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The Backwards K

The Backwards K by [Hebert, J. J.]

Reading a sports-themed inspirational novel is one of the best things about literature. You get to learn a lot about particular sports and your heart is filled with hope and aspirations at the same time. ‘The Backwards K’ is a great book simply because the author wrote it with enthusiasm and deep feelings. The book is nothing but entertaining, exciting, fun to read and educative. There is so much one can learn from Jet Brine’s life; everything from his struggles, achievements, goals, personal life, general work and contribution to the baseball community. Reading about Jet Brine’s love for baseball was a wonderful experience. I learned how passion and dedication can make you move mountains through his life. Each one of us wants to be a winner and achieve set goals at the end. Jet Brine made me clearly visualize this.

Jet Brine’s end game was to be the best at baseball. He loved slot machines too and enjoyed playing the games. I loved that about him because they made the story cheerful and happy. I loved reading Jet’s story up until things started falling apart. I must admit that I did not see the troubles in his marriage coming, as he seemed so much in love. Linda is among the characters I loved in the book. I had so much faith in her as she seemed to turn things around. She rarely disappointed and was incredible throughout. She was one of the engaging characters whom I could feel connected to. I loved how she reasoned and how she brought the best in everyone. I appreciate her because her encounter with Jet Brine made the plot interesting and fun to read.

The Backwards K is a fictional inspiration book which apart from being entertaining, offers lessons that can help the reader in real life. It is great when a work of fiction blends with the real world, making the reader relate better to the events and the characters in the book. There are some things that most of us did in the past and would love to forget or overcome them. Jet Briner struggled with such things and got to be in situations where he needed to forgive self to move forward. Through Jet Brine, one gets to see how imperfect humans are. You may excel in everything else but one thing comes between you and your success. I am glad the author helped me examine myself when he wrote about Jet. The major theme in the book may have been sports but the author sure explored a lot of issues through the main character.

J. J. Hebert is an excellent writer. His way of storytelling is great and his execution of characters worth noting. Everything in the book flowed well; the plot, themes in the book, lessons, the diction and the general presentation of content. The author is skilled in more than one ways. I love that he made me inspired and motivated by reading Jet Brine’s story. One good thing about J. J. Hebert is his style of narration. One easily grasps what he is talking about and fully enjoys the story.

Pages: 226 | ASIN:  B076B6M1RS

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Callie’s Ghost

Callie’S Ghost by [Christian, James]

You know you’ve started a good mystery story when within the first few pages you’re hooked and questions are flying. Ben is eagerly awaiting a trip to Morocco that he has been planning to undertake for some time when he’s given an offer. From here the book takes the reader on an exploration of how money is used around the globe to sponsor terrorists and undermine countries. The pace picks up quickly, and the intrigue is built up well, making the book hard to put down.

Author James Christian’s career as a university professor at universities around the world shows as he builds up the different locations in the novel. I really felt like I was being taken across the world as I was zipped from the United States to Morocco. The writing style is clean and descriptive. It’s clear that Christian really understands how to pull together an engaging plot and create characters that feel real and easily pull the story along.

From the very beginning of this book, I found myself questioning everything. Government employees, a secret offer, an international trip, and add to that the mysterious title of the story. I was sucked in and was captivated beginning to end. This has an exciting plot that really makes you think about the world around you. Christian was very successful on this front as he was able to deliver a clear message with a thought-provoking plot while never sounding preachy.

The story is action packed and full of fun twists and turns that kept me on my toes. I really liked Ben as a character. He’s smart and dedicated to his job and shows a lot of passion. He’s a great vessel through which to enter into this story. If you like international mystery stories, or political corruptions and espionage stories, then I would definitely suggest that you pick up this book. A unique and wonderfully written story.

Pages: 258 | ASIN:  B0794ZKBHH

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The Land of Ick and Eck: Harlot’s Encounters

Harlot is mostly driven by curiosity and a desire to find interesting things. Like those blue flowers she loves so much. Harlot’s Encounters in the Land of Ick and Eck is a dark children’s story. Harlot walks through this mythical world and often finds ‘friends’ to walk the distance with her. Typical of all children, she makes friends quickly. Often voices her thoughts. She does not seem to understand the concept of fear even when she is encased in a dome with rising temperatures. It is interesting to look at life from such a perspective.

