Upon entering the book, The University of Corporeal and Ethereal Studies, the reader is immediately greeted with an acceptance letter. Wolfgang Edwards uses this as a sort of introductory to foreshadow what is to come: you are literally stepping out of our own reality and into this new one and this letter serves to summarize that. What follows is the collections and stories of various students and characters who attend this university. Set in a fictional, sometimes bizarre, universe, Edwards explores various facets of the supernatural, blending fantasy with characters who have very human traits.
I think an interesting way to categorize this book is like taking Harry Potter to the next level. You sort of get that feel because of the setting that it’s in. It’s not magic per say, but exploring otherworldly things, some of which I was unfamiliar with before learning about it. So that’s really the closest way to describe it, although it goes far beyond that. I learned a lot because certain things piqued my interest which I honestly have never heard about before. The book is intriguing and I became more interested the more I read. One such example was a chapter titled ‘The Oneironaut’ which is based off a concept called oneironautics. I learned that this is the concept of lucid dreaming, or being able to control your dream, whether it is trying to wake up from a dream or make something happen within the dream.
The actual story is divided up into a number of different perspectives from each character. Some had more relatable stories and more developed characters than others; some were truly fantastic. It reads like a dark adventure of disconnected people that the author is able to draw together for a bigger purpose – much bigger, and much more dangerous. Throughout the various chapters, we learn of different schools within the University, from which the different characters attend. There’s the School of Coin, School of Metallurgy, School of Engineering, etc. Each school is headed by a dean; and one sticks out in particular. Dean Merkea – an unpleasant man with an ugly, tattered demon dog who even urinates on a character’s shoe at one point. My favorite chapter, Prisoner from Beyond, ties together Dean Merkea, a curator, and unravels the launch of a very unique exhibit at a museum.
Despite its setting, the author manages to piece together a few solid pieces of insight every so often that can be just as intriguing as the story. One such example was of Arakatzeko, a character who can be related to someone like Socrates today: deceased, but full of wisdom. As Araktzeko is studied, we learn alongside the characters: “the true rulers of the royal palace were the cats, who were said to live through every change in royal families without incident”. Such tangible reliefs are welcome and help humanize an otherwise crazy setting.
As the book progresses, you get a feeling it’s heading towards something – just not sure what. The unique stories of each of the characters has surely got something for everybody, admittedly some more than others. It is guaranteed to stay fresh and new until the very end, which may leave you wishing that the author could’ve just kept going.
Pages: 720 | ASIN: B01MUAKPM3
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In The Big Cheese Festival, we meet Stubby Mouse who is being bullied by because his tail is short. Why was bullying an issue you wanted to tackle in this kids book?
I see bullying all the time and it just makes no sense to bully another child, or adult for that matter. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in childhood. Cyber bullies come into play and one reads about another child taking their own life due to being bullied. If I can help children be a little kinder to one another then this book was worth writing. Kindness breeds kindness. Bullying must stop. Children need to take a stand against bullying and their families must do the same, as do the educators in our system. It is bad when ones parent actually cyber bullies another child and that child ends up taking their own life. Parents need to be held accountable.
Do you think children struggle with confirmation of their self worth? How do you think kids seek that out?
Of course they struggle. Self worth and self esteem are huge issues as a child grows up and I, for one, still have self esteem issues at my age (56). Not all children grown up in a loving or supporting home. As a mother, and as a registered nurse, I have seen the dark side of life and it is ugly. Many things are preventable, and if parents aren’t willing to step in and assist in a positive manner then educators need to step in. Kids seek confirmation in many ways and most are a sacrifice, that is, some seek out sex to feel worthy, or eating disorders to help with body image issues they perceive as having or have at that moment/time span in time. Others over medicate and some over dose, others try their hardest to please their parent/parents/adult care provider, etc. and many don’t measure up or they simply give up. They lose hope, and we all need to have hope. Society in general needs top help foster self worth in troubled kids and teens.
