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He Faces His Dark Past

Brooke Skipstone
Brooke Skipstone Author Interview

Someone To Kiss My Scars is a wonderful amalgam of coming of age, mystery, science fiction, and love story. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that change as you wrote?

The character of Jazz was the impetus for this story—passionate about science, trying to find a way to deal with her childhood trauma and her ineffectual mother, forced to grow up much too fast in a world where body shaming is the norm. She has every reason to be depressed, to have no interests, to be bored with life and the world. Yet she has an unflappable spirit and a burning need to find some happiness in her life. I have always been fascinated with the nature of memory and consciousness. Where do they exist? How can two people who have experienced the same event remember it differently? Can ions passing across a synaptic gap hold memories? What if they actually exist outside the body and the brain is a receiver? These are all legitimate questions that many respected scientists have pondered. The experiment which Jazz conducts in the story where she trains worms, amputates their heads, and then discovers that the worms still retain their memories is an actual famous experiment performed years ago and redone more recently. So the idea that Hunter can capture the memories of others is a direct result of the ideas behind that experiment.

Hunter is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?

Hunter lost everything—his mother, his memories, his younger brother, his purpose. He lives with a seemingly disinterested father who offers no emotional support. He writes stories of imaginary worlds until his brain is invaded by salacious, cruel stories about people he’s never met. Where do they come from? Who can he tell? Jazz befriends him, both dying from loneliness, and their relationship grows. Jazz serves as his guide, trying to explain his visions. Once Hunter realizes that he can remove a painful memory and that so many kids have suffered horribly, he grows into a fighter, someone who will accept any burden to relieve others of their pain. He faces his dark past, which would destroy most anyone else, and channels his pain into the desire to rid others of their pain.

This novel explores abuse in many different forms. What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Too many people believe the experiences depicted in this book are rare and should not be depicted. In fact, more kids and teens suffer from abuse than most realize. I have seen the effects of every kind of abuse against a teen and the lingering harm such events cause throughout their lives. In my experience, most kids suffer some kind of abuse from others or themselves. Their stories need to be told. When some complain that such stories should be muted, that writers who use them sensationalize relatively rare events to drive a story, I have trouble stifling my anger. Too many people chose to ignore reality and believe that focusing on stories without sexual content will keep teens from engaging in sex. The most difficult job today is being a teenager.

One of the main themes is the love between Jazz and Hunter. They know EVERYTHING about each other yet they still love. Hunter has seen Jazz’s darkest days and deeds and finds his heart still filled with love for her. As Hunter says, “People start to heal when someone cares enough to accept their suffering. They finish healing when they kiss someone else’s scars.” Redemption comes only when someone tries to help another.

What is the next project you are working on?

I am currently writing the sequel to Some Laneys Died, but I also have plans to write a sequel to Someone To Kiss My Scars. I also have ideas for two other books dealing with racial conflict. Too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

Laney’s world collapsed when she caught her dad cheating. He begged her not to tell, but she did. Her family fell apart and regret consumes her, especially when she learns every decision she makes spawns a new universe for the opposite choice.

If only she could skip sideways to the Laney who didn’t tell.

But her only escape is through her imagination, until a news story blurs the lines between worlds. Two girls were murdered at the same time and same place as her father’s adulterous act. Strange events lead Laney to believe their bones are connected to her and the sister she always wanted.

Laney now has another decision to make. Some Laneys say yes, while others say no; some live and some die.

And some skip between worlds.

Sophia Freeman and The Mysterious Fountain

Sophia Freeman and the Mysterious Fountain (Book 1) by [T.X. Troan]

Sophia and her father aren’t exactly what you would call close. Between the drivers, the maids, and the high profile job, her father doesn’t have time to devote to the daughter who aches to once again have his attention. After losing her mother, Sophia wishes for nothing more than a normal father-daughter relationship–one where she can talk about her day and ask him about his. When her father makes plans to explore his new island together, Sophia decides this is the perfect opportunity to connect with him. But is her father’s newest business venture going to stand in the way once more? And will the rumors surrounding the haunted island prove to be more than just talk?