This is definitely a dark fantasy children’s story, but not too dark though. It would make for an interesting and wonderful Halloween pick. Micah Genest does a great job of painting vivid pictures. Even with actual painted pictures within the book. The book provides more than enough material for the reader with an active imagination to set the mental scenes. Very colorful and delightfully sinewy characters. Each with a quirk of their own. Perhaps the biggest take for an adult in all this is the way all the characters just move together despite being vastly different.

Harlot is typical of any kid, really. She’s innocent and looks at the world into which she is cast with pure interest and curiosity. Never judging anything and anyone. She is very trusting with almost blind optimism. Most children who read this book will understand her desire to follow voices and strange creatures. This book reads a lot like a dream. With vivid pictures and whimsical occurrences.

Oh my, the songs and chants. Imagine how fun it would be to try this out at a Halloween sleep over. They are so interesting and fun to follow. They almost take the gloom out of this decidedly morbid tale. This could very well be my most liked parts of the book.

For a children’s book, the vocabulary is quite advanced and may prove challenging for children. However, this could be a good thing as it could be an exercise in building vocabulary. It could help develop an interest in learning and seeking out new words. It is doubtful that most children will read into the illustrations by John Bauer. See them as more than just pictures. You never know though, this could be another fun exercise for these malleable young minds.

This book may be aimed at children but adults will enjoy it too. It reads like a children’s book but the plot and writing itself are excellent. This book reminds me of the children’s book, In A Dark, Dark Room: and Other Scary Stories. Fascinating, morbid, curious, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Pages: 208 | ASIN: B07MXPYLJ7

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Rogue Genes

Rogue Genes, by Jardine Henry Hart tells the tale of Tommy McConachie. Abandoned at birth as a one day old baby at the hospital, he was adopted by nurse Marge and her husband Joe. After her husband died suddenly Marge found herself raising Tommy all alone. As he became a teenager he began to rebel and after spending time in a boy’s detention center he joined the army. After serving time in the Special Service Tommy returned home, but his time in the army had left its impact. When his beloved mother passes away he is intent on seeking revenge.

This book is filled with all things a suspense novel should have; action, suspense, anxiety, surprise, anticipation and of course plot twists.

Rogue Genes has quite a number of characters. The story begins and evolves around Tommy, his mother – Ticker, and his two best friends, Sparrow and BB.  The characters are well developed and the relationships are realistic and believable. Soon, other characters are introduced, all with their own unique and interesting stories.

Tommy is portrayed as a strong male character and the reader gets small insights into his past life in the military and the violence he encountered, and hints of the violence in his future. He is an intense and deeply loyal man who is searching for a woman to love and be loved by.

The introduction of such a woman adds interest and direction to the story. Her character is the polar opposite to Tommy and provides a clever contrast. She has had a stable, if not sheltered, childhood. I felt that some of the bizarre coincidences and twists were a little far-fetched. Although these bizarre coincidences are part of the story, at times the intertwining of the relationships becomes almost unbelievable.

Rogue Genes is still a deeply provocative and gripping read. Like all good thrillers there is plenty of action, and the reader is constantly kept guessing. It is ultimately a story of self discovery, and of course, a journey to see if good will eventually overcome evil.

Pages: 308 | ISBN: 1925834409

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Journey to Osm: The Blue Unicorns Tale

Journey to Osm follows the story of Blue, a young unicorn with a big destiny. Blue is part of a tribe of unicorns going extinct under the harsh rule of an evil sorcerer. A prophecy foretells that Blue will save them but when he is born without metal in his horn, and thus without magic, all hope is lost. When Blue comes of age at 12, he is faced with destiny but how can a magicless unicorn have any hope of saving his tribe?

