In the pages of A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series), J.J. Olson weaves together a world of whimsy, magic, and the otherwise normal life of a 13-year-old girl. The story opens to Jenny Dewberry attending her grandmother, Alinore Grayson’s bedside. It is then that she receives the first clue that she may not be a normal 13-year-old girl. Alinore gives Jenny a key that opens a trunk of secrets and unlocks a part of herself that she never knew existed. Jenny discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, and she’s given a mission to restore white magic to the world.
This book is perfect for the young and old, alike but I think that middle-schoolers and up will enjoy this read the most. The story is vivid and descriptive and the writing is simple without being boring. Olson paints a world that is easily imagined. The book delves into some fairly complex situations, spells, and worlds a reader could easily get lost in, but I didn’t have a problem as everything is explained well.
I enjoyed the idea of the journals that Alinore left for Jenny to read. We get to know Alinore without her being a present character in the story through her first person narratives. We also get to know Alinore through her colorful sister, Agatha and her adventurous spirit. Alinore was a mastermind. She leaves Jenny everything she needs to send Jenny on a magical scavenger hunt of sorts.
The characters are well developed and enough background information is given to fill in gaps. This is a story that stands alone while at the same time leaving the reader begging for more. It is part of a series, but is easily digestible as a singular story.
I like the good vs. evil aspect of the story. Madiva and her minions represent the dark side, while fresh-faced Jenny is the bright spot. She is hope. That being said, I like the redemption of Kurthanyo Eastman that we get to witness. At first, I assumed Kurthanyo leaned more toward the domineering, evil side. By the end, we are given another piece of the story that lets Kurthanyo explains some of his actions when he was young. We’ve all done something we regretted in a fit of rage. Kurthanyo gives us a reminder that those fits are often not easily undone.
I’m giving A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series) by J.J. Olson 5 out of 5 stars. Apart from a few minor errors, the book is very well-written. The characters are relatable. It seems like it’s Jenny against the world, and at times she is. Readers will enjoy the protagonist as an underdog. I’d love to read more by this author, and particularly more in this specific series. I need to know what happens next!
Pages: 288 | ASIN: B07934BMGL
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In Degsy Hay: A Juvenile Redeemed, Brian Montgomery sets himself up as a modern day Horatio Alger or Charles Dickens, telling a tale of a hard-done-by young man who overcomes his humble beginnings to become something more.
Degsy Hay, born inside a UK prison to a heroin addict, inherits his mother’s chaotic life, as well as a mysterious diary with missing pages. At age 16, he’s released from McAlley-Stoke youth facility with no prospects. He spends a few months on the streets, during which he assembles a small entourage including a three-legged dog named Sadface, a girlfriend (and her young son) and several homeless tradespeople. Before long, though, he’s back in McAlley-Stoke, where, through a mix of violence and charisma, he quickly becomes the Gaffer, the big man in the youth correctional facility. He launches a reform campaign to encourage the young offenders to educate themselves during their incarceration and convinces (via a bloody riot complete with hostage-taking) the facility itself to treat its wards more humanely. All the while, a mystery around missing children and how they’re connected to the missing pages of his mum’s diary builds around him.
Montgomery gives his hero/narrator a distinct voice, rife with Cockney slang, locating him squarely in the rough and tumble housing estates of urban London, a lot of “nar’mean” this and “geezer” that. But for all his streetwise exterior, Degsy is a kind soul at heart and looks out for the people around him. It seems that everyone he meets has a lesson to teach him, even if they have to die a grisly death for him to learn it. The people closest to Degsy have a nasty habit of ending up dead, or filthy rich. Sometimes both.
For a book that tackles some extremely difficult topics like poverty, addiction, and child abuse, Degsy Hay can be a bit simplistic at times. It seems more concerned with showing how one extraordinary character overcomes these heinous hurdles with a plucky attitude and a few well-placed friends, and yet there’s an internal logic to it too. It’s Degsy himself who tells the story, and so why wouldn’t he place himself at the center and give himself all the credit?