Sophia Freeman and the Mysterious Fountain, by T.X. Troan, is the story of one young girl’s adventure on an island her grandfather claims is haunted. When Sophia’s inattentive father takes her to visit, she quickly loses her way when she ventures off on her own to explore. She soon finds herself in quite the predicament, facing a variety of forest creatures unlike anything in her wildest imagination.

I was immediately struck by the relatable storyline in the opening chapters of Troan’s book. Young readers who find themselves with preoccupied parents will sympathize with Sophia. Her desire to bond with her widowed father is strong, and readers will root for a happy ending to Sophia’s story.

Admittedly, I didn’t immediately see the book taking a turn toward fantasy. I assumed from Sophia’s grandfather’s comments about a haunted island that readers would be treated to a mystery. The quick move toward fantasy was surprising yet refreshing. The illustrations depicting the creatures throughout Troan’s work are nothing less than phenomenal. I found myself lingering over them and can see younger readers losing themselves in the imagery.

The only human on the strange island, Sophia faces interactions with one unique being after another. The plot moves quickly, and there are plenty of mini action sequences to keep younger readers engaged and invested in Sophia’s storyline. Her relationship and the way she is forced to question her father’s true intentions is an underlying factor throughout the story. Even on the island surrounded by magical creatures, Sophia must face the truth about her life.

Sophia Freeman and the Mysterious Fountain is a quick read, appropriate for tween readers, and contains a highly engaging fantasy plot. Between the stunning illustrations and the battle between good and evil that permeates the plot, Troan is handing young readers a story to remember.

Pages: 144 | ASIN: B07Q1F1SGL

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Zarya: Last hope for her parents and Cydnus

In Jackiem Joyner’s debut novel, Zarya, he takes us on a wild journey through the mythical planet of Cydnus. In the first chapters of the book, there is a heavy focus on the parents of the main character, Zarya, as we are taken through the events right before their mysterious disappearance.

However, later on, the author shifts gears to primarily focus on the main character and her journey through life. As a strong female lead, she exudes brilliance and the unrelenting resistance to hide it, something quite against the norms of the time.

She is portrayed as a confident woman, unhindered by the status quo, and possessing courage that makes her willing to go to extreme lengths to find her parents. Together with her best friend Kizzy, and acquaintance Marco, she embarks on a quest filled with curveballs, tons of action, and unexpected camaraderie.

For a book set in a land that doesn’t value its women, it is interesting that the author includes a lot of strong female characters, all of whom are very keen on making Cydnus a better place. And the few male characters in the book are mostly either evil or rather subdued. It almost seems like the women are fighting against an ill-functioning patriarchal system.

If there is one theme that clearly stands out throughout this book though, it is the importance of family; both chosen and blood bound. But at the heart of it, this book is about the old age fight between good and evil. As such, it contains several scenarios that force characters to choose between what is right and what is easy.

Predictably, the protagonist has a righteous egalitarian vibe to her while the villain seems to be purely evil. In this regard, I feel like more could be done in terms of character development to add more depth to them. I would have loved to see different sides of the characters to make them more realistic.

For instance, it would have been helpful to learn more about how Zarya coped with the absence of her parents in her early childhood and how this affected her behavior. This would have made her plight much more relatable.

However, the plot is solid and is full of detailed and engaging action scenes. Also, the dialogue is quite entertaining and there are no signs of long-winded paragraphs. All things considered, this book is very fast-paced and easy to read. As such, it leaves me yearning to read the sequel. For its ability to enthrall me as a reader, I heartily recommend this book.

Pages: 361 | ASIN: B01J6OXCQY

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To Move Past All The Hurt

Zachary Ryan Author Interview
Zachary Ryan Author Interview

Silent Screams follows four friends in the aftermath of a school shooting that unravels secrets and relationships. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this compelling story?

