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LITTLE TOY CAR

Little Toy Car by Gabe Oliver is a heartfelt story based on the life of Gene, from an innocent child to a young adult. Growing up in a house filled with charity donations that were always not quite perfect, with a mother with scrambled self-confidence and an abusive alcoholic stepfather, Gene’s idea of love cannot help but be severely warped. For readers who enjoy exploring the growth of characters as they experience the torment of painful relationships and conflict into mature and beautifully deep personalities – Gene will steal your hearts from under you.

The use of symbolism in this novel is outstanding. The stolen toy car, the bible verses, the guitar, the frying pan, and the car crash; are articulated in such a way that you could feel the rollercoaster of Gene’s life from a fragile child who saw no hope in the world and love only in the form of violence, to a reflective, considerate adult. It contains heavy themes, including religious coercion, physical and sexual violence, child abuse, and other criminal activity, that would be better understood and appreciated by readers who can decipher the teachings contained in Oliver’s work.

From its opening pages, Oliver’s writing style draws you into the plot – immediately greeted by the story behind the novel’s title and the purest insight into our main character, who is seemingly always a not-quite-right in his fit in the world. Parts of Gene’s childhood were weaved into the plotline perfectly to convey a certain message. There is a certain element of a psychological lesson to be learned about how children perceive interactions – especially where there is a lack of positive parenting or familial relationships – and how this manifests continuously in the form of life decisions and behavioral patterns.

Little Toy Car by Gabe Oliver is a gripping book that I would highly recommend to mature audiences. Readers will enjoy this coming-of-age story as they follow Gene as he navigates a challenging childhood to the heartwarming ending of this novel.

Pages: 379 | ASIN : B0BG3FKQC4

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A Field Within

A Field Within by T.C. Solomon starts out with readers meeting Kevin. He is an emergency physician that is looking for a change in his life. He has recently changed jobs to start working in a different hospital, hoping for a fresh start. He loves his job and values his career but wants to break away from the chaos that has consumed his life.

He has a college-age son, Alex, who is away following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps attending medical school. Alex works at a hospital with Kevin’s dad Greg. He learns from him about the ins and outs of working in the medical field. Things aren’t always great for Kevin, especially with his ex Susan, Alex’s mother. However, he does do his best to try and co-parent with her. Things fall start falling apart rapidly, though, when Alex has an accident. Soon there is a mystery revolving around his recovery. That’s when readers meet the test subjects. From here, clues about the work these doctors are doing and what is actually happening in the hospital start to be revealed.

I really enjoyed this book! It had everything in it, from love to mystery and from compassion to a dramatic plot twist. T.C. Solomon excels at character development. The character of Alex is dynamic and will have readers loving him one page, hating him the next, and back again. Kevin was sweet throughout the book, and I liked him with Grace. I really love reading about the test subjects the most. With so many exciting characters, readers will find someone to connect with.

A Field Within is a thrilling psychological medical novel filled with suspense and mystery. Readers will be drawn into the story through the well-written characters and be on edge from the opening pages as the mystery unfolds. With characters that readers will love and hate and a medical mystery that could alter the future, this is one thriller not to miss.

Pages: 285 | ASIN : B0BPQX2QYS

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Just City

This gripping story follows Nathan, a hard-working young man in San Francisco with a dream to become an entrepreneur. He and his friends need $10,000 to enter a competition in order to win a startup opportunity. Nathan’s grandmother, a neuroscientist, presents the young entrepreneurs with the chance to fund their goal by participating in a VR simulation called Just City. This experience snowballs into self-discovery and reflection – contemplating earned success, privilege, and values. Nathen looks for identity reflected through various relationships. Ultimately, he arrives at a place of contentment, knowing that he is being true to himself through love and reason.

Olga Tymofiyeva creates a compelling narrative in Just City, where the main character must walk between two worlds. The ideas explored are complex and meaningful to the character’s growth. The concept of privilege and empathy are timely to society without being devoid of hope.

Nathan begins with a view that lacks humanity but ends with a balanced position capturing the inherent worth of those around him. Nathan’s grandmother acts as a loving sounding board during his paradigm shift, honestly guiding him while respecting his personal exploration. A relatable aspect of this book is the evolution that Nathan’s relationships undergo as he searches to define his worldview.

The narrative feels blocky at first glance but feels more appropriate as you get to know Nathan and his internal dialogue. Nathan approaches everything analytically, and it is reflected in how his thoughts are organized. Nathan is self-centered at first, which might feel slightly off-putting. However, his growth journey is relatable to many who have encountered challenging information. Especially if the world’s cruelty has quieted the child-like compassion in all of us.