There are lots of wonderful images in this story. What was your favorite image to use and write for?
Stubby Mouse is my favorite. The idea for him came about from one of our backyard squirrels who only has half a tail, and partly crippled due to meeting up with a vehicle and living afterward. We named him Stubby (his tail) and he has a different scamper than the other squirrels but he is determined. Stubby is just as wild as all the squirrels are and he loves to play chase. From one little stubby tailed crippled squirrel a book was born. I purposely presented all of the characters to dress the same, and for the girls to have different hairstyles. Stubby is the only one who is different and I knew that his short tail would be noticed by keeping the other characters similar. This worked quite well. Stubby is favorite for the preschoolers and kindergarten kids as well as first graders. The kids latched onto Stubby and they all defended him. Once the kids settle back down after a reading and discussion, then I will point out various differences in the kids in front of me such as hair color, etc. and I explain our uniqueness to all, and how that makes us special.
What are some themes of future books that you would like to write about?
I have many yet my time is limited due to health. I will say that we put out a book last year that speaks about molestation/sex abuse. It’s titled “Suzy Has A Secret” and it includes an adult/educators part in the back of the story. I used characters that do wear different colored clothes but facial expressions are the same. My mantra here is good touch/bad touch and children are innocent/predators are not.
“In The Big Cheese Festival, we meet Stubby Mouse and his family and friends. We learn that Stubby Mouse has a secret, that he is being bullied by another mouse, simply because his tail is short. Read how Stubby Mouse stood up for himself, and how he ended the bullying, in this delightful story for children. Targeted at ages 4-8, the book is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. Children learn how bad bullying is, and what they can do to help stop bullies! Stubby Mouse encourages children to take a stand against bullies, and always be kind to each other. This story illustrates how everyone is different and unique, and it is a delightful read with cute illustrations for both children and adults. Take a stand against bullying today!”
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It’s Okay, I’m Watching, written by Chenee Gilbert, is a novel based around LaTrell Wiggins- a caring young girl who lives with her younger brother Daryl and her parents, Luis and Paulini. Tragedy strikes the family as Paulini’s life is taken by cancer. Grief-stricken, the family begins to process death in their own ways and learns that grief can appear in all shapes and forms. Meanwhile, LaTrell is beginning middle school which comes with the inevitable stage of life- puberty. During this confusing time, Luis, Daryl and LaTrell must come to terms with life without Paulini and the changing dynamics of their family environment.
It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. LaTrell Wiggins, the main character, loses her mother to cancer whilst entering a vulnerable stage of her life- middle school and puberty. An easily relatable character, LaTrell’s journey shows how families can show strength in the face of terrible adversity.
It’s Okay I’m Watching discusses how our lives are enriched in traditions and questions the reader’s thoughts on what traditions they would pass on to others. It reminds the reader that time waits for no-one and unfortunately, circumstances are out of our control. Personally, it reminded me of the importance of holidays and the unique nuances that make my family my own and what traditions would be present in a memorial for my loved ones.
If you are looking for a companion after experiencing loss, look no further. It’s Okay, I’m Watching will help begin the healing processes and start the pathway to acceptance. This is done through discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader to reflect on their own circumstances. It explores how grief is a reaction and a release of an array of emotions. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time and you will be able to empathize with the characters and their journey.
One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. LaTrell discusses with her friends her grief counselling sessions and they begin to identify whether it is something they could benefit from. LaTrell’s other friend, Chandler, begins to acknowledge his own grief that he had been trying to mask. Her two friends shine a humorous side to LaTrell’s darkest days.
Teenagers experience loss and grief through death, break-ups and even loss of pets. Exposure to novels such as this will help them begin to understand the grieving process in an already confusing time of their life. It allowed me to normalize my own grieving processes and the impact these times had during my youth.
