In the pages of A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series), J.J. Olson weaves together a world of whimsy, magic, and the otherwise normal life of a 13-year-old girl. The story opens to Jenny Dewberry attending her grandmother, Alinore Grayson’s bedside. It is then that she receives the first clue that she may not be a normal 13-year-old girl. Alinore gives Jenny a key that opens a trunk of secrets and unlocks a part of herself that she never knew existed. Jenny discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, and she’s given a mission to restore white magic to the world.
This book is perfect for the young and old, alike but I think that middle-schoolers and up will enjoy this read the most. The story is vivid and descriptive and the writing is simple without being boring. Olson paints a world that is easily imagined. The book delves into some fairly complex situations, spells, and worlds a reader could easily get lost in, but I didn’t have a problem as everything is explained well.
I enjoyed the idea of the journals that Alinore left for Jenny to read. We get to know Alinore without her being a present character in the story through her first person narratives. We also get to know Alinore through her colorful sister, Agatha and her adventurous spirit. Alinore was a mastermind. She leaves Jenny everything she needs to send Jenny on a magical scavenger hunt of sorts.
The characters are well developed and enough background information is given to fill in gaps. This is a story that stands alone while at the same time leaving the reader begging for more. It is part of a series, but is easily digestible as a singular story.
I like the good vs. evil aspect of the story. Madiva and her minions represent the dark side, while fresh-faced Jenny is the bright spot. She is hope. That being said, I like the redemption of Kurthanyo Eastman that we get to witness. At first, I assumed Kurthanyo leaned more toward the domineering, evil side. By the end, we are given another piece of the story that lets Kurthanyo explains some of his actions when he was young. We’ve all done something we regretted in a fit of rage. Kurthanyo gives us a reminder that those fits are often not easily undone.
I’m giving A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series) by J.J. Olson 5 out of 5 stars. Apart from a few minor errors, the book is very well-written. The characters are relatable. It seems like it’s Jenny against the world, and at times she is. Readers will enjoy the protagonist as an underdog. I’d love to read more by this author, and particularly more in this specific series. I need to know what happens next!
Pages: 288 | ASIN: B07934BMGL
Tags: A Jenny Dewberry Series, A New Beginning, adventure, alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, childrens books, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, ilovebooks, indiebooks, J.J. Olson, kindle, kobo, literature, magic, middle school, new adult, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, shelfari, smashwords, spell, story, teen, teen fantasy, teen fiction, wicca, witch, writer, writer community, writing, YA, young adult
Corinth is not the man he used to be, and Larna is certainly not the woman she once was. Together, the two lifelong friends make a pair of opposites like no other. When Corinth finds himself with the dagger that inexplicably seems to grant him Sight, Larna begins to notice changes in Corinth that she isn’t sure she understands or likes. Larna, a newly-turned vampire and her best friend, Corinth, a Watcher, both feel an overwhelming sense of foreboding that has nothing to do with their mission to find and destroy Gabriel, the most vile of vampires. As they make their way through one life-threatening situation after another, Corinth and Larna tiptoe around more than one unspoken question in their relationship.
There are plenty of readers who will pick up The Watchers: The Blood Dagger #2 by Misty Hayes and proclaim it, at first glance, to be nothing more than a take on the story told in the Twilight series. Do NOT be fooled. Misty Hayes has taken the age-old vampire tale to a whole new level! She goes far beyond the Twilight-type plot and leaves it in the dust helplessly spinning its wheels. Once upon a time, I thought that entire series was the be-all end-all of vampire tales, but Misty Hayes’s Blood Dagger series is quickly bumping it from the coveted spot.
I had the pleasure of reading The Outcasts: The Blood Dagger #1 and was enamored from the get-go. Hayes is a master at character development, and nowhere is that more apparent than in her descriptions of Corinth and Larna and their self-talk. The second guessing and self-examination the two do throughout the text allow readers a firsthand look at their fears and their apprehension as well as their own amazement at their growing powers. Reading The Outcasts prior to reading The Watchers is not a must, but it is most certainly a plus when examining the growth the two main characters exhibit. Hayes does a phenomenal job of making this a stand-alone novel that serves to fire up readers’ desire to hear the full backstory of Corinth, Larna, and the feared Gabriel.
Hayes’s books are filled with humor. For as breathtakingly full of action as they are, they are equally as humorous. Hayes peppers her work with quips and one-liners, giving a fantastic depth to each of her characters. Readers will fall in love with Corinth and Larna if for nothing else than their ability to find humor in the most dire of circumstances.