Just City is a compelling coming-of-age young adult novel about self-discovery. The journey the protagonist embarks on is relatable to teens, and virtual reality makes the message more relevant in this age of technology. This thought-provoking novel is perfect for young adults and teenagers who may question how the world is changing and what they can do to improve things.

Pages: 147 | ASIN : B0BLJ3X1QZ

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Secrets In The Mirror

Leslie Kain’s Secrets in the Mirror is a psychological thriller that brilliantly portrays how psychological disorders can affect lives and even destroy families. The story deals with years of both mental and physical abuse, generational trauma, and gaslighting as well as murder and crime.

Gavin and Devon are mirror twins, meaning they are literally opposites of each other- both inside and out. The story follows Gavin, who is gaslighted and abused by both his father and twin, Devon, who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Their father painted Devon as the ‘winner’ at everything throughout their lives, further feeding his son’s narcissistic view of the world. Gavin was given the role of Devon’s caretaker with no purpose of his own. As a result, Gavin struggled to define his self-worth and felt inferior all his life, like he was only half a person without his toxic twin brother.

The author excellently portrays how generational trauma shaped the father and the twins as they grew up, the toxic and rigid stereotypes, expectations, and values that were instilled in their dad, and how he tried to inculcate them in his sons as well. The twins’ mother was a competent and qualified woman who wanted to protect Gavin as much as possible. Yet, simultaneously, she was a victim of her husband’s gaslighting and abuse.

This family dynamic also contributed to shaping the environment the twins grew up in. The story has chapters from numerous points of view, and through Devon’s chapters, we see the extent of his warped reality and perspective. As the story progresses, Gavin suffers losses but also finds love, and in the end, he has to save the people who had destroyed his self-esteem as he grew up.

The novel is well written, with notable supporting characters who enhance the story further. I recommend this book to everyone, but I suggest you proceed with caution and read the trigger warnings given by the author as the story deals with mature and disturbing themes that could trigger some.

Secrets in the Mirror is a coming-of-age psychological thriller that takes readers into the mind and world of twin brothers. One who wants nothing more than break away and be his own person, the other a dark and twisted narcissistic abuser. This captivating story of crime and loyalty will play at the reader’s emotions as they follow along and experience the effects of mental illness on all that come in contact with it.

Pages: 366 | ASIN : B0B34H59Y1

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Pink Clouds

Pink Clouds reads like a train of thoughts, jumping between memories in the author’s life. It is secretive and intriguing, forcing readers to think for themselves and fill in the gaps. The author, Janis Kingsley, describes Pink Clouds as unique, memorable moments. She fondly recalls her time in Barcelona and her love for rock music concerts. Then there is the ‘sour lemonade’ when you doubt you’ll ever see the pink clouds again. Janis emotionally depicts struggling with her weight, supporting her son with an addiction, and maintaining a relationship with her father. Some chapters are stories, and others are filled with thoughts about life.

Pink Clouds is emotionally raw and honest and leaves the reader in a reflective state, wondering what could have happened between the lines and beyond the cliffhangers. Janis Kingsley has a great style of writing. She writes in a way that is not flashy or trying to impress, almost as if she is writing for herself rather than the reader. This makes her reflections seem even more authentic as if the reader is delving into her inner thoughts.

Admittedly, I did not understand every chapter and was left with so many unanswered questions, but this made the book all the more interesting. Janis Kingsley writes directly about issues like self-hatred, guilt, and insecurities. I’m sure that every reader can resonate with some part of her experiences or thoughts. She begins by talking about how we never see the dark sides of each other, only the happy exterior, and then proceeds to explore some of her darkest memories. This is the first of many extraordinary contrasts within the book.

I highly recommend Pink Clouds to anyone who enjoys short stories and food for thought. The book will leave you reflecting on life and the mental battles that we all face, whether you’re a teenager recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic or a wife trapped in a dead-end marriage. Pink Clouds is a book that everyone can take something away from. Not only can we learn from sharing our experiences, but it is also highly comforting to know that we are not alone. This is a book that will stick in your mind long after finishing the book, if not luring you back in to reread and rethink. I will certainly be looking for more of Janis Kingsley’s writing.

Pages: 16 | ASIN : B0BG3HYC6H

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Pythia in the Basement

Maybe you’ve thought that existence is a weird thing. The fact that you’re born, you grow, and you observe until one day, time runs out – and if you enjoy contemplating the meaning of life but want to bypass the delicateness of offending the layman, then this thought-provoking book is for you.