What I loved most about this novel is that it opens up the idea that grief isn’t restricted to those experiencing death and instead can be felt by those who are feeling alone, sad or missing someone. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to understand their own journey in regards to grief and loss.
Pages: 110 | ASIN: B01MXKCY8R
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Book 1 of the Dreadnought Collective series begins in Spain, where Sebastian Cage and his younger brother Bart arrive to spend the summer with their grandparents. Terry and Sandra Tumbler have plenty for them to do, with sporting activities and swimming to keep the boys active and burn off their boundless energy. Despite this, the rivalry between the brothers starts to fray their grandparents’ nerves, so Terry devises a plan. He enlists thirteen-year-old Sebastian as his research assistant for a secret project. Terry has noticed a larger-than-average number of little people in his town and is convinced they are aliens.
Seb’s intelligence and tenacity are put to good use. Seb and Terry’s set out to observe and follow people under five feet tall as they move about town. The pair’s activities are noticed, and a man named Skip approaches Seb and Terry and confirms their suspicions. Skip and his organization – the Sombrella Syndicate – aren’t hostile at all. He invites Seb to join their summer campus to learn special skills and advanced technology. Terry is skeptical, but he can further his research than getting the information straight from the source, even if he has to get the data by tricking his grandson.
Seb Cage is intended for middle-grade readers and offers a fantastic, “what I did on my summer vacation” adventure story. Seb must cope with discovering and controlling abilities he never knew he had, making friends with his fellow students and focusing on his education. He must also work in tandem with his partner Maisie, and develops a crush on her.
His uncertainty and awkwardness over Maisie, coupled with constant teasing from his younger brother, makes it easy to sympathize with Seb. He faces some issues that tween and teen readers will be familiar with. He’s essentially joining a new school and is soon surrounded by a group of young people his own age who come from all over Europe. He must learn to deal with embarrassment, mistakes, and successes, as well as bond with his classmates and learn from mentors who are very different from any teacher he’s had before.
The humor in the book is delightful, with a distinctly British feel. Some of it is word-play, with funny scenes (mostly involving Seb’s grandfather, Terry) that range from misunderstandings and mishaps to literal bathroom humor. Since the students and mentors are telepathically linked, the occasional stray thought slips through to hilarious effect. This kind of comedy plays through the whole story, keeping the mood light and the story moving.
The students visit real historical sites, and the descriptions of these monuments, battlefields, and triumphs of ancient engineering are wonderful. The author provides an appendix of links to some of these fantastic places that inspired the story.
Seb Cage Begins His Adventure is well-suited to readers from 9-14. It’s full of adventure, science fiction, and fantasy and will also appeal to youth who enjoy sports and exploration. The novel features strong themes of friendship, discovery, and learning to care for others and the planet Earth as well.
Pages: 382 | ASIN: B00VVCVNYI
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“The Taming of Adam“ follows a prickly teen named Adam. While he attends college studying black magic he goes out of control, gets arrested and is forced to face his shortcomings. What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
This might sound horrible (probably because it is), but I’ve always been kind of interested in the school-shooter phenomenon, especially the Columbine incident. I wonder what those two young men went through and why they decided to do what they did. Did life truly not seem worth living? Did counterculture somehow help them come to their decision?
By the time I wrote “The Taming of Adam,” I already did two novels, and I decided to try something unique and risky:
A story about a man who could become a school shooter.
It didn’t have to be an urban fantasy story, but fantasy is the genre I’m most interested in. Of course, Adam’s situation is very different from a typical real-world school shooting, but he is a very antisocial guy with sociopathic tendencies–someone who might think little of going on a carnage spree. The message of the book is that you can find friends even in unlikely places, and that it’s better to indulge in the love and care of friends and family than go at the world alone. It’s corny, yes, and I’m not sure it would reach a sociopath, but it might help more than hurt.
Are you a fan of the fantasy/paranormal genre? What books do you think most influenced your work?