The book is a fun and unique YA fantasy novel. I really loved the unicorn-centric view of the story. Unicorns are often left out or less significant in fantasy stories, and I think this is a waste of a fun and interesting creature. Author Sybrina Durant furthers this by taking an intriguing twist and really exploring the magic of the unicorns as well as what unicorn civilization looks like. I really loved the world she created with the metal symbol of magic and the hierarchy that creates and the different powers that the magical unicorns possess. With an evil sorcerer, a prophecy, a fight against good and evil, this all adds up to an imaginative and exciting fantasy world.

The plot of the book is that of the underdog character finding strength against evil. Blue is a very sympathetic character through this journey as he is young, sweet, and very strong-willed. From the very beginning of the book you can see how hurt he is that he doesn’t think he can save his people, reciting his mantra ‘No Metal, No Magic.’ But even with this, he does not give up. He trains hard even when he thinks there is no chance. This self-determination in the café of certain failure really endeared Blue to me as a character. Silubhra was also a character that I grew very fond of as she was so compassionate and kind. There are a lot of characters in the story, but I think the author did a good job of making them unique and interesting and I liked how we get to see multiple perspectives.

This book is an exciting fantasy story. Filled with adventure, magic, love, loss, hope, action, and destiny. The story came together well and kept me engaged in the plot from beginning to end. The book is a great read, particularly for young adult readers who love fantasy stories.

Pages: 353 | ASIN: B07LDKX25N

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The Aristocrat

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The Aristocrat by Regine Dubono is a short story about a girl named Marianne Maywee, who lives with her family (including her younger sister, Paula) in Nice, France. One day an older man appeared in their lives and introduced himself as their godfather, Mr. Giles. Marianne and Paula go on many outings with Mr. Giles, until the day he does not come to their house as expected. Marianne learns that he’s in the hospital and she goes to visit him. Will this be the end of their enjoyable outings together?

I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the sights Marianne saw on her outings and the places she visited with her sister, Paula, and Mr. Giles. The book was an interesting and quick read, but I wished that the story had been longer. The ending was too abrupt, and there were still questions that I had hoped to have answered.

I was confused by the hint of romantic interest for Marianne from Mr. Giles. I wasn’t sure if he actually had romantic thoughts regarding her or if it was only an incorrect impression she got from some of their interactions.

I encountered a few run-on sentences, some issues with grammar and a few typos and inconsistencies; (On one page, it was stated that Marianne and Paula were born eleven months apart, but then on the next page, twenty months separated their ages).

Overall this a quick and interesting outing with Marianne and Mr. Giles.

Pages: 23

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The Winter of Swords: A Grimdark Epic

The Winter of Swords: A Grimdark Epic (Overthrown Book 1) by [Bunce, Aaron]

What begins as a carefree adventure among siblings turns deadly in a heartbeat when Eisa is left alone following the violent deaths of her loved ones. Snatched from the scene and carried away by what can only be described as a monster of epic proportions, she is left wondering why she was allowed, or perhaps chosen, to live. A story seemingly unconnected to the tumultuous lives of Julian, Roman, Dennah, DaeGeroth, Balin and Gladeus soon becomes much more clearly interwoven into the experiences of all of the them. None of them could have predicted the evils that lie beyond the wide expanses of beautiful countryside they all know so well.

The Winter of Swords, by Aaron Bunce, is a stunning visual of fright-filled fantasy, old world charm, and a wide assortment of well-developed characters. From the moment I began reading of Eisa’s experience in the wilderness, I was swept into a world of creatures and hidden realms from which I found it difficult to separate myself–the hallmark of effective writing. Eisa’s entire ordeal set the stage for some of the most fantastic imagery I have read in a long time. Not many books can boast such horrifying beings so vividly described and so dreaded by even the reader.

Roman, one of the chief characters in Bunce’s work, has the most poignant subplot in my opinion. His backstory tugs at the heartstrings. The scene set by Bunce at the farm owned by Garon is a step-by-step reveal of one heart-wrenching horror after another. It is an artfully written chapter that has the feel of a slow motion movie scene set to an emotionally-gripping score.

