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East of Mecca

East of Mecca

East of Mecca,by Sheila Flaherty, details the journey of Sarah Hayes from a wife and mother of two to a woman forever changed by her time spent in Saudi Arabia. Set in the 1980s, Sarah’s story begins when her husband Max, a highly-motivated but fairly unstable man, accepts a job with Ocmara, a lucrative oil company, and moves his family overseas. Sarah and her two young children soon experience oppression, fear, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness as residents of Al Hassa. Sarah’s life in the Middle East spirals out of control as she fights to keep her family together and save the life of a woman she never expected to adore.

Though I have fought hard to avoid the cliche, I have to say East of Mecca is a book I could not put down. From the moment Max tells Sarah of his job offer and their impending move, Sarah’s experiences flowed awkwardly with all the grace of a line of shaky but properly placed dominoes. I found myself holding my breath and waiting for the next collapse of Sarah’s world. At every turn, I expected her world to crash around her and ached alongside her while she slowly realized that her passport was not her own, nor were most of her choices–least of all her ability to work or make decisions.

Flaherty paints a bleak picture of life in Saudi Arabia while at the same time giving credit to its purity and breathtaking beauty. She manages to build a type of fear in the reader that I have yet to experience in any other book. Sarah, a strong woman in her own right, is the ideal character for the setting and events Flaherty creates. As I watched her virtually unbreakable spirit tested page after page, I was able to visualize with frightening ease the true depth of suffering and shocking brutality endured by women within the culture. Watching Sarah feel herself falter and face her own vulnerabilities drove home the plight of the other wives of Ocmara’s employees and the Saudi women. The author reveals heart-wrenching details of abuse and a sense of control by males that seems to spread like a virus to those who linger long enough within the country’s borders.

Sarah’s gradual meeting and ensuing friendship with Yasmeen is stretched throughout the storyline and keeps the reader yearning for just one more tidbit–one more clue. Flaherty manages to provide an element of mystery with Sarah’s sightings of Yasmeen, aloof and lonely on the beach, and then masterfully weaves it into a tale of two friends sharing a common bond of love and tragedy.

I am wholeheartedly rating East of Mecca a 5 out 5. Within its pages lies a tale all too true and far too common. There is an education of sorts to be had from absorbing oneself in Sarah’s utter desperation and final rebellion. The first person account is a must-read for women everywhere and a reread for myself. Flaherty’s Sarah and Yasmeen represent two ends of a spectrum, two cultures, yet they are one.

Pages: 300 | ASIN: B00FMY2CWI

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Underlord of the Netherworld

Underlord of the Netherworld by [Jinsei, Juna ]

Decades after the fateful battle with the ruinous shadow monster, the Neverlanders are living comfortably in the afterglow of victory and harmony. As families grow and tribes evolve, the congruous balance amoung civilizations has nourished fairies, men, and mermaids alike. All good things must inevitably come to an end though, and with the abruptness of a sudden treacherous storm, the Neverlanders once again find themselves prey to a cataclysmic force, an invading army of Malomen. Author Juna Jinsei returns to the Neverland series with Underlord of the Netherworld, once again brilliantly melding age old wisdom and youthful spirit into this daring tale of life after Peter Pan.

As a fan of the first title in the series, The Essence of Neverland, I had naturally high hopes for this sequel. There was a charming poignancy to the first book, as impactful as it was impressive. Author Jinsei certainly did not disappoint with the caliber of thoughtfulness infused into this followup story. The profoundness of self-discovery is every bit as present, although the lessons themselves have shifted somewhat. Again, I really have to applaud Jinsei’s remarkable talent for exploring significant themes with such clever insight and casual relatability.