I’ve read a lot of fantasy books over the last few years mostly thanks to my Kindle, which can get me obscure books right at home, but before I wrote ToA, I mostly read Stephen King books and a handful of fantasy books. The works of Stephen King were a great influence, as well as Harry Potter of course, but there’s also a bit of Star Trek in there, too. I love how fantasy and horror can make for very adventurous books that break the rules of reality to be fully realized. On the other hand, to be honest, I am a little disappointed to see so many fantasy stories rely on cliches such as “The Chosen One,” “The Great Holy Artifact,” and “The Prophecy That Gives Sufficient Motivation.” These cliches can more or less cheapen a story and rob characters the chance to be endearing and relatable.
Adam starts out as an unlikable character. He’s a jerk to everyone, even his friends. What is one pivotal moment in the story that you think best defines Adam? Did any of the characters development occur organically through the story?
Adam is a pretty sensitive guy who went bad due to a bit of a traumatic experience as a child. He wants to live in his own little world where nothing and no one can hurt him, and he keeps telling himself that not even his family is important to him. But when he makes his sister cry over a matter of his own making, he gives her a hug, realizing that he wouldn’t want to be treated as he had just treated her. Another pivotal moment is when he reveals his feelings about the opposite sex to Naomi. They’re feelings he’s always been aware of, yet this is the first time he’s put them into words to anyone. If Naomi simply got disgusted and called him names, Adam would have probably stayed the same and refused to open himself up any further. But just getting his feelings out and not getting a huge backlash gave him the opportunity to reconsider his position on life. I’m not sure if any of the other characters changed with the story, but I like to think Russell was pretty brave in talking to Adam, a guy who had just assaulted him, while other people would have advised against it.
This is part 1 of “The Taming of Adam” series. Where does the story go in the next book and where do you see it going in the future?
Parts 2 and 3 are now available for digital download. In Part 2, Adam attends a school in a new city. He gets serious with a woman named Amy who gradually makes him a better person without him knowing it. But there are some people behind the scenes with a sinister agenda, and they happen to have some connection with Adam’s past. There’s another character named Ricky whose unique perspective helps to clarify things.
Part 3 is the most ambitious and epic installment of the series, involving gods and time travel, and it puts a new spin on the title “The Taming of Adam.” Can’t say much more without going into spoiler territory!
Meet Adam Taylor. He is a black mage: a magic-wielder who draws power from the essence of shadows. He is also a loner who prefers only his own company and dreams of power simply to make a living with it. He shuns and pushes away others, making him an extremely rude and antisocial miscreant. On the inside, though, he is a sensitive soul who doesn’t quite know the meaning of love and friendship.
Gene London, meanwhile, is a famous attorney who has a knack for defending difficult cases. He is also a government lobbyist who speaks to lawmakers on behalf of corporations (a normally legal profession as long as he doesn’t give lawmakers luxurious gifts … which he regularly does). Lately, he’s been seeing a mysterious person whom he calls “the lady in the mirror.” This lady claims she is trapped in another dimension, and she says that if London finds a way to free her, she will be his forevermore.
Little did Adam know, on the day he did something foolish and horrific, that he was setting himself on a course to a meeting with the dastardly Gene London … and setting in motion a series of events that will change him for better or worse.
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“Japanese teenager Chikara Kaminari, while heartbroken by the death of her mother, inherits a strange black ring. Her mother’s will tells her to share it with her best friend, Renka, and a socialist student named Gen, so that they can save the world from political fanatics. Guided only by cryptic clues yet honor bound to obey her mother, Chikara does as she’s told. As the three develop extraordinary abilities, including emotional manipulation and control over darkness, they set out to uncover the origin of the ring and its connection to their mind-controlling school bully, Michiko.
Their destiny becomes clearer as Michiko’s power grows beyond her control, setting a classmate on a murderous rampage. As predicted, dangerous extremists appear, seeking to use the ring’s power to force their political views onto all of humanity. Chikara and her friends must put aside their partisanship and become the heroes they were destined to be.”