On the surface, the story of a streetwise youth pulling one over on the world with nothing more than his wits, a few friends, and a three-legged dog should appeal to middle grade readers, but the very strong language and heavy theme of sexual abuse are better suited to older readers with a bit of maturity to process the trauma at the core of Degsy’s tale. More sophisticated readers, though, might find the very Dickensian style of storytelling a bit old fashioned. But then, we’re still reading Dickens, so why not? At any rate, the colourful language and Degsy’s unforgettable voice should keep them interested.
Pages: 180 | ASIN: B07K7VSQF8
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Michelle has known Damon for years. For years, Damon has known what Michelle could not possibly know–she belongs to him. When Damon’s stalking and pursuit of Michelle finally reaches its peak, Michelle can longer deny her attraction to Damon, and she gives in to her own curiosity. As Michelle and her best friend, Mellie’s, luck would have it, Damon is not the only one who has pursued and admired Michelle from afar for years. When what began as admiration turns to full-fledged obsession, Damon and his team are there for Michelle and Mellie when seconds count.
Addicted to You is the second book in the SAPD SWAT Series by author Nikki Mays. This second installment focuses on Michelle, co-owner of The Sweet Grind and best friend of Mellie. Mellie and her love affair with Morris were the primary focus of book one, and Mays has taken the same slant with book two shifting the perspective to Michelle. Written in first person and swapping between the two main characters, Michelle and Damon, the book hits on some particularly comedic moments as well as intensely romantic and sensual scenes.
As with book one, I enjoyed the shift in points of view between the two characters. Mays is adept at writing from each one’s perspective and helping the reader see each one’s thought processes. Damon, while intense, is a lovable character in his own right. Michelle’s reflections on his love for her further serve to build him as a favored character for readers. In turn, as Damon explains the passion with which he pursues Michelle, the reader is taken from wondering about his frame of mind to understanding his love for Michelle. Mays writes in a unique style that succeeds in quickly drawing in the readers and keeping them enthralled with the plot.
In both of the first two installments in the SAPD SWAT series, Mays steers the plot away from romance long enough to include an element of mystery. In Addicted to You, however, Mays seems to get to the point rather quickly. Even though I enjoyed and appreciated the mystery surrounding the drawings of Michelle left in the bake shop, it seemed the mystery was solved too quickly. I would have liked to have seen that aspect of the plot stretched out.
There is an undeniable quality of humor in Mays’s writing. She details a fantastic dynamic between her characters, both main and secondary. They have a rapport that is undeniable, and the entire group banters back and forth as true friends and siblings. Even their fights turn into comedic memories.
It is worth noting that there seem to be numerous punctuation and grammar errors in the reading. Only in a few places do these errors impact or interfere with the flow of the reading.
Author Nikki Mays writes an entertaining romance novel geared toward the new adult genre and succeeds in shaping lovable and memorable characters. Any fan of the romance genre will be pleased with the engaging plot and the sensuous visuals.
Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07J23W7JN
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The Tribulations of August Barton follows college freshman Augie as he navigates many precarious situations with the help of his grandmother. What was the inspiration for the setup to this entertaining novel?
I remembered how truly alone I felt when I turned eighteen and first left home. How hard it was to realize that the world was so vast and full of uncertainty, that if I let it, it could just swallow me whole. Augie is essentially a figment of the inner me and a reflection of how I felt at that time in my life. Doing things on your own without anyone’s help or guidance for the first time is scary.
The funny thing is, Augie wasn’t the first character to pop into my head for this story. It was his grandma Gertie. I was surfing on the web for writing prompts one day and came across some comical ones like, the pizza guy, a hug that goes too far, and something unexpected under the bed, or something to that effect. At some point looking through them all Gertie popped into my head. She wasn’t a character I really had to come up with, she was just already there in my head. Gertie is a combination of different people all in one person. I used to work with an older waitress named Pickles. Her personality was really flirty and fun and all the customers knew her by name. That’s where a lot of Gertie’s mannerisms came from. She is also parts of my own grandmother with some Betty White mixed in. I thought to myself “hmm I’ve never read anything like that, this could be interesting.” The story took off from there and her and Augie led the way.
There are things in life that we all have to face like this at one point or another that will test our morals or sanity, but the people who inspire me most are the ones who overcame those obstacles. Augie is a great example of how facing your fears and overcoming things that hold you back can help you grow as a person.