Although Underlord of the Netherworld may be lacking some of the more macabre moments entailed in its predecessor, the story is still steeped with hearty action, interjected on occasion by gut-wrenching moments of tragedy. The invasion of Malomen, a swarthy society of bloodlusting sea creatures, has brought with it the tides of war. Despite the love and unity shared among the Neverlanders, the cruel reality of battle leaves many villages devastated, ravaged by the unwelcome army. These passages were particularly moving to me, written with such vividness and sincerity that I couldn’t help but to imagine vast cities of war-torn wreckage, not unlike those we sometimes see on the news. In fact, much of the conflict within The Underlord of the Netherworld can be paralleled to our society’s current political struggles. Despite their progression and intelligence, the Malomen have little regard for the lives of the foreign land-faring civilizations, seeking to claim those territories as their own. Their lust for conquest is driven by greed, and fueled by ego, pride, and racial tension. I was incredibly impressed at Jinsei’s ability to craft such strong parallels to modern society, while remaining loyal to the setting and tone of Neverland and its inhabitants.

True to the style of the first novel, Underlord of the Netherworld earnestly explores the powers of communication, compassion, and community. Without spoiling any of the juicy bits, I will say that the resolve comes together beautifully, with a respectful nod to the opening title. It is almost incomprehensible to me how casually Jinsei weaves the severity of self-discovery into the light-hearted nature of the characters. Without being too stuffy or, alternatively, too childish, Underlord of the Netherworld is the perfect balance of altruistic deeds and daring actions. I’d happily recommend this book and will be crossing my fingers for the next title in the series!

Pages: 248 | ASIN: B06XS121SH

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Stainer

Stainer

Stainer by Iolanthe Woulff truly lives up to being a novel of the “Me Decade”. Set in 1975, we follow Ben Steiner, a Jewish Columbia undergrad who at his core is a decent person but wishes to be “in” with the “in crowd.” On the night of his twenty-first birthday he attends a party that will change his life forever. He meets P.T. Deighland, a wiseass from Princeton, who is clearly up to no good, and Rebecca Glaser who he falls for immediately. His new-found friendship with Deighland and his own youthful temptations lead him to make escalating bad choices that may not only harm his budding romance with Rebecca, but expose this alternate life to the rest of the Jewish community. It is a classic journey of self-discovery, but one with a lightness of humor that keeps it from becoming too dismal.

Woulff does a wonderful job with blending the scenery of 70’s New York City with the strikingly personal conflict of Ben Steiner. The cultural tropes of the Jewish community come into full play and provide the initial conflict of the individual strikes out away from the old traditions of his culture. The fact that Ben lives in a converted residence hall with other Jewish scholars from Columbia. He thirsts for the experience outside of his roots that has been denied to him all these years, and turning twenty-one he feels that he is empowered to do so.

In some ways, this novel is very much the spiritual successor of Catcher in the Rye, but considering it is about the 1970s, it feels much more relevant to our present age. I found the pacing to be a bit of a slow burn, since it weaves this inner journey that Ben must make in order to reach the final beats of the narrative. Woulff provides a story with rich character development, which is impressive for a book that is trying to tackle not only personal conflict, but societal conflict and the social statements at large. Ben suffers from the divide his life takes after the party, where he hides pieces of his life from his Jewish friends.

The book is particularly polished, which is enjoyable and Woulff’s attention to detail and the interiority of her characters to be particularly good. It is also such a wonderful tale of how we can sometimes self-sabotage ourselves and not be able to see the “good” that is often right in front of us.

Stainer presents itself as a coming of age work and one that I think all ages should be able to enjoy. YA readers may take a particular pleasure in reading this novel.

Pages: 345 | ASIN: B071G8KFX1

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Black Box

Black Box

Amaris Jensen is a regular 17 year old college girl when she gets the earth-shattering news of her father’s tragic death. Ever since the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Amaris’s father was all she had. Now she’s sent to live her life with her cousin Sandon, who is a lab scientist and a self-defense trainer for 7 other girls at Amaris’s new school. Amaris eventually grows close to them and starts to find her when she begins uncovering strange secrets about the girls and her cousin. Amaris finds herself pulled into a vortex of myths, magic, precious stones, secrets and danger.