The Onryō by Rocco Ryg is a science fiction fantasy set in Japan. It is reminiscent of a traditional manga where teenagers are the main characters and take on heroic roles with outlandish situations. Some of the outlandish situations include the supernatural elements that writers often feature in Japanese manga and their other works. The book follows the main character, Chikara, through mostly a third person point of view. You get to see the thoughts of Chikara along with other people who she comes in contact, which is vital. Additionally, the main character makes exponential growth from beginning to end.
The first line of the book immediately draws you in. The writing of the book comes off as a very well done first draft that could use a bit of reviewing. Some of the emotions are not explored much, there were minimal grammatical mistakes, and there was one instance in which what was explained did not match what was said beforehand. The writing style increasingly gets better as you continue reading it. As such, it could have done with a bit more reviewing before publishing, but it does not keep one from enjoying the book.
You can tell from reading it that the person is a fan of Japanese cultures, as it reads like someone who knows about the culture and admires it rather than from an individual who was born in Japan. But again, it does not keep you from enjoying the book. The author was clearly influenced by their love of manga, as it was mentioned throughout. Additionally, there were many manga elements within the book, such as focusing on teenage girls, supernatural powers, and teenage romance
The plot of the book was interesting, but a little slow moving. However, it picked back up toward the end. The written action parts are genuinely some of my favorite scenes of the book. The supernatural elements are fascinating and the way it was incorporated not only made sense, but it is an exciting read. Although, the book did have stereotypical women in some places, it still led to some intriguing plot developments and character clashes.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys manga, Japanese culture, and action. It contains much fast-paced action, which is exciting. I can only expect the sequel to be better than the first as the writing and character development of the story improves as it goes on, making any future works by the author promising. The ending of the book, while slow to build, was fantastic. I loved the ending and the change in the main character. It made me want to read the sequel.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B0058KSKHW
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Adam Miller was never much of a student. Even though he dropped out of high school, his wealth and skill in magic get him into Cooper University for the Magical Sciences. Even though he’s signed up for many classes, he only attends the lectures on black magic. The shadow world of black magic fascinates him, and he’s learning fast. Adam is the ultimate loner; he’s rude and dismissive of others, considers his own professors to be idiots, and is physically violent with women. When he goes completely out of control, he’s arrested for his crimes and is forced to face his own shortcomings.
Gene London, Adam’s lawyer, has his own set of secrets. He is desperately looking for a powerful black mage to help him bring his lover Ellen back into the real world. Ellen is a white mage who is trapped in Envale, a place she describes as a world of light. When Adam meets Ellen, she shows him a whole new level of power that could grant him everything he ever wanted, or destroy him completely.
What I liked about this novel was that it is set in a contemporary world where magic is common. Mage is a trade like any other, and mages can earn a good living through magic. There’s also a predictable set of people who want to keep magic under control and set strict rules for mages to follow.
Adam starts out as a completely unlikable character. He’s a jerk to everyone, even those he thinks of as friends, and he seems to have no real reason for it. But when things go bad for him, he realizes that he can’t do everything alone, so he begins to make a few friends who help him practice and learn more spells. He’s not only mastering magic but also learning compassion for others and how they can be stronger by working together.
Gene London isn’t the greatest guy, either. He’s a slightly shady lawyer who uses bribery and intimidation to get what he wants. If he can secure funding for a top-secret magical experiment, he may be able to free her. He needs a powerful black mage to do it, and Adam just might be the one he’s looking for.
The first half of the novel is a chore to get through. It’s slow to start, bogged down by too many spelling and grammar errors and long information dumps that delay the plot. The information is “told” rather than shown, which makes for a dull reading experience. I was particularly disappointed in the chapter that laid out the origin of Renin. What should be an inspiring myth of gods and creation was poorly told.