It came from a song called Prom Queen by Katie Turner. She has a line about a audience that was never meant for me. It was where the idea for Zachary came to be. It was also my 50th novel that I wrote. I wanted to add elements from each of the first 49 in there.

We really get to dive deep into each unique character in the story. Who was your favorite character to write for?

Honestly, it was Cass. I just had such love for her. I wanted so much for her to be strong and be able to move past all the hurt she had to deal with. I just honestly don’t know how she handled that situation. You find out your boyfriend is cheating on you, and you can’t hate her because she lost her life from one of your best friend’s actions. Then on top of that Jarele was a good guy. He helped Cass through so much. It was hard for Cass to hate Jarele. I just was impressed by her strength and where she ended up.

In this story we get to explore how families and relationships are all different and complex. What were some themes you wanted to capture within them?

Honestly, that everyone goes through some hardships in their life. I also wanted to go through this idea that no one is a full villain or victim. With Gabe each person viewed Gabe in such a different way, and I really wanted to portray that. My theme for all my novels is make sure to not judge someone because you don’t know what’s behind someone’s closed doors.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available
I’m working on a campy book. It’s a lot like my High Schools Queen trilogy. It’s called Cutthroat Cheerleader. It’s sassy, campy, and a murder mystery too. It will be out actually in October.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

For a group of friends, one mistake changed the course of their lives forever.
In the aftermath of a tragic school shooting, the group must find their own form of justice and a way to begin healing from a wound that just won’t stop hurting.
For them, the lines were drawn.
Right and wrong became blurred.
Friends became enemies.
Told from the perspective of four friends, we learn how one student’s revenge reigned terror over a school and a community– causing secrets to unfold and relationships to be tested.
A compelling and powerful story about a school shooting. A must read.

Phantom’s Mask

Phantom's Mask (Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms Book 2) by [Sara A. Noë]

Phantom’s Mask follows Cato is a very powerful ghost. He can go invisible, he is fast too, but not as fast as his lab brother Axel. After is family betrays him Cato is vengeful of the people who made him this way. His mother sold him off to be a lab-rat because he was born different. It pains him, but as much as it does, he will have to make a deal for the greater good of protecting his lab family who he has a strong connection to. Now fugitives who are being hunted, this team of eight will fight to the bitter end. They are a product of classified government program, forced like prisoners and experimented on, the alpha ghosts do not like humans because humans have betrayed them.

Phantom’s Mask is a suspenseful supernatural thriller filled with an array of mesmerizing ideas, there’s war, humans hunting ghosts, half humans betrayed by humans, and everyone bitterly protecting their space. Phantom’s Mask by Sara A. Noë is a fascinating product of a wild imagination with a plot that has the vague feel of Stranger Things, but much more suspenseful and action packed, a bit like the show The Boys on Amazon. There is ample time spent creating a rich atmosphere in this book that feels gritty and realistic. The author has created enduring characters with keen precision to details that ensure each character feels authentic, if not always complete. The emotional turmoil that Cato goes through was something that was consistently compelling and kept me interested. But even that takes a backseat to my interest in Cato’s origins and the intriguing mystery at its core.

Fans of the first book in the series A Fallen Hero will be more than pleased with this followup. Sara A. Noë continues to plumb the depths of her characters in Phantom’s Mask and readers will be delighted by it.

Pages: 578 | ASIN: B086D7NFSX

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Silent Screams

Silent Screams by [Zachary Ryan]

Silent Screams by Zachary Ryan follows the lives of four high school friends forced to grow up due to a school shooting. Lane struggles with whether or not to come out to his friends while mourning the loss of his lover. Cass struggles to find someone to save her from her home life. Zachary deals with losing what she thinks makes her special. Ben finds his life of luxury torn away and struggles to figure out who he is without it. Being friends with the shooter, these four students battle with their own demons while attempting to cope with the guilt and responsibility they feel for their friend’s actions.