The world seems like it’s crashing down on Augie, but he manages to hang on with the help of his free spirited grandmother. What were some themes you wanted to capture in these characters and their relationship?
The main ones are that it’s okay to have friends that aren’t your age, that family isn’t always blood, and accepting people and loving them for who they are is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. One that’s a little more subtle throughout the story is that people can surprise you and misconceptions that are assumed about someone right away, can turn out to be completely unfounded once you get to know them.
I have always felt a special connection to my grandmother. Much like Augie does in the book with Gertie. In a lot of ways, I connected more with her than with my own mother, and despite this, I was still very close to both of them.
The relationship between Augie and Rose was heartfelt and certainly tugs at the heart strings. What did you want to do differently with their relationship than what’s portrayed in other novels?
One thing I wanted to stray from was insta-love as well as their relationship revolving solely around sex. While there are a lot of sexual themes throughout the book and some good laughs about it, I also wanted to show readers that a relationship is built on more than just physical intimacy. I wanted to create likeable, yet flawed characters that almost anyone could relate to, because in real life we all have problems and none us is perfect or really ever gets it right. We stumble through life and make mistakes that we learn from, which is what both Augie and Rose do as their relationship blooms. They make mistakes and they don’t get it right the first time.
Augie see’s that there’s more to Rose than she’s willing to show other people. It’s rare to meet someone who sees who you really are right from the start. He’s also willing to let her go to ensure that she doesn’t spiral out of control, even though he desperately just wants to hold on to her. In turn Rose accepts Augie just the way he is, quirks and all. The more she sees who he is, the more she opens her eyes to what she really wants in life and decides to make a change.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Augie’s story continues in the sequel titled The Revelations of August Barton which is currently available on Kindle. The paperback will be available hopefully within the next month or two.
August Barton could never have mentally prepared himself for his freshman year of college: not only has his anxiety increased, but his parents are divorcing, his new roommate thinks Augie is the biggest nerd in existence, and his grandma, a retired prostitute named Gertie, has taken to running away from her nursing home.
Augie just wants to hole up in his dorm room with his Star Wars collectables and textbooks, but Gertie is not about to let that happen. What ensues is a crazy ride including naked trespassing, befriending a local biker gang, and maybe-just maybe-with Augie defeating his anxiety and actually getting the girl.
Posted in Interviews
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The Tribulations of August Barton by Jennifer LeBlanc is the story of a young man beginning his first year of college in Fargo, North Dakota. He is not looking forward to it, as he hates new experiences and new people due to his anxiety. With the help of his grandmother, Gertie, he comes out of his shell and learns how to deal with his panic attacks. He meets a girl he feels a real connection with, but several things pull them apart, and he faces the possibility that she might never want to be anything more than his friend. Then, a disastrous encounter at a Halloween party forces a wedge between them that Augie believes can never be overcome. Can Grandma Gertie step in and help him with this situation, too? Or will his college experience turn out every bit as bad as Augie had feared?
I enjoyed the author’s writing style. I loved the first few lines of the book. The story flowed well, and the characters were engaging. I liked the friendship between Augie and his roommate, Issac. I expected there to be friction between the two because of their different personalities. In many young adult stories, it seems that the cool roommate wants nothing to do with the nerdy hero, and I was happy to see the author made Augie and Issac friends instead. It was a welcome change from the norm.
Several of the scenes with Augie’s grandmother, Gertie, are very funny, though she seems to be a bad influence on him at the start. Later on, she helps him deal with and overcome a number of different issues, but her irreverent attitude never changes. She was one of my favorite characters in this story. I love that the picture on the cover of the book is taken straight from a scene in the story, with Augie driving a red toy car up and down the street outside of a funeral home.
I liked the song Augie wrote for his girlfriend, Rose. It was a very sweet scene, though it felt like the pair declared their love very quickly, since they were not together until near the end of the story. The short length of the book may have contributed to the rushed feel of their relationship. They went from exchanging the occasional text to celebrating their one month anniversary in a very short section of the book.
There were no chapters in this book, which was unusual even for a novella. Instead, the author divided the book into sections based on the months in the story’s timeline.