Though Bunce’s book is filled with delightfully terrifying images, for me, there was none quite like the scene that takes place involving Julian in the simple town of Craymore. When an author can conjure up a visceral reaction with the mere mention of the sound of a horn in the distance, you know you have found an author to follow. More unsettling than the beastly gnarls was the powerful commandment of the horn’s sounding–wonderfully ominous and capable of provoking a sense of mystery.

Bunce has managed to give readers a novel rich with dialogue. Not every book of this genre is able to carry out a plot so heavy with character interactions. Many books rely on narrative to tell the story, but Bunce is more than capable of telling the tale via characters’ thoughts and exchanges.

While it is solidly based in fantasy, the element of mystery is strong throughout the plot, and that is one of many striking factors in Bunce’s work. Bunce has created a spectacular work of fiction which will appeal to readers who enjoy fantasy with incredible creatures, high drama, and an assortment of strong lead characters.

Pages: 818 | ASIN: B07MCX4CFD

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On Loving

From an early age Rose Hemmings is asked to define love, a theme that is analyzed throughout the book and truly encompasses On Loving. While at the time she cannot compose a definite response, a single turning point in Rose’s life has her struggling to find the answer. She continues to question what love means as she narrates the story of her life.

On Loving begins with the tragedy of Rose’s beloved father, a man she attributes her love of literature, and who urges Rose to find the truth of her birth parents resulting in a spontaneous trip to Iran in search of answers. Just before leaving Rose’s world is once again shaken to the core as she comes face to face with a stranger who instantly steals her heart away. In a twist of fate, the two fly off to Iran resulting in a storm of emotional chaos involving family, secrets revealed and another man to drastically change Rose’s life forever.

For blatantly being a romance novel, On Loving rarely rears the exotic scenes of lust and passion. Instead, Lili Naghdi illustrates a love story shrouded in poetic anecdotes and literary quotes through the eyes of an A-typical surgeon inquiring every aspect of her ever-changing life. The story of Rose spans decades of heartache and misfortune, deep longing and joyous fulfillment.

However, I could never completely empathize with Rose. She shows all the signs of a well thought out main character, the author thoroughly explored the mind of Rose Hemming detailing all her faults and frustrations. I could tell Naghdi held Rose close to her heart while writing this book. The story is written in the first person, and like so, we are bound to watching Rose make decisions the reader might not completely agree with.

Overcoming these hiccups, I found steady glimpses of genuine understanding for several characters. Especially in the second half of the book, Naghdi beautiful vindicates the hurricane of emotions Rose has been building up throughout the story. Those moments of Rose carefully weighing her judgments, decisions, and feelings are true bliss. Moreover, the authors’ literary insight is phenomenal and while at times the call back to famous authors and poets is overdone, each example is carefully chosen perfectly matching the mood of the scene.

Any romantic or literary buff will wholeheartedly enjoy this book. Read the book and you will understand.

Pages: 483 | ASIN: B07NSJLJLZ

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Vexing Stages of Culture Shock

Michael Greco Author Interview

Michael Greco Author Interview

Plum Rains on Happy House follows an American who is trying to turn an Inn into a school but is thwarted by the house’s strange creatures. What was the inspiration behind this unique story?

I live in Japan, and it’s a place I know well. The book’s dedication probably says it all:

This book is for Japan. It’s the place I call home—though it may not want me to. For over 25 years I have grappled with the dos and don’t’s of my host country, destroying the language in conversation, giving up, resuming more study, eventually resigning myself to the boundless plateaus of almost-speech.

And Japan abides. Like a patient steward, it absorbs the frolics and the ribbing, while providing a solacing habitat in which to write and teach and parent and grow.

I came over to Japan in the 80’s and I’ve lived in some pretty seedy guesthouses—what we call gaijin houses. In creating the residents of Happy House, I just mingled the characteristics of a few of the unique people I’ve met over the decades in Tokyo and in Los Angeles. In some cases, I didn’t need to exaggerate at all.