What starts off simple and straightforward, quickly escalates to a new and exciting level in the first few chapters. Her father’s sudden death due to a sickness Amaris never knew about, shatters her idea of normalcy and routine. She is then forced to live with an estranged cousin Sandon, who Amaris expects the worst of, but the new father figure in her life takes her by surprise.

Sandon and Amaris’s relationship develops and grows effortlessly. You can really feel Amaris’s pain and longing for normalcy, and when things start to go awry you are just as confused as she is. Which makes the mystery, and the big reveal, so much better. For Sandon, Amaris is much more than a cousin, she is like a daughter. Amaris struggles with leaving her old life behind, but she finds friends in unlikely people. I really appreciated that, while the novel was easy to read, I never really knew what was coming. The protagonist’s strength of character and depth of thoughts is very well portrayed by the author and the range of moods that Amaris wanders through is deftly characterized. This is a highly emotional novel. Amaris goes from crisis to mystery and back all the while trying to cope with the loss of her family. Emotion can be a hard thing to capture in novels, but Casey Hansen does a fantastic job of showing not telling. A few editorial errors exist but they are easy to overlook when all you want is to find out what happens next.

Black Box is a clever title for this thriller novel from Casey J. Hansen and perfectly suits the mood and unexpected ending of the story. This is not a Scooby-Doo mystery; their are layers here that you must peel back slowly. When Amaris finds out that there were initially 10 girls to begin with and now 3 of them have mysteriously disappeared, just like her mother, the book really finds legs and you’re carried along for a thrilling ride. The number of ways in which Amaris’s world crumbles throughout the story is something well worth reading. This thriller is exciting, addictive and is highly recommended.

Pages: 225 | ASIN: B01MQGCJ4J

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Mountain Green Corporate Blue

Mountain Green Corporate Blue

Mountain Green, Corporate Blue, by L.J. Saunders, takes readers on a journey through time with a series of flashbacks, slowly revealing both joy and heartache.This third person account opens with Matthew Reynolds as a young, wide-eyed child from an affluent but troubled New York family. Paralleling the account of his life is the retelling of Grace Collier’s experiences as a young girl in the Appalachian Mountains. Their lives become intertwined when the Dickenson Corporation, the source of the Reynolds family’s fortune, faces major legal setbacks. A chance meeting sets in place a string of events leading to more than one unconventional pairing during a time in history when social norms were beginning to see their first challenges.

L.J. Saunders has shaped strong characters within the pages of Mountain Green Corporate Blue. The unlikely relationship of Matthew Reynolds and Grace Collier, seemingly the book’s focal point, is nontraditional in a time and place when couples from varying economic backgrounds would have been discouraged from marrying. They do so, in fact, after an almost nonexistent courtship and begin a life together. Grace is an extremely powerful character, and for a while, I felt the book would be centered around her. She exudes a sense of reason, a calmness, and has an amazing sense of her own self-worth. She radiates an energy that is infectious throughout the plot and manages, without ever realizing it, to impact the lives of several of Matthew’s relatives.

Grace’s role in the book is, without a doubt, significant. The flashes back and forth between her early years in the mountains of Springdale County, Georgia to her later years as a grandmother make that clear. Her strength is evident when she is challenged by Matthew’s uppity family upon first meeting. Firm and focused, she replies to his father’s disparaging remarks, “I am not good at debate, but I excel at discussion.” She clearly affects Matthew’s parents and brother. However, I found the addition of some storylines somewhat puzzling. I read with the idea in mind that Grace was central to each subplot. While the introduction of the relationship between Trinity and Marcus made perfect sense and added an element of suspense, the storyline surrounding Trinity at the book’s conclusion did not seem to fit the rest of the book’s theme.

With regards to subplots, I found two characters to be standouts. Old man Duncan, an integral part of the main characters’ wedding, provides a type of comic relief and endears himself to readers as he cashes in many a sketchy favor. In addition, Matthew’s father, John Reynolds is a character worthy of evoking every conceivable emotion. He is vividly described and draws both love and hate from the reader. As much as I wanted to despise him, the author gave me multiple reasons to easily single out John as my favorite character.