This book has a happy ending, but Augie’s story continues in the next book in the series, The Revelations of August Barton. I’m looking forward to reading Book Two to revisit all the characters from the first book and find out what happens next for Augie, Rose, and Grandma Gertie.
Pages: 176 | ASIN: B01M7TF1N1
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Red and Blue is a fascinating story that combines classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes and adds many new twists. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this story?
I’m a huge Broadway play so the big inspiration was Into the Woods. I watch the original Broadway play and the Disney movie. In college in my theater class, we had to do a project on a play. I chose Into the Woods by doing an original monologue. “Red & Blue” was born from that monologue of what happened after the total disaster of the story.
There were so many interesting characters, some pulled straight from fairy tales. What was your favorite character to write for?
Humpty Dumpty was one of my favorite characters to write. He’s such a nervous character. I pictured him full of cracks and could completely fix him from being pushed off that wall. While I was writing him, I was laughing cause it was so much fun. I tried to have him as the comic relief in some ways until you meet Mother Goose. She’s a character herself in the story.
Red and Blue have an intriguing relationship. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
The character development kind of just flowed from the little girl we all know from the storying Little Red Riding Hood to the character that is in the story. I wanted her to be different from the character that has been written for the character. She is either changing into a werewolf or an assassin with everything in between, I didn’t want to go in that direction. I wanted to keep the spirit of the original story intact but she still has to work through her childhood mistakes. Boy Blue, on the other hand, is completely different from Red Riding Hood. I was inspired by boy bands for his character. The total “freedom” of being a guy without any strings attached to no one until this girl with a story catches his eye without even seeing her face. His own character development goes from being a boy to man within a matter of days with choices that help him along the way.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on a sequel to Red and Blue. I want to explore the next stage of their relationship which is marriage. It’s not going to be easy but I’m willing to try. I hope and pray that it’ll complete by next year or at least 2020.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman who wore a red cape. She kept her face hidden from the world around her. Her was Rosaline, but the villagers have forgotten her name. She is Little Red Riding Hood. Thirteen years have years have passed since Red Riding Hood was cut from the Big Bad Wolf’s belly. She is quiet and distant. The villagers believe that Red Riding Hood is marked by the wolf who swallowed her. Until a strange young man with a golden horn tied to his back finds her intriguing. The young man set off on a personal mission to see if the rumors are true.
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Bound by a dark act of hate and despair, high school freshmen, Andrew and Kiernan, learn that their untimely deaths did not bring an end to their pain, but only began the suffering of those left behind. While his lost memories return, Andrew must master seemingly impossible feats, both spiritual and physical.
As a dark spirit stalks Kiernan through the borderlands of life and death, he must also face the pain his actions have caused his loved ones. To save both their souls, Andrew must convince Kiernan to return to life and open his eyes to the love and beauty which had always been there.
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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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Nahia follows the turbulent efforts of a faery princess as she tries to lure her human obsession into the faery realm to maintain her relationship with him. What was your inspiration for this book’s direction and plot?
When I finished writing Cradle Gift (book 2) I knew I’d have to tell Nahia’s story to explain in detail Maité’s discovery at the end of Cradle Gift—that the woman Anahí in her family tree was actually Nahia.
When we met her in Faery Sight, we learned she was a willful creature whose heart, thankfully, was in the right place. It seems that throughout her youth, the motto ‘better to ask for forgiveness than permission’ was the driving force behind her actions.
Nahia is my full-fledged faery and as such she embodies the whole gamut of faery traits; she’s selfish, she holds grudges, she steals human babies, she arranges things in her mind whichever way suits her best. But she is also passionate, determined, courageous and has a great capacity to learn and to love.
The books in this series span several generations and move through time very quickly. Was this a reflection of the faery’s life or was it necessary to tell the story you wanted?
I think Nahia fits in a philosophical fiction genre (is there such a thing?) and because of that it is geared toward a more mature audience (the other 2 books in the series are YA). I wanted to describe the evolution of Nahia’s heart and mind in detail, it was important to me to put her through the motions of going after her own desires, disregarding those around her, then realize that that kind of behavior only begets heartache or a passing satisfaction at best, so that in the end she considers and actually chooses to expand her heart and embrace a greater purpose, even if it involves sacrifice.