On one level Plum Rains on Happy House is a detective story. A fellow named Harry Ballse invites the protagonist, nicknamed the Ichiban, to Japan. But the residents of Happy House all deny any knowledge of this mysterious Harry Ballse.

Some readers may pick up on the references to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, about a policeman who is lured to a Scottish island to investigate the report of a missing child. It’s a game of deception. The islanders are playing with him. The paganism and the sexual activity the sanctimonious policeman finds so objectionable are simply part of the selection process—to see if he possesses the characteristics to burn in their wicker effigy so that the village will have subsequent successful harvests.

In Plum Rains on Happy House, the Ichiban must undergo his own horrific sacrifice to appease the house. My novel is in many ways a tribute to that remarkable film, and it has the same foundational plot lines, but I’ve laid down a hearty layer of satire and lots of cross-cultural lunacy.

There are some weird and fascinating things happening in this story. Was this an easy outlet for your creativity or was there some effort put into creating these things?

Nothing is easy. If women will forgive me the metaphor, creating Plum Rains on Happy House was like giving birth—it hurt a lot. There were points when I considered giving up because it was just too hard. I’m not a funny person, but I have little trouble dreaming up wacky stories and characters. The residents of Happy House had to be distinctively quirky. I didn’t know how bawdy things were going to become, or how much depravity would creep its way into the story. But once I had the characters they took charge, and I relegated myself to being, more or less, their stenographer.

Dialog was also something I paid close attention to. Of course, sharp dialog is vital in any story, but for this kind of back-and-forth humor to succeed, I felt it really had to have zip. Just like a comedian practices his delivery line, the dialog exchanges had to have real punch. As with most writing, dialog should say a lot , with very little. The communication isn’t in the words being said but in the subtext. Good dialog says it without saying it. One quick example from Chapter One has the resident of Room 3 (nicknamed The Goat) explaining to the new resident about his missing foot:

“I saw you looking at the bottom of my leg.”

“Your foot?”

The Goat scowled. “Obviously, you can see that no longer exists.”

“It’s in Cambodia.”

The Goat went into a cross-eyed fluster. “What is?”

Sometimes readers need to work a bit to understand the exchange, and I think they appreciate that. Dialog is an organic process. It’s the way characters talk in my head, and I think I know how to write them because they are all a part of me. It all works toward satisfying the element of what a good scene often comes down to: one person trying to get something from another.

Mix that in with the baffling idiosyncrasies of Japan and its language, and the vexing stages of culture shock, which frame the Ichiban’s adventure in Happy House, and readers have a lot to juggle, especially those uninitiated to living in other countries. I’m hoping this confusion is a part of the magnetism of the story. On top of that, one should remember the old guesthouse is haunted:

“Happy House is an amoeba everlasting, a floating world—capturing and sealing the self-indulgence of the red-light districts, the bordellos and the fleeting, delightful vulgarity of ancient Japan, an eternal time capsule of the flamboyant and the boorish.”

What do you find is a surprising reaction people have when they read your book?

The book has received mixed reviews. Of the five books I have up on Amazon, Plum Rains on Happy House was the first to receive a customer review of one star—perhaps rightfully so: the reader was “disgusted” by some of the more explicit scenes, and I think that was my fault; the earlier cover gave no indication of the sexual content within, and this poor woman was clearly ambushed. With the one star, I know I’m finally an author, and wear it as a badge of honor.

There are, however, cultural elements in the story that some will not understand: the usage of the various slipper customs inside a house, the daily beating of the futon, the laundry poles, the shockingly steep stairwells, the neighborhood garbage trucks that play cute tunes to let you know they’re coming, the confusion between the colors of blue and green.

The dichotomy of substance versus form also plays an important part in underscoring the tension—in the way one swings a tennis racket, or walks in a swimming pool, or plays baseball, or eats particular dishes: What should predominate—what you are doing or how you are doing it?

On another level, the story examines language acquisition and the role of structure within the learning process. The residents all have their various opinions: As teachers, should English be taught through some kind of lock-step formula, or would one be better off approaching it in a more hands off manner, rather like painting? Everyone seems to have an opinion.