Fortunately, both the quality of the writing and the plot gets much better, and the stakes get higher as the story progresses. As the magical experiment looms closer, danger and magical intrigue ramp up to a confrontation that could destroy everything Adam has accomplished.
Pages: 305 | ASIN: B00NJ2BZIW
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Bean Takes a Walk is a short, colorful, and educational adventure book for kids. What was the inspiration for Bean in the Garden?
Matt originated the idea of a children’s series about a bean walking across a garden. As we explored it further, we realized that Bean could be an aspirational character for young children, and we could use him to teach kids about acceptance, kindness and friendship. These are lessons we’re both trying to instill in our own children, so it felt right to do it in the series. Before we knew it, we had a whole town full of veggie people!
The story is about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids. In such a short book, how did you balance story telling with the delivery of those messages?
We try to keep it lighthearted and fun. We want kids to engage first and foremost with the characters and the story. The lessons are baked in, but there’s nothing preachy about it. I believe that kids have an intuitive understanding of fairness and kindness, so it’s easy for them to grasp these concepts!
The art in this book is wonderful. What was the collaboration like to make such colorful works of art?
Matt is just ridiculously good. It’s an honor to work with him. We’ve been working together for almost 10 years on website and logo design, so we know each other well. Even so, this was a brand new adventure for us! It’s been really fun figuring out all the characters and how the different scenes might look.
On Bean’s adventure he takes three toys, one of them is The Amazing Pickle #1 comic. So cute! Why did you choose these items?
We wanted things that would be simple and identifiable to kids – the kinds of things they might have in their own backpacks! As for the Amazing Pickle – well there might be some special superhero adventures in Bean’s future!
Bean Takes a Walk is book 1 in the Bean in the Garden series. What’s next for Bean in the Garden?
There are so many characters to explore in our little world! Coming up, you can expect more stories about Bean’s family and his best friend, Bella.
Bean in the Garden is a series of delightful, lighthearted picture books and videos aimed at teaching preschoolers how to be brave and kind in everyday life. In Bean Takes a Walk, Mrs. Berg entrusts Bean with a beautiful stone to trade with Miss Tots for some chamomile tea. Along the way, he makes some new friends and learns that not everything is what it seems!
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Bean in the Garden is the first book of the children’s series, Bean in the Garden, by Ann Bevans and Matthew Ethan Gray. The books are designed with preschool children in mind, so Bean in the Garden is short, colorful, and easy for young children to understand.
Bean sets out to take a walk around the garden, and packs his favorite toys in his backpack. On the way, he meets Mrs. Berg, who has a new teapot but is out of tea. Bean offers to get her some tea as part of his adventure. Along the way, he meets three little peas who are about his own age, and they all have toys just like his. When he discovers a hole in his backpack and all of his toys are gone, he realizes the three peas were trying to return what they had found. The story is all about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids.
The first thing that struck me about the book was the illustrations. Mr. Gray’s artistry fills the page with bright colors and engaging images. This is a world of vegetable people. Bean is, of course, a bean and his mother is a lovely red beet. His neighbors include a friendly lettuce, Mrs. Berg, and a potato, Miss Tots. The clues to Bean’s toy dilemma are right there in the pictures so adults can encourage their children to search for the “lost” toys as they read along. Kids may also want to look at the pictures and imagine their own Bean adventures.
Another message I got from the story is that some things that seem bad, like a hole in your backpack, don’t have to be a big crisis. Bean reacts with shock when he realizes his toys are lost, but instead of being angry, he realizes that the three peas were trying to help him all along. It’s a good way to teach children about kindness and understanding, especially since kids who will be reading this are learning how to control their expectations and emotions.
There are three books in the series thus far, each available in both print and eBook formats. For toddlers and preschoolers, you can’t go wrong adding this book to their reading list. You can get more information about the authors, the series, and links to purchase the print and eBooks at http://beaninthegarden.com/
Pages: 36 | ASIN: B01LNRBK7K
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