Your books are always highly imaginative and wonderfully descriptive. What is your writing process like?
From a procedural standpoint, here’s what I do:
Chapter Outline/Synopsis; this is where ideas fly through my brain—imagination is in high gear.
First Draft and First Round of Editing done by me; this is stage where characters usually crop up in my dreams to make suggestions and poke me with reminders or corrections. I make all kinds of sleepy notes that I have to decipher the next day.
Second Draft and 1-2 Rounds with Critique Group; this is where I bite my nails waiting to hear back from a handful of friends/family who’ve kindly offered to read my work.
Produce and send out Advance Review Copies;
Third Draft, Second Round of Editing done by me, Fourth Draft to Pro Editor; this is the most feverish portion of the process. I can feel the end is near so I apply flattening-strength pressure on myself.
Then comes the sigh of relief when the Final MSS finally leaves my hands.
Nahia is book three in the Faerie Legacy series. Do you plan to continue the series with book four or will you be writing a new book?
Nahia ends with a Summer Solstice Celebration during which the hybrid faery-human family is reunited. In that reunion, Maité’s daughter is not yet 2 years old, so I’m considering a book about the baby Aintza; she could only see her mother in dreams and in person once per year. This went on during the first 7 years of her life.
I’m also considering a series of picture books featuring the adventures of my hybrid faery-human family in the Faerie Realm.
As far as unrelated projects go, I have the 7 Ghostly Spins, a collection of seven paranormal tales based on true ghost legends and nightmares come true. Coming on All Souls Day, 2018.
Daughters of the Bride; is another philosophical fiction project I’m working on. After the death of their father, three women embark on a distressing journey of reflection; to know themselves and the mother they thought they knew. No publication date yet.
A rebellious faery princess struggles with satisfying her own desires over what’s best for her loved ones. Following her heart in pursuit of the human she loves, Nahia hides her faery identity in order to enter the human dimension.
After giving birth to a daughter, Nahia’s secret is revealed, as is the realization that she has forever altered the genetic human footprint. Faced with death, Nahia returns to the faerie realm only to have its dormant weight thrust upon her after the demise of its magical keeper.
To save her home and renew ties with both her human and faerie family, Nahia must find a way to reawaken the realm, become the new Faery Queen, and provide a royal descendant for the new Keeper of the Forest.
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Douglas Wells’ new book, How We End Up, seeks to become even more intricate and complex then his debut book, The Secret of all Secrets. The reader follows three main characters as their lives come together, only to drift apart and come back together after 25 years. Jackson Levee is an ambitious college instructor when he manages to be in the right place at the right time and saves twin girls from drowning in the Gulf of Mexico. He goes on to write a poem about the event, which brings him acclaim and success. Hadley and Haley, the twins go on to become beautiful women. All three of them are then brought on their heels through various events and it is after two and half decades they meet again to suffer a devastating event together and discover who and what they are as human persons.
At this point, readers familiar with Wells’ more philosophically bent, literary stories and How We End Up is no exception. What has become more refined, is Wells style with incorporating all of these events into a cohesive story. His previous work seemed to have a lot going on, and while it still achieved a particular effect, it wasn’t as polished as this story. In some ways, he uses the layman’s philosophy to a decent effect, but it becomes even more pronounced as the themes of self-identity, purpose and life’s meaning takes center stage.
As much as this book is about Jackson, Haley, and Hadley, it is more about life and what happens to a person over the course of the years. Some readers may have mileage that may vary with this theme, but I believe it makes the novel resonate that much better. In fact, Wells’ inclusion of philosophy serves the novel all the better for serving this theme and given what he has written before he wants to focus on the human condition. We all ask the big questions and reflect on how our lives may have been formed otherwise, but with the intersection of these three lives, it brings this reality to the forefront.
All in all, Wells presents a literary novel that brings all the best sort of introspection and soul gazing that can be given in a reader’s experience. Fans of such fiction will be pleased with this, as are any who enjoy personal intimate stories that are full to the brim with drama. Students of philosophy will appreciate the small tributes and tid bits here and there as well.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B079VCWS3S
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