The idea of structure comes to the forefront again when discussing what one character, Sensei, calls the hidden structure of the house, which, like the neighborhood (or any cityscape in Japan) appears as an amorphous sprawl. But look underneath this sprawl and one sees the organism. Sensei says that the randomness, or chaos, embraces a flexible, orderly structure, and he likens the house to an amoeba that has the ability to alter its shape. Similarly, this amoeba can be seen as a microcosm of Japan as a whole.

What are you currently working on and when will it be available?

I’ve finished the first few drafts of a story about Special Needs teens who discover time travel. But the adult teachers at the school find out what’s going on and abuse this ability to travel back into time for their own selfish needs. It turns out the ones with the Special Needs are not the teenagers—who are all somewhere on the Autism spectrum—but the supposed grownups, and it’s up to the teens to save the day. It should be out in autumn.
Thanks for having me!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Plum Rains on Happy House by [Greco, Michael]In Japan, the little inn called Happy House welcomes its guests … unless it’s rainy season. When the “plum rains” arrive, trying times of volatility and decadence begin for everyone.

The American in Room 1, however, is dead-set on turning the derelict Happy House into a burgeoning English school.

The house has other plans, and Room 1’s attempts are thwarted by a freakish creature that lives under the floorboards called “the Crat”.

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That Loving Gesture

Gloria D. Gonsalves Author Interview

Gloria D. Gonsalves Author Interview

Jai the Albino Cow is a lovely children’s book that teaches kids how special it is to be different. What was your inspiration for this book?

During a holiday in Austria while hiking going uphill, I felt exhausted and lay down on a grazing pasture. A brown calf approached and licked my face. That loving gesture was indelibly printed in my mind.

Once back home in Germany, I had an idea to write a story about cows. I vividly remember that the story lead was going to be a female and her name is Gundula. The idea landed on a list I keep for children’s story topics. I wrote, “Once upon a time, there were three cows Gold Bell, Spotty and their sister Gundula. They lived with their mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Moo, in the alpine meadows of Nocky mountains. Gold Bell always wore…”

On another occasion visiting my home country Tanzania, I observed more cows in the pastures of Usambara Mountains. Soon after, the story idea developed further with themes from my motherland. I desired to create a main character who is female, different and also have her story address the topic of human diversity.

In some African countries, people with albinism have suffered and are still suffering from discrimination and other horrendous acts including being hunted for their body parts for magic potions by witch doctors. We can help solve this problem through stories which teach love and respect from an early age, such as in this book which uses a cow as the protagonist.

The book is told in both English and Swahili. Why did you want to tell this story in both languages?

My mother tongue Swahili is spoken not only in Tanzania but also in the neighbour countries of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. The intention to have a bilingual story was with a hope that the message will have a great impact and reach many more, particularly in areas where albinos are maligned.

I loved the art in this book. It was both artful and bright. What was the art collaboration like with Nikki Ng’ombe?

Nikki is a daughter of a friend. Besides being acquainted with each other, she is very professional and delivers concrete results. We have worked together in another book project and already knew each other’s pace of work. She grasped quickly the vision I had for this book. I will certainly work with her again if not occupied by studies.

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

I am currently proofreading a manuscript for a children’s Swahili book co-authored by Tanzanian writers. We intend to publish this year.

Author Links: Facebook | GoodReads | Website

Jai the Albino Cow: Jai Ng’Ombe Zeruzeru by [Gonsalves, Gloria D.]

Can an albino cow possess abilities to be admired by other cows?

Anjait (Jai) is Ankole cow who lived with her family in Kole Hills. Jai suffers from albinism. Other cows thought she was cursed. One day, Jai shocked other cows for doing something that no other cow did before. She also surprised them with a magical skill.

What is it that Jai did as the first ever cow? Will her actions and skill help bring love and respect to albino cows?

Get your copy now to find out the answers and reveal to your children the importance of showing kindness and respect to everyone, even if they look different.

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