals as they pertain to her career in the law as a PR agent. Meanwhile, left behind in his parents own crisis, John quits his respectable job and flees overseas where he hopes to find himself and pursue his passion for photography. In Australia, he follows the steps of his father in participating in protests that aren’t always peaceful to defend Muslims battling hate and discrimination. Here he meets Randall, an unhappy widower pursuing an unusual relationship with a transgender prostitute who is stuck in her own shell of self-hatred.
The relationships in The Jealous Flock are realistic and relatable, breathing life into the characters both on their own and in harmony with their counterparts. The story takes on a political drive with themes of racism, xenophobia, and sexism as strong elements in the plot. Dynamics between the father and son of this story are particularly captivating, as Borodin manages to catch those meaningful moments that happen during the shift from parent to lifelong friend and mentor.
Ashley Borodin makes a strong call to arms to fight against society’s expectation of us in any walk of life. In a way, the author has created a coming-of-age story not just for young adults but for those in later years as well. This story dives deep into your thoughts and twists open the cap on unique thinking and encourages ideas of change and acceptance. The graphic, bold way that the author takes depression and insecurities relatable to everyone is a refreshing breath of life and gives you the chance to realize that you are more than what a shallow skin can provide for you. Though a bit wordy and emotionally daunting, Borodin transcribes a striking narrative that has the ability to strike the hearts of those who yearn for something more than mundane life.
Pages: 66 | ASIN: B01NAPZWB8
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A man of God does not always equate to a Godly man. In Sharon Moore’s novel Hidden in Plain Sight the reader is submerged into the life of two Bishops; Bishop James Collins and Bishop Quincy Stewart. Both minister to super churches in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. They have competing congregations that appeal to similar groups but the two Bishops have drastically different goals and priorities. Both men are married and like their churches, their marriages are different and mirror their situations. Playing off well known images of the African American society Moore draws the reader into the culture surrounding the life of the people and families that make these super churches function. The novel also reminds us that just being ordained in the house of God does not remove one from all sin and does not make one perfect.
This story takes place in modern time, going back to the early 60’s when the characters meet. You learn how James Collins and Quincy Stewart meet their wives and start building up their mega church communities. The readers are also introduced to Jason White, the 29-year-old, grew up and out of the ghetto man, that has a chip on his shoulder and is out for revenge. It is discovered early in the novel that one of the Bishop’s is his father, but it isn’t said right off who. Jason’s mother, Bridgett, has recently died and his aunt tells him the truth about his family and father. This sets him off and he decides to seek out his father for revenge but he is unsure what exactly he wants. While seeking out his father he himself starts finding himself taking an interest in becoming and more Godly man. While James Collins appears the model Bishop with a happy family life, there is some underlying tension with his oldest son Lee. Quincy Stewart is quickly shown to be an abusive and manipulative man who cares only for his own needs and appearances.
The stories of the bishop’s families and Jason White all intermingle by the end of this novel. Outside influences play a large part but so do the internal struggles of each character. One disappointing point of this novel is the ending. This book is the first in a series, typically in a book series, one story line would be concluded with tie ins to the next novel, this book ends like a TV series season ending, cliffhanger with no resolution and just many questions. I found this frustrating especially given the volatile situation one character ends up in.
Moore does a good job bringing out the personalities and culture of her character’s environment. The use of traditional African American dialect is used not to be profane or show ignorance, rather it is indicative of the normal conversational language of the culture. She also does a good job showing how the mega church culture is more than just a church, it is a life style for those that their entire lives revolve around the church. Hidden in Plain Sight shows the good and the bad involved with the community and struggles and challenges it presents, especially on the families living it. Over all it is a great start to the series and I look forward to seeing how things go in the lives of all the characters.
Pages: 290 | ASIN: B01JBKHIZY
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