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SAM: A Girl Undercover

Deception was never part of her plan. Neither was falling in love. Changing her tomboy appearance & makeup is just another disguise to conceal the birthmark on her face, and her view of stranger’s stares. SAM. Now sixteen and still hiding under baseball caps and sunglasses. Dressing like a tomboy started years ago. She was perfectly happy with her looks until one day she meets a young man named Jock at a baseball field. She excepts a fill-in spot on the team letting him presume she was a boy. Unsure of her attraction toward him; her hormones take part in her desire to conceal her birthmark and dress like a girl with the aspiration of revealing her true identity. However, this turns out to be harder than she had imagined. Her deceitful-pretension, causing her chaos and sends her on a roller coaster ride of lies and confessions. Unaware that this would be the origin of a triangle of gentleman callers that she will have to sort out the difference between love-friendship or just infatuation. Will Samantha retreat to her disguises afraid of falling in love, or will she marry the man of her dreams?

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The Midnight Bite

The Midnight Bite

The Midnight Bite (A Fishy Story) by David J Shepard takes the reader into a world of an avid fisherman, Johnny, who develops a love of fishing in his youth. However, it is one specific breed that catches his eye and this is where the story begins.

Once the character in the story realizes that his children are grown up, his working life is finished and his fishing buddy no longer wants to fish with him, he is aware that he has still not caught his ideal fish.

I liked this book as it threw me headfirst into the world of fishing. However, just because it’s a book about fishing doesn’t mean that it’s filled with fishing jargon. I found it very easy to read and the author has an immersive style of writing that makes you feel like you’re catching the fish alongside him.

It’s also an interesting read as you learn that the character is coming to terms with his own mortality through fishing and that’s what eventually drives him to seek out this breed of fish. It paints a very clear and refreshing picture of a man who is bitter, resentful and scared of his own life coming to a close.

It’s not until the 16th page of the book that you learn more about Johnny’s love of fishing from a young age. I enjoyed these flashbacks as it was interesting to read where his love came from, which was the days spent with his dad and family.

The author’s knowledge of fishing is clear throughout the book, as there are so many little details about the bait and fish that you feel like you’re learning while also exploring. It was eyeopening to realize that fishing can be more than a past time and become an art, in a sense. If you jerk the line too quickly, the fish will know something is up and therefore not choose to eat your bait. It was also interesting to realize that this man is a flawed individual who is open about his feelings of jealousy and resentment towards people who do better than he does. I really enjoyed reading his thoughts and perspectives on life.

The Midnight Bite (A Fishy Story) is an enjoyable and quick read for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about the complexities of life with a bit of fishing involved. Can’t get out to fish? Don’t have a fishing buddy? Well sit back and enjoy this book instead. 

Pages: 72 | ASIN: B073Q6KD2Q

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Sacrificing Yourself

Sara Butler Zalesky Author Interview

Sara Butler Zalesky Author Interview

Wheeler is a suspenseful romance novel that follows a strong female cyclist battling both physical and emotional challenges. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?

I have been been a fan of cycling for some years now but over the last five years I’ve been hugely influenced by the women’s peloton. Their grace under pressure, heart and incredible talent is an inspiration. My ultimate goal for the hard copy of Wheeler is for the proceeds of each book sold to be donated to the Homestretch Foundation, founded by Kathryn Bertine, a former pro cyclist. She saw a need for women cyclists who wanted to compete but financially, had no way to train and earn a living. Homestretch provides the housing, equipment, training and nutrition for elite riders to have a chance to compete at the pro level.

Loren and Graham connection develops into a complex relationship through the novel. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?

Relationships among creative types can begin intensely, with all the Shakespeare quotes and French terms of endearment, only to burn out in a few short months. Loren and Graham are both isolated and lonely, even though they are surrounded by friends and family. They each have personal issues to overcome and are willing support each other through their trials in order to make the relationship work, just like real people.

Wheeler starts in the middle of Loren’s cycling competition. What is your experience with the sport and why was this a good setup for your novel?

Being a cyclist myself, understand most of what they go through: the training, the discipline, sacrificing yourself for your teammates. I know the intense physical discomfort (i.e. pain) of taking your body to the limit and beyond.

There’s a parallel between being a pro athlete and an actor – long hours of training, constant travel, the media spotlight, but also the close relationships that can develop between teammates (co-stars). It takes the right mix of personalities to make it work or the film (or team) won’t succeed. I thought this would be an interesting, and realistic, pairing. They would need to understand how important their careers are, but also know that it could all end with one bad review, or the squeal of a car tire.

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

I am currently wrapping up the first draft of the as unnamed follow up and I hope to have it to my editor by Autumn, 2017.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

WheelerTo become an elite cyclist in Europe, Loren Mackenzie has overcome much in her life, but no one would know it. Her tragic past is hidden inside tarnished armor and her fear of it being uncovered has kept her out of the spotlight. 