Not to be overshadowed by the light hearted and whimsical, the dark and brooding element is definitely present in Hayes’s characters. In The Watchers, Corinth undergoes quite the transformation and is in the midst of examining his lineage, both of which are giving him pause. As Larna struggles to understand her friend’s trials, she cannot fully delve into his issues due to her own intense physical training and the division she feels between her love interest, Alastair, and Corinth himself.
Hayes writes romantic scenarios in the most tasteful and thoughtful ways. The Watchers: The Blood Dagger #2, though billed more as young adult fiction, appeals to fans of vampire tales as well as fantasies. Hayes’s work fits neatly into a variety of age ranges and genres beginning, but certainly not limited to, young adult.
Hayes’s work is, hands down, some of the most striking to hit shelves in the last decade. There are no characters out there like Corinth and Larna, and Hayes’s style of writing in alternating perspectives helps give rise to the inevitable success of The Blood Dagger series. I’m waiting with bated breath for book 3!
Pages: 515 | ASIN: B07KRHLT26
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In Degsy Hay: A Juvenile Redeemed, Brian Montgomery sets himself up as a modern day Horatio Alger or Charles Dickens, telling a tale of a hard-done-by young man who overcomes his humble beginnings to become something more.
Degsy Hay, born inside a UK prison to a heroin addict, inherits his mother’s chaotic life, as well as a mysterious diary with missing pages. At age 16, he’s released from McAlley-Stoke youth facility with no prospects. He spends a few months on the streets, during which he assembles a small entourage including a three-legged dog named Sadface, a girlfriend (and her young son) and several homeless tradespeople. Before long, though, he’s back in McAlley-Stoke, where, through a mix of violence and charisma, he quickly becomes the Gaffer, the big man in the youth correctional facility. He launches a reform campaign to encourage the young offenders to educate themselves during their incarceration and convinces (via a bloody riot complete with hostage-taking) the facility itself to treat its wards more humanely. All the while, a mystery around missing children and how they’re connected to the missing pages of his mum’s diary builds around him.
Montgomery gives his hero/narrator a distinct voice, rife with Cockney slang, locating him squarely in the rough and tumble housing estates of urban London, a lot of “nar’mean” this and “geezer” that. But for all his streetwise exterior, Degsy is a kind soul at heart and looks out for the people around him. It seems that everyone he meets has a lesson to teach him, even if they have to die a grisly death for him to learn it. The people closest to Degsy have a nasty habit of ending up dead, or filthy rich. Sometimes both.
For a book that tackles some extremely difficult topics like poverty, addiction, and child abuse, Degsy Hay can be a bit simplistic at times. It seems more concerned with showing how one extraordinary character overcomes these heinous hurdles with a plucky attitude and a few well-placed friends, and yet there’s an internal logic to it too. It’s Degsy himself who tells the story, and so why wouldn’t he place himself at the center and give himself all the credit?
On the surface, the story of a streetwise youth pulling one over on the world with nothing more than his wits, a few friends, and a three-legged dog should appeal to middle grade readers, but the very strong language and heavy theme of sexual abuse are better suited to older readers with a bit of maturity to process the trauma at the core of Degsy’s tale. More sophisticated readers, though, might find the very Dickensian style of storytelling a bit old fashioned. But then, we’re still reading Dickens, so why not? At any rate, the colourful language and Degsy’s unforgettable voice should keep them interested.
Pages: 180 | ASIN: B07K7VSQF8
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Michelle has known Damon for years. For years, Damon has known what Michelle could not possibly know–she belongs to him. When Damon’s stalking and pursuit of Michelle finally reaches its peak, Michelle can longer deny her attraction to Damon, and she gives in to her own curiosity. As Michelle and her best friend, Mellie’s, luck would have it, Damon is not the only one who has pursued and admired Michelle from afar for years. When what began as admiration turns to full-fledged obsession, Damon and his team are there for Michelle and Mellie when seconds count.
Addicted to You is the second book in the SAPD SWAT Series by author Nikki Mays. This second installment focuses on Michelle, co-owner of The Sweet Grind and best friend of Mellie. Mellie and her love affair with Morris were the primary focus of book one, and Mays has taken the same slant with book two shifting the perspective to Michelle. Written in first person and swapping between the two main characters, Michelle and Damon, the book hits on some particularly comedic moments as well as intensely romantic and sensual scenes.
As with book one, I enjoyed the shift in points of view between the two characters. Mays is adept at writing from each one’s perspective and helping the reader see each one’s thought processes. Damon, while intense, is a lovable character in his own right. Michelle’s reflections on his love for her further serve to build him as a favored character for readers. In turn, as Damon explains the passion with which he pursues Michelle, the reader is taken from wondering about his frame of mind to understanding his love for Michelle. Mays writes in a unique style that succeeds in quickly drawing in the readers and keeping them enthralled with the plot.