Periodic plot twists and commentary on social injustice succeed in keeping the reader guessing and work well in preventing the book from appearing as purely a romance. Saunders has given readers a tale of love, inspiration, and courage while exposing relatable struggles and vulnerabilities via a multitude of well-developed characters.

Pages: 247 | ASIN: B071NCX77D

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Black Ink Pearl – Screenplay

Based on the Multi Prize-Winning Novel, Black Inked Pearl

Based on the Multi Prize-Winning Novel, Black Inked Pearl

Love can be a complicated emotion. While a person may want to love, they may not be ready to love. And those who want nothing more than to be loved may have the hardest time accepting that others aren’t ready. Black Ink Pearl by Ruth Finnegan explores these ideas of love and connection. Our protagonist, Kate, has been connected to a young man since her youth. He wants nothing more than to love her. She is not ready to love him in return. So begins their rift and the frantic journey to reconnect. They’ve got obstacles ahead of them, of course, thanks in part to the godly beings who observe our daily lives. The question becomes then, if Kate will ever be ready to love Christy. The question is not, ‘will she finally be ready’, but ‘will he still be waiting for her’.

This is a screenplay of the fantastic novel, Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest. The synopsis at the beginning does a wonderful job clarifying the content of the novel.

Like a novel, the screenplay does a good job of conveying the emotions that the characters are supposed to be feeling. By having those few cues give context, it makes it easier to get absorbed in the passion and the panic that this story evokes. Kate is our leading lady and her emotions are powerful, if not overwhelming. There are even cues for which music is desired to accompany the scene. You may find yourself hearing some in your mind as you read along. There is a heavy reliance on the supernatural as the story nears the middle and the ending. It’s alluded to and briefly exposed in what some would consider the first act, but it comes on much thicker closer to the end.

Reading a screenplay is very different from reading a novel. Black Ink Pearl by Ruth Finnegan is based on her novel, Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest so some readers may think that it is just a rehashing of the novel. While there are parts that are like that, having reviewed both pieces I can confirm that the screenplay does a better job at getting the story across. The text is not as fragmented and dream-like as it is in the novel, so the screenplay is much easier to read and digest the content. This fantastical journey is for those who are suckers for a love story.

 

A Fascination For Secrets

Sue Lilley Author Interview

Sue Lilley Author Interview

Another Summer tells the story of Evie and Joe, a married couple who hit a rocky patch after uncovering secrets within their marriage. What was the inspiration for the setup to this passionate novel?

I always start with a scene or a snippet of dialogue. Another Summer was inspired by a holiday in Cornwall soon after severe storms and floods. I saw the remains of an ancient bridge destroyed by the river. There was a shiny motorbike trapped in the debris. I was intrigued and started thinking what if…?

I felt that Evie and Joe’s relationship built slowly into something that was complex and deep. How did you set about creating their relationship?

I want my characters to have realistic human dilemmas and to get themselves into scrapes by making mistakes. In Another Summer I wanted to write about someone trying to change and discover along the way if he means it. And then I wondered who would love him enough to put up with that behaviour and still believe in him?

Was there anything pulled from your own life and used in the novel?

I’ve long had a fascination for secrets, how people go to great lengths to hide things and what happens when the truth comes out.

I felt that Another Summer questioned whether someone would return to a partner after deceit. What moral goals did you use to guide the stories development?

I’m always interested in why people do things. I love a misunderstood rebel character, the bad boy with a soft centre. I’m also a great admirer of forgiveness and I like my characters to be better at it than I am.

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

I have a second novel – High Hopes available now. It has been described as “A book filled with suspense, love, heartbreak and pain. Compulsive page-turner with a sizzling hint of spice.”

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads | Website | Twitter

Another SummerThe heat of passion and the bitter sting of betrayal from an exciting new voice in Women’s Fiction, Another Summer is the sizzling second-chances page-turner you won’t want to miss.