Known as the Ice Queen of the peloton, Loren rarely shows emotion in the heat of competition; she leads her team with quiet strength and determination. But when a chance meeting quickly develops into a whirlwind romance, the ice surrounding her heart begins to melt. 

All is not rainbows and unicorns, though. The relationship with an A-list celebrity brings with it the microscope of tabloid-media attention but also exposes the jealousy and obsession of another, threatening to unravel Loren’s tightly wound life. 

Can Loren open her heart to the love she has held at a distance, or will her fear and shame ultimately defeat her?

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Black Overalls

Black Overalls

Black Overalls by Tom Donaldson is an all-American tale of home-grown heroism, set in the struggling farms of Texas during the 1960’s. We follow Roy, failed football prospect turned journalist, as he digs into the history of his football idols – and discovers the tale of an unexpected hero. The story takes us from backwater Texas counties, to the State championships, to the horrors of Vietnam, and beyond. We find two seemingly separate lives are more intertwined than we think, and that there’s not much a small town with a big heart can’t do.

The comeback story has a universal appeal – you don’t have to know much about the game in question to appreciate the little guy standing up to the big team. And that’s exactly what this book is: a classic underdog story.

Black Overalls oozes with heart. Tom Donaldson clearly cares deeply about his subject, about the setting, about old-fashioned American values. The book touches on era-appropriate controversies, particularly around race, which culminates in war-torn Vietnam. I have to admit, it’s not where I expected the book to go. But it gives the story a touchingly human element and a feel-good ending. It’s nice to read a book where there’s no shocking twist, no depressing revelation; just a happy ever after. Occasionally that’s to a fault – scenes can lack conflict sometimes – but you certainly come out of it feeling okay about the human race.

This book is obviously a passion project for the author, but it struggles with a lack of proper grammar and punctuation. The pacing is sometimes confusing. The mixed perspective can occasionally jump between past and present without warning or context. And some chapters are often just technical descriptions of matches, venues, plays and lists of scores more comparable to Match of the Day.

Despite the flaws, a need for an editor, and dry sports commentary, I enjoyed Black Overalls immensely. If you’re a football fan or just looking for a short, light read then I think you might just enjoy it too.

Pages: 145 | ASIN: B01BNR347O

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Wheeler

Wheeler by [Zalesky, Sara Butler]

A little bit romance novel, a little bit suspenseful thriller, and a thorough introduction to the world of women’s cycling, Wheeler by Sara Butler Zalesky is an enjoyable and well-written story of a strong female protagonist battling both physical and emotional challenges. Spanning just a few months in professional cyclist Loren MacKenzie’s life, Wheeler is a whirlwind of a read. It begins in the heat of her cycling competition season when she meets handsome actor, Graham Atherton, roadside after a well-timed popped tire and follows their blossoming romance as well as Loren’s cycling competitions across Europe. It’s not all easy riding for Graham and Loren though, as Zalesky weaves intricate relationships between Loren, her teammates, family, and a sinister former boyfriend who is dangerously obsessed with Loren.

Readers who are familiar with professional cycling will doubtless appreciate Zalesky’s attention to the sport, and even readers who have no prior knowledge will enjoy learning about the strategy, training, and teamwork involved in cycling. Zalesky expertly creates a believable and enthralling team dynamic, following Loren and her team through both victories and crashes. Crafting relatable characters and developing story lines over the course of the novel is one of Zalesky’s strengths. Though the first half of the story feels rather one-dimensional with clichéd characters (the hyper-driven female athlete; the handsome, Shakespeare-quoting actor; the jealous ex-boyfriend), Zalesky develops her characters so that by the second half of the story, each of these characters has a well-defined history and far exceeds expectations.

Whirlwind romances are, of course, fun to read and daydream about, but the almost instantaneous and passionate relationship that Loren and Graham form feels forced. Their relationship is full of Shakespeare quotes and French puppy-love nicknames (hundreds of variations on mon amour and ma cherie are tired after awhile). But midway through the novel, Zalesky seems to hit her groove and relies less on these easy wordplays for content, allowing Loren and Graham to have more meaningful conversations. This is pleasing for readers, who may not have realized the novel they were reading would have more Shakespeare than they had read since high school.

Overall, Wheeler offers readers an intriguing literary escape into the intense world of women’s cycling and creates a protagonist that readers will consider a good friend by the end of the story. While few people could withstand the physical challenges that Zalesky puts in front of Loren, it is the emotional challenges she faces that make Loren such a wonderful character. Wheeler examines challenging topics such as emotional and physical abuse, the difficulties of balancing work and relationships, and familial estrangement, and does not shy away from painful moments. Multi-dimensional, inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking, Loren will have readers rooting for her successes and looking forward to a second installment. Hopefully Zalesky’s second novel will come soon, as Wheeler’s abrupt end may catch readers off-guard, feeling almost as if they’ve fallen off their bikes unexpectedly.

Pages: 456 | ASIN: B01I0DTSQU

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Seb Cage Begins His Adventures

Seb Cage Begins His Adventures (The Dreadnought Collective Book 1)5 Stars

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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