One of the chapters in this book summarizes Marron’s work perfectly: peculiar. A refreshing piece that will smack you in the face and make you laugh, Marron has embodied the absurdist fiction genre perfectly as we follow the experiences of character leads, Colin and Roger.

The author has created authentic characters that were enjoyable to follow while avoiding the sugar-coated hero cliche. Colin is abrasive. His flaws were openly stated and visually displayed throughout the book; through workplace affairs or openly stating that he possesses hedonistic tendencies, yet his character supports BLM and hates being late. The confluence of these ideas made his character very intriguing. I really enjoyed how this character comes together. Roger on the other hand is a polymath dubbed both a bullshit artist and poet. I loved the passion embedded into him and felt he was the perfect storm of knowledge, chaos and questioning the system. Together the two juxtaposed conspiracy theories of all sorts.

A special commendation must be made to the short chapters, its hook was executed brilliantly. The writing style was punchy, shocking and prevented the reader from being able to form an opinion about the characters too quickly. It enhanced the matter-of-fact tone that intelligently explores philosophical themes in a no-nonsense fashion, all whilst set in a world with little care about the purpose of existence. Each chapter was loaded with dialogue and insights into topics like Sharia law, drugs and human sacrifice. While providing plenty of entertaining and food for thought the story ends just as quickly as it takes off.

Pythia in the Basement is a fascinating story with compelling characters and sharp satire that explores some provocative and intriguing ideas.

Pages: 237 | ASIN : B0BKDF7B4S

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Freeze Frame

Will Horner, a sixteen-year-old boy who loves filmmaking, is beginning a new year at a new school. His parents are anxious for him to settle in and make friends at Pinehurst Academy, an art school. The warm-hearted ‘coreless’ take him under their wing, and Will feels happier at Pinehurst than he has in a while. Working on an end-of-year movie with his friends, he feels more himself when he’s able to film with his camera. However, he hides parts of his life from his understanding friends and takes on the responsibility of working on his mental health by himself.

Freeze Frame by Tyler Beauchamp is a story of teenagers struggling with trauma, mental health, and with the stigma of it all. Beauchamp has perfectly captured the overwhelmingness that is attached to social life as a teenager and how situations can magnify in our heads, as it does in Will when he fears his past at Redboro School coming to light. It’s also a story of lighthearted moments, friendships, belief, and creative passion, and of navigating these along with parental love and concern that manifests as anger. 

Beauchamp skillfully weaves in relevant arguments about creativity, social media, mental health, and reality in a world filled with media and camera lenses. Will loves to make films and loves the power they have to make people feel, but also believes in experiencing the moment. Will is in therapy for PTSD and is making progress with his dissociations between reality and film-like scenes.

Freeze Frame by Tyler Beauchamp is a coming-of-age fictional novel that also explores the psychological mindset of teenage life. It is excellent for talking to teenagers about issues they face and about understanding their points of view. I especially liked the list of mental health resources given at the end of the book. Having understanding people and a good support system along with therapy can truly go a long way in helping mental health, and this book shows that in a very relatable way.

Pages: 258 | ASIN : B0BG6DC9D9

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When Secrets Come to Light

When a couple of old friends reunite at a friend’s funeral after about 50 years apart, curiosity gets the better of them. So they agree on monthly meetups to catch up and reconnect, but things go differently than planned right from the first scheduled card game. Proceedings at the meetup threaten to unearth long-buried secrets, and each man finds himself faced with the uncomfortable need to confront their choices, pains, and secrets. Will these men face the truth about themselves or be consumed while trying to hide their failures and pains?

George R. Hopkins’ When Secrets Come to Light is a gripping novel that delves into a mystery with a tinge of the supernatural. It’s not some outright spooky deal; instead, it probes figments of the mysterious such as visions, miracles, and more that color everyday life. It’s stripped down, but not in an underwhelming way, in a clean, free-flowing manner that keeps the story skipping along yet remarkable enough to evoke images. One of my favorite writers says telling great stories requires you to withhold information strategically. Hopkins uses a deliberate build-up that ends in questions that will keep you turning the pages. I also like how the plot unfolds in the most unassuming way. One minute a couple of 70-year-olds are meeting for a card game, and before you know it, things begin to spiral. Hopkins also knows how to peel away the layers from his characters, revealing the elements that make them human and, thus, easy to resonate with.

When Secrets Come to Light: A novel of love and tangled friendships is a captivating psychological thriller that is easy to follow and makes for a quick and refreshing read. Readers will be hooked from the beginning of the friends’ story to the end as one unexpected event after another consumes the pages.

Pages 307 | ASIN : B09X4TDSJB

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