Scared of being alone, lost in the arms of a handsome stranger, Evie believes her marriage to Joe is over. But Joe is on a mission to win her back. Will he reach her before she falls under the spell of hot rock singer Jake?

Joe is the only man she’s ever loved, since that long hot summer when she was sixteen. But how many lies is too many? Devastated by his latest betrayal, Evie flees to her grandmother’s remote cottage in the stormy wilds of picturesque Cornwall, staring into an empty future without the bad-boy she believed was her soulmate. Heartbroken and vulnerable, she falls under the spell of charismatic Jake who sweeps her head first into an irresistible and steamy affair.

Expecting Evie to come to her senses, Joe storms after her and finds himself stuck on the road trip from hell. When an ancient bridge is smashed to matchwood, it seems all hope of a happy future will be swept away. The old hurts are deep and forgiveness seems out of the question. Has Joe left it too late to persuade Evie he can change? Does he deserve another chance to convince Evie he loves her? Or will Evie be tempted to dump him and grasp her own happy ending with sexy rocker Jake?

Set in the windswept wilds of Poldark country, the perfect steamy romance for lazing on the beach or curling up on a rainy-day sofa. Don’t miss out – get your copy now. Scroll up and click buy to start reading. Another Summer is sure to be one of the Bestselling Romance Novels of 2017.

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Another Summer

Another Summer

Another Summer, written by Sue Lilley, tells the story of Evie and Joe, a married couple who have hit a rocky patch after uncovering lies and secrets within their marriage. Evie escapes to Cliff Cottage, a house left by her grandmother to do some soul searching whilst Joe stumbles through the countryside in an effort to find her. Old and new romances will be sparked as the couple reflect on their marriage and the twists and turns of their relationship. Will they reignite their old romance or will the lies and deceit be the final straw for Evie and Joe?

Another Summer begins with an awkward phone call that will change the marriage of Joe and Evie forever. Evie manages her grief through running away whilst her husband, dressed in expensive Hugo Boss attire, drowns his sorrows in a bar contemplating his next move. Prepare for a rollercoaster of emotions as Joe decides to chase after the leading lady of his life.

Summer flings, beach shacks and indie bands will come together for a teasing storyline that at times is hot and heavy with its seductive characters. Though the plot is steamy, the pace of the book is a little slow at times. I believe this was intentionally done to drive the readers to develop a burning desire to learn more. Another Summer questions the integrity of relationships and whether you would return to a partner after deceit. Many of us perceive relationships to be black and white, however, this love story opens the door to the possibility that love may be a grey area instead.

Sue Lilley’s ability to bring the characters to life left me feeling genuinely concerned for the fate of each character and their relationships. Even the small roles of the story had their own individual plot that I quickly became invested in. One of the characters, Lisa, is a lost and lonely teenager, desperate for answers and acceptance of a male figure in her life. Even though she seems like a lost cause, the reader will be inclined to fall for her sweet demeanour as she tackles her own demons alongside the ride with Joe.

The dreamy Jake will enter Evie’s life at a time where she feels the most vulnerable. With his boyish good looks and charming personality, it’s hard not to find yourself hoping he ends up whisking her away on a much deserved romantic holiday! But just like all of us, Jake is only human and has his own flaws and nuances to match.

I enjoyed how the story paralleled real life with places in the present sparking memories of the past for Evie and Joe. The flashbacks into the past will remind the reader of their own teenage romances and the hormonal dramas that came with first kisses, parties and summer romances.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a romantic novel that questions whether relationships have the strength to survive the test of time. Does time heal old wounds? Should Evie return to Joe? Only time will tell.

Pages: 215 | ASIN: B00R9S9TFI

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No Quarter: Wenches

No Quarter: Wenches - Volume 13 StarsNo Quarter: Wenches is a short novel that takes place in the late 1600s on the Caribbean Sea. It follows several characters of the pirate variety, but the main focus, in my opinion, is on Atia, a young woman captured by the English. The plot follows her troubles, and the troubles of the English, French, Spanish, and pirate groups, as she waits for Captain Jean Paul La Roche to rescue her from the prison in Port Royal.