In both of the first two installments in the SAPD SWAT series, Mays steers the plot away from romance long enough to include an element of mystery. In Addicted to You, however, Mays seems to get to the point rather quickly. Even though I enjoyed and appreciated the mystery surrounding the drawings of Michelle left in the bake shop, it seemed the mystery was solved too quickly. I would have liked to have seen that aspect of the plot stretched out.
There is an undeniable quality of humor in Mays’s writing. She details a fantastic dynamic between her characters, both main and secondary. They have a rapport that is undeniable, and the entire group banters back and forth as true friends and siblings. Even their fights turn into comedic memories.
It is worth noting that there seem to be numerous punctuation and grammar errors in the reading. Only in a few places do these errors impact or interfere with the flow of the reading.
Author Nikki Mays writes an entertaining romance novel geared toward the new adult genre and succeeds in shaping lovable and memorable characters. Any fan of the romance genre will be pleased with the engaging plot and the sensuous visuals.
Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07J23W7JN
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The Tribulations of August Barton follows college freshman Augie as he navigates many precarious situations with the help of his grandmother. What was the inspiration for the setup to this entertaining novel?
I remembered how truly alone I felt when I turned eighteen and first left home. How hard it was to realize that the world was so vast and full of uncertainty, that if I let it, it could just swallow me whole. Augie is essentially a figment of the inner me and a reflection of how I felt at that time in my life. Doing things on your own without anyone’s help or guidance for the first time is scary.
The funny thing is, Augie wasn’t the first character to pop into my head for this story. It was his grandma Gertie. I was surfing on the web for writing prompts one day and came across some comical ones like, the pizza guy, a hug that goes too far, and something unexpected under the bed, or something to that effect. At some point looking through them all Gertie popped into my head. She wasn’t a character I really had to come up with, she was just already there in my head. Gertie is a combination of different people all in one person. I used to work with an older waitress named Pickles. Her personality was really flirty and fun and all the customers knew her by name. That’s where a lot of Gertie’s mannerisms came from. She is also parts of my own grandmother with some Betty White mixed in. I thought to myself “hmm I’ve never read anything like that, this could be interesting.” The story took off from there and her and Augie led the way.
There are things in life that we all have to face like this at one point or another that will test our morals or sanity, but the people who inspire me most are the ones who overcame those obstacles. Augie is a great example of how facing your fears and overcoming things that hold you back can help you grow as a person.
The world seems like it’s crashing down on Augie, but he manages to hang on with the help of his free spirited grandmother. What were some themes you wanted to capture in these characters and their relationship?
The main ones are that it’s okay to have friends that aren’t your age, that family isn’t always blood, and accepting people and loving them for who they are is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. One that’s a little more subtle throughout the story is that people can surprise you and misconceptions that are assumed about someone right away, can turn out to be completely unfounded once you get to know them.
I have always felt a special connection to my grandmother. Much like Augie does in the book with Gertie. In a lot of ways, I connected more with her than with my own mother, and despite this, I was still very close to both of them.
The relationship between Augie and Rose was heartfelt and certainly tugs at the heart strings. What did you want to do differently with their relationship than what’s portrayed in other novels?
One thing I wanted to stray from was insta-love as well as their relationship revolving solely around sex. While there are a lot of sexual themes throughout the book and some good laughs about it, I also wanted to show readers that a relationship is built on more than just physical intimacy. I wanted to create likeable, yet flawed characters that almost anyone could relate to, because in real life we all have problems and none us is perfect or really ever gets it right. We stumble through life and make mistakes that we learn from, which is what both Augie and Rose do as their relationship blooms. They make mistakes and they don’t get it right the first time.
Augie see’s that there’s more to Rose than she’s willing to show other people. It’s rare to meet someone who sees who you really are right from the start. He’s also willing to let her go to ensure that she doesn’t spiral out of control, even though he desperately just wants to hold on to her. In turn Rose accepts Augie just the way he is, quirks and all. The more she sees who he is, the more she opens her eyes to what she really wants in life and decides to make a change.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Augie’s story continues in the sequel titled The Revelations of August Barton which is currently available on Kindle. The paperback will be available hopefully within the next month or two.
August Barton could never have mentally prepared himself for his freshman year of college: not only has his anxiety increased, but his parents are divorcing, his new roommate thinks Augie is the biggest nerd in existence, and his grandma, a retired prostitute named Gertie, has taken to running away from her nursing home.