The raw emotion and authenticity of the characters is something that is outstanding in this book. I applaud Zachary Ryan for creating such imperfect characters that are so relatable. Each character deals with something different and grieves in a unique way. Each character, even background ones, go through so much character development and really grow up and learn how to trust and depend on each other. We get to see through each character’s eyes through point of view changes that happen each chapter. It’s refreshing in a way because you get to see into the heart of each of the four main characters and see their innermost secrets and insecurities. Silent Screams is a story about friendship, love, insecurities, trust, and the dangers of keeping secrets in for too long.

I enjoyed this book, but there were some times I had to reread a line because of a typo. There was also one background character who’s name was inconsistent, being Violet in some places and Valerie in others. However, this book is still thoroughly enjoyable.

Silent Screams was a roller-coaster of emotions from beginning to end. I am not ashamed to admit I cried a couple of times. This is the sort of book you pick up and can’t set down until you finished it. I’m not sure that I would class this as a feel good story but it ultimately leaves you feeling satisfied and rejuvenated.

Pages: 254 | ASIN: B08BK4DPN5

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Surviving on the Fringes of Society

Jim Hartsell Author Interview

Jim Hartsell Author Interview

Pushing Back follows a young man who’s struggling to find his way in life but finds help in unexpected places. What was the inspiration for this emotional novel?

I spent my professional career working with teenagers who were surviving on the fringes of society. They are the invisible children, the throwaway kids, but I believe that theirs is a story worth telling. In the several decades I was their teacher (and their student), some common themes began to emerge. The expected anger, despair, and cynicism were there, but there was more. Their resilience and bravery were admirable, and although not apparent on the surface, there was a part of each and every one of them that wanted to figure it out, to learn how to be an adult, to find a voice. I thought I could play a small part in giving them that voice. While Boone is not based on a specific person, his struggles and successes are theirs, and to a surprising extent, ours as well.

Boone is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?

I see Boone as a kind of Everyman, working through the same questions and grappling with the same insecurities that most teens have. Boone faces much longer odds than most; in addition to the economic and social disadvantages he carries, he finds himself having to unlearn many of the lessons his father taught him about how the world works. His father’s rage and distrust color Boone’s view of the world in general and the motives of those around him in particular. He is moving into adulthood hampered by his upbringing and driven by his desire to get it right, to become a successful adult.

I enjoyed how this novel explores poverty, addiction, and depression. What were some themes you felt were important to explore in this book?

Boone’s anger comes at least partly from the fact that he has had very little life experience that tells him that adults are trustworthy, kind, or capable, and he’s old enough to know that he is entering adulthood himself. Growing up with a mean drunk for a father and a mother who has given up on pretty much everything means that his experiences with others are seen through that lens. Acts of kindness or generosity run counter to what he knows from his family experience, and the internal struggle between the way he was raised and what he is learning about the larger world is central to his sometimes painfully clumsy attempts to negotiate the world he is entering. Boone is stumbling into adulthood, but he is moving forward; his dawning recognition that some of his basic assumptions need to be revised is part of the reason he is making progress. I do see this book, as well as the other two in the series (a fourth is in the works) as hopeful.

This is book one in your Boone Series. What can readers expect in book two?

Matching Scars begins soon after Pushing Back has ended, and Boone is more completely out on his own, learning about how the adult world works and taking on more adult responsibilities. A crisis in Gamaliel’s life redefines their relationship and eventually leads to significant changes for Boone. He begins reaching out to others, creating a sort of tribe he can call his own. His relationships with Nancy and his new friend Tiny develop and are tested in ways Boone never saw coming. He continues to make mistakes, sometimes through ignorance and sometimes through his inability to completely set aside the counterproductive and sometimes dangerous lessons learned from his father and, to a lesser extent, his mother. His temper is somewhat less on a hair trigger than in Pushing Back, and his developing trust helps him as he reworks his definition of the world. In his expanding circle there are familiar enemies, new friends, and unexpected opportunities to step up and be the adult he’s trying to become.