The city of Port Royal is scrambling to defend itself against French ships and buccaneers, all while trying to sort out its military advances on the surrounding islands. Meanwhile, the pirates are struggling with their own political issues, adding more intrigue to the choices the characters make.

I really enjoyed the engaging dialogue, which was the strongest aspect of the novel, although the characters could use more development, their conversations were often witty and entertaining, finding ways that make otherwise boring topics fun to read about.

The setting is a perfect backdrop to deliver this exceptional story, I just wish I was given more of it so that I was fully immersed. The characters are fun and interesting, but beg for more depth because of this. These two things could be lacking because it’s a short novel, and designed that way, but I think it’s because there is exceptional writing here and I want more of it! More of the world, more of the characters. I’m probably just being greedy, and I suppose I’ll get all of that as the series continues.

There is an interesting dichotomy to this novel; it does not take itself very seriously in some spots (one of the characters is named ‘Lief Blower’) and this serves to keep the story light and engaging, but then parts of the novel is tense and thrilling. It’s an unusual blend that is a rarity.

Overall, this short novel has set up what might end up being a tale on an epic scale. Dozens of characters, all with varied political motivations, have been introduced, and there is still plenty of space for these plots to move forward. Hopefully the authors choose to develop and add depth to these characters, as I was just starting to get comfortable with them as the first volume of the series came to a close.

Pages: 123 | ASIN: B01HP7TOP2

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Introducing Charlotte

Introducing CharlotteThere is something to be said about a person who suffers unspeakable horrors and then does her best to overcome them. Introducing Charlotte by Charlotte Hains begins its tale with our protagonist, Charlotte, leaving the hospital after suffering at the hand of her soon to be ex-boyfriend. Domestic violence is something that no woman, or man for that matter, should ever have to endure. It destroys the soul, confidence and a person’s self-worth. Charlotte is not immune to this as she’s wandering around after her release she runs into an old friend, Anthony, who is about to whisk her away from her troubles and bring her into a world she never imagined existed. There will be a lot of testing for our heroine as she tries to figure out who she is as a person and what she wants out of the life she has rediscovered she can control.

Introducing Charlotte is fascinating, stimulating, and provocative. Hains takes her readers on an emotional journey as Charlotte begins to discover the world of BDSM and the part her friends play in it. Anthony, Lloyd and new-friend Nats are owners/operators of an exclusive club for BDSM enthusiasts. Hains uses the vehicle of BDSM to get Charlotte to open up, to learn about trust and to essentially make herself into a new person.

Introducing Charlotte is about a girl fleeing a boy and is rescued by a prince-like character, however I felt that the delivery could’ve been adjusted to be more aware of Charlotte’s pain and recovery before the story swiftly moves on. The first part to consider is the portrayal of domestic violence and how Charlotte is treated right afterwards. After being horrifically abused by her ex-boyfriend she is then immediately caught up with another man. While Anthony doesn’t desire to control Charlotte and appears to be coming from a position of concern for her, the fact remains that he essentially takes control of her life. He moves her in with him, buys her clothing, essentially forces her into therapy and then rages about how her ex treated her. Charlotte doesn’t get a chance to be free of male presence in her life and is almost bullied into recovery. Breaking free of a relationship of violence is difficult and can take time and I felt that that compelling emotional turmoil was sometimes lost.

While the delivery could use some work I found the story to be entertaining, Introducing Charlotte is a beginner’s guide to the erotic world of BDSM. Not only is the heroine learning about this pleasurable pastime, but readers get a chance for an introductory course on what BDSM is and which facets of a person’s life it can impact. The careful romance and pleasurable outcomes are detailed quite nicely without feeling overdone or excessive. Indeed, Charlotte Hains knows what will get her readers interested and isn’t afraid to show them more.

Pages: 252 | ISBN: 1781323178

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