Augie just wants to hole up in his dorm room with his Star Wars collectables and textbooks, but Gertie is not about to let that happen. What ensues is a crazy ride including naked trespassing, befriending a local biker gang, and maybe-just maybe-with Augie defeating his anxiety and actually getting the girl.
Posted in Interviews
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
Posted in Literary Titan Book Award
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Daisy Jane, affectionately known as D.J. by family and friends, has experienced great loss and faces the challenge of attending a new school. With the support of her loving father, D.J. heads into the daunting situation with strength and a resolve to make friends and succeed academically. D.J. has another source of strength–her fern. Unlike many girls her age, D.J. opts for outdoor activities instead of games, stuffed animals, and make-up. Having inherited her mother’s love and great skills for gardening, D.J. strives to introduce her new friends to her interests as she learns from a unique acquaintance of her own that friendships involve compromise.
Ellie Collins book, Daisy, Bold and Beautiful, is a highly engaging tale woven with bits of mythology. Collins has managed to take some of the more complex elements of Greek mythology and finesse them into verbiage that is relatable and entertaining for tween readers. Most middle school students would not choose to read about gods and goddesses in the formats with which we are all familiar. Collins is providing her readers with a sure-fire hit that will involve readers, teach them the basic outline of the story of Persephone and Hades, and never let them realize how much they are learning. That, my friends, is the true hallmark of a successful writer.
Collins hits the mark with her dialogue, her main character’s emotions, and the dynamic between two very different friend groups. Young readers will be able to find themselves easily in one or more of the characters. The mere mention of popular video game titles is a huge draw for gaming fans, but Collins is thorough with descriptions, the exchanges between the characters as they excitedly discuss scenarios, and the way they are wrapped in the world of the game itself to the exclusion of all else. The author, without a doubt, knows her stuff.
As I read, I became increasingly amazed at Collins’s stunning ability to pull out the most relevant parts of Persephone’s story and meld them into modern day scenarios. Nowhere else have I read such perfectly revamped story lines. It takes quite the imagination and a firm grip on the mentality of today’s youth to manage a task like this. If I am being completely honest, I have to say I learned a great deal myself regarding Hades and Persephone’s relationship. Collins nails it. I would not hesitate to read this story to and with fifth graders in my after school tutoring group and recommend it to any teacher or parent seeking to spice up a reading list.
As a teacher, I am thrilled to see such highly relatable text for middle schools students. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Collins follows this exceptionally well-written piece with many more. Her ability to teach young readers Greek mythology on the sly is to be envied!
Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07BKRVGDX
Posted in Book Reviews
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The Tribulations of August Barton by Jennifer LeBlanc is the story of a young man beginning his first year of college in Fargo, North Dakota. He is not looking forward to it, as he hates new experiences and new people due to his anxiety. With the help of his grandmother, Gertie, he comes out of his shell and learns how to deal with his panic attacks. He meets a girl he feels a real connection with, but several things pull them apart, and he faces the possibility that she might never want to be anything more than his friend. Then, a disastrous encounter at a Halloween party forces a wedge between them that Augie believes can never be overcome. Can Grandma Gertie step in and help him with this situation, too? Or will his college experience turn out every bit as bad as Augie had feared?
I enjoyed the author’s writing style. I loved the first few lines of the book. The story flowed well, and the characters were engaging. I liked the friendship between Augie and his roommate, Issac. I expected there to be friction between the two because of their different personalities. In many young adult stories, it seems that the cool roommate wants nothing to do with the nerdy hero, and I was happy to see the author made Augie and Issac friends instead. It was a welcome change from the norm.
Several of the scenes with Augie’s grandmother, Gertie, are very funny, though she seems to be a bad influence on him at the start. Later on, she helps him deal with and overcome a number of different issues, but her irreverent attitude never changes. She was one of my favorite characters in this story. I love that the picture on the cover of the book is taken straight from a scene in the story, with Augie driving a red toy car up and down the street outside of a funeral home.
I liked the song Augie wrote for his girlfriend, Rose. It was a very sweet scene, though it felt like the pair declared their love very quickly, since they were not together until near the end of the story. The short length of the book may have contributed to the rushed feel of their relationship. They went from exchanging the occasional text to celebrating their one month anniversary in a very short section of the book.
There were no chapters in this book, which was unusual even for a novella. Instead, the author divided the book into sections based on the months in the story’s timeline.
This book has a happy ending, but Augie’s story continues in the next book in the series, The Revelations of August Barton. I’m looking forward to reading Book Two to revisit all the characters from the first book and find out what happens next for Augie, Rose, and Grandma Gertie.