I have to add that if Boone read the answers to these questions he would very likely say, “Man, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about with all this stuff. I’m just trying to get by.”

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Boone Series is the story of a teenager on the fringes of society. He doesn’t have looks, or money, or education going for him, but he’s a decent human being trying to grow up with the odds stacked against him. He is often belittled or ignored, but like others out there on the edge of things, he has a story that deserves to be heard. “Pushing Back” is told from Boone’s point of view.

The first book in the series finds Boone at sixteen years old, in a family he can’t wait to escape. His father is an angry drunk who scrapes out a living doing farm work and takes out most of his frustration and rage on his family. Boone’s mother is a passive sort, unable or unwilling to stand up to her husband, and his sister is only seven, so he feels like he can’t leave. Then, in one weekend, his family disintegrates around him and Boone finds himself alone for the first time in his life.

Soon he begins to realize how much of his father’s anger and mistrust is also a part of him, and much of his struggle to become an adult revolves around trying to let go of most of what his daddy taught him. Circumstance brings him into contact with an elderly neighbor, and he and Gamaliel form an unlikely friendship. Gamaliel’s son-in-law has nothing but contempt for Boone and the conflicts with him bring out the worst in Boone’s character.

Boone’s low social standing and his inexperience with most kinds of relationships makes his growing involvement with Nancy, a former classmate, full of stumbles and missteps on his part and a determination on hers to make things work, even though she has her share of normal teenage insecurity as well.

A decent person at heart, Boone’s battle with his inner demons and his almost complete lack of knowledge about the adult world make his progress intermittent at best, full of setbacks often of his own making. He approaches maturity clumsily, but when he can figure out the right thing to do, he usually does it. Unfortunately for him and those around him, sometimes his anger and insecurity get in the way.

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The Revelations of August Barton

The Revelations of August Barton by [Jennifer LeBlanc]

The Revelations of August Barton is a contemporary romance novel by Jennifer LeBlanc. A coming of age story which is a sequel to Tribulations of August Barton. This young adult book is a continuation of the life of August Barton and his love Rose. August is faced with many difficult challenges throughout the story that throw into question his and Rose’s ability to be together. This is a drama filled story with family secrets, confessions, drunken bachelorette parties and layers of family problems that all hit August Barton like a tornado. Will he be able to overcome them?

What I like most about The Revelations of August Barton is that it’s not a cliché teen love story, although it may seem like it at first. Jennifer LeBlanc is able to make the story relatable and believable and because of this I found the story to be immensely engaging. The Revelations of August Barton is full of weighty teenage agony that resonates with truth. In this story we get to see new sides of August Barton as he’s faced with new obstacles and I was amazed at how he continued to grow into a much more dynamic and layered character. This reminds me of a show that should be on The CW network, but maybe not as melodramatic as the shows on that television network.

I suppose I should give a spoiler alert, although it’s not much of a spoiler, August is able to solve his life’s problems and bring all the broken pieces together, but the way in which he does it was something I won’t ruin because I believe that is what this story is about. The journey of putting your life back together after it falls apart. This is one of the greatest milestones in this book. It shows readers just how strong one can be if they summon their strength and willpower into what they want. The main theme of the book is love and family and Jennifer is able to mingle these things into a rich heartfelt fictional story that left me a bit wistful. The life of Grandma Gertie, Rose, August, John and Diane is a perfect image of love and family. Although they are not perfect and they make mistakes, they do not give up on each other. They build each other up and most importantly, they forgive. Jennifer LeBlanc has done a fantastic job of using humor to bring levity to some weighty situations while also underlining some poignant themes. The book has strong language that might be a problem to some readers on the younger side, but otherwise I think it fits well in the college romance genre.

Pages: 155 | ASIN: B07F5JF3T5

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