Pages: 176 | ASIN: B01M7TF1N1
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Justin Madrid, in Aeon Rises, is a teenager, unhappy with how he is fitting in with his peers. The problem? He is not fitting in with his peers. He is weird and different than most of the other teens around him. He cannot play video games without getting blinding migraines. He also can’t be on anything electronic. He does have one good friend, Kevin. He spends most of his time trying to get his mom to give him a ride to school instead of making him ride the bus. Oh, and he really wants a smartphone so the other kids will stop making fun of him. Sounds pretty typical, right? Well, the book takes a whole other direction almost immediately.
Jim Cronin creates a different, fun world in this engaging book. Justin soon learns that he is not at all who he thought he was. He also learns that all is not as it appears in his small town. For instance, there are aliens running the library (an idea most kids could probably buy). The Skutarans, led by bad guy Keldon Ankara, at the library immediately see Justin as a threat and the adventure begins. Justin’s uncle, Jonah, knows all of the information that has been kept from Justin. He takes over with Justin and opens up a whole new world for him. With all of the new information, it is now up to Justin to save Earth from the Skutarans.
I enjoyed this book from the first chapter. I was immediately pulled into the story. The main characters are all teenagers, but I don’t think that affects who would enjoy the book. I think I enjoyed it as much as my teens would. Aliens play a huge part in the book. That aspect of it was very entertaining. I enjoyed reading about earthlings through the eyes of the aliens. It is very well written.
Along the way, Justin and his friend Kevin team up with an otherworldly girl named Myah. One of the best parts of the book is the way Justin and Kevin communicate in movie quotes, a fact that drives Myah crazy at first. It all evolves in a fun way though.
I would recommend this book to anyone, adult or child, science fiction lover or not. It was fast-paced and exciting. Despite it being science fiction, it was written in such a way that it almost seemed believable. I found myself reading it without having to suspend my disbelief. I also found myself thinking that the story would make a great movie. I liked the three young characters in the same way I liked the characters in Harry Potter when I first read that book. I highly recommend it.
Pages: 201 | ASIN: B07H5PCSJ4
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Mall Hair Maladies by Kristy Jo Volchko is a delightful throwback story that will take 80’s kids down memory lane. The book follows Tanya, the new kid in school, Randi, and their single parents. The two meet and quickly become inseparable best friends. Volchko describes a year in the life of two 13 year old girls in 1980’s America. Volchko delves into “a day in the life” right down to big, crimped, hair-sprayed hair, fingerless gloves, and arms lined with multi-colored jelly bracelets. The biggest obstacle in the girls’ lives is finding a way to go to the local Madonna concert. She’s their idol, and they will do just about anything to hear her belting her songs in person.
Volchko writing feels like a genuine first-hand account of crazy events told across a dinner table. Grammar and spelling are impeccable. Everything flows perfectly. Characters were well developed, with each one having enough background story for readers to get a good grip on who they are. The setting and different scenarios were described well. Volchko has a way of making you feel like you are right there with the characters mixing up things in the kitchen, having an awkward dinner with an uptight relative, or smoking in the girls room. I felt invested in her characters and their lives.
I loved the throwbacks to the 1980’s. I lived them, and the essence of that era was captured perfectly. Readers from that time will relate to the characters. They will see themselves and reminisce over their own 80’s stories. I love the real references to the music and fashion of the time. It was a simpler time in many ways, but pop culture, music, and fashion were anything but simple.
The story is a nice throwback to a safer time for kids. They could hop on a bus unattended and go all over town and return relatively unscathed. They had little fear of anything bad happening to them at all. Bad things happened, of course, but they didn’t seem so frequent. Volchko conveys that time of simplicity and relative safety very well. I’m not so sure the story would have played out the same if it was set in today’s world. It was nice to escape back to that time for a little while.
I love how easily the girls become best friends. I think we sometimes forget how simple that was as children. Two strangers implicitly trusted and loved each other without the bat of a fake eyelash, just because they did. They met. They liked each other. Simple.
Without getting too heavy, Volchko exposes some problems that commonly arise in families. These aren’t 80’s problems, but timeless problems. Tanya has an absent father, and Randi has an absent mother. Tanya’s grandmother is judgmental, hateful, and a huge source of stress for the family. Volchko shows how the characters deal with those issues. She gives examples of difficult family dynamics and how the characters navigate those storms. She also gives some hope with the introduction of a less dysfunctional family toward the end.
I’d recommend this book to anyone in middle school and up, though 80’s kids may appreciate it the most. I couldn’t have asked for more out of this book. Volchko has made me a fan. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the writing. I would love to read more of her work.
Pages: 265 | ASIN: B079SQYLRZ
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