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Like A Hero

Like a Hero by Micheal J Bowler is an exciting story that follows the life of a superhero named Invictus, the brainchild of two young brothers who want to make the world a better place. However, only the older brother can wear the suit and fight the bad guys, the other must stay at home and man the police radio. Readers are first introduced to the hero of our story as he saves a group of classmates from a flaming helicopter. As tensions rise between the boys, the youngest brother struggles to resist the siren song of the criminal underworld. 

Offering a fun twist on the genre, Like A Hero incorporates classic superhero staples whilst maintaining a fresh and interesting take. The author draws upon his background working in the juvenile justice system to explore how societal expectations of class, race and sexuality can impact young people’s lives. Invictus himself possess no superpowers, he is simply fueled by the boy’s ambition to remedy the injustices they see happening to the vulnerable people in their community. Though tackling dark themes, it is an uplifting young adult novel about sensitive characters striving to leave the world better than how they found it. 

This action adventure novel would be an exciting read for teenage audiences, especially those who struggle with the themes described. Like a Hero has a lot of heart, exciting action, and a genuine message. It is clear that the author is passionate about the ideas he explores in his work because it is felt in the story.

Pages: 435 | ASIN: B0B9VBLH41

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In The Face Of Real Adversity

Author Interview
Bird Jones Author Interview

Hold Fast: A Boy’s Life Aloft follows a 13-year-old boy and his cousin who are kidnapped by the British Navy and forced into service on their ship. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The book is based on a paragraph found in a 1887 family history. The excerpt describes a mysterious occurrence in which two boys were pressed into service in the British Navy and ultimately what happens to them.

What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?

Our book includes themes of mercy versus revenge. Some characters must choose the person they’re going to be by showing tenacity in the face of real adversity.

What kind of research did you do for this novel to ensure you captured the essence of the story’s theme?

The research for the book relied heavily on primary sources like maps, logbooks, diaries, letters, etc. The research never really stops and around every corner is a new discovery that enhances the narrative.

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

Our next book is actually out already! Blue-Eyed Slave came out in February of 2022 from Koehler books (here’s the link: It’s another historical narrative based on a little-known story about an extraordinary teacher.

We’re about to start our third book, this one set in the prairie of Nebraska in the 19th century.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

It is 1761 off the coast of Italy, and 13-year-old Joseph Carlos and his cousin have just been kidnapped by the British Navy and impressed into service on the Deptford, a British man-of-war. Just the day before the two boys were happily sailing with their uncle on a routine merchant passage, dreaming of owning their own ship one day and returning home to the warmth and safety of their family.

What was supposed to be a “punishment” for a childish misadventure turns into a fight for survival on foreign seas. The boys have to rely on each other as they struggle with a new world of unfathomable rules and codes, near-death floggings, lethal storms, and intrigue. Their endurance depends not only on their own bravery and stamina but on how fast they can learn English. For the next two years the ship becomes their prison, their classroom, and their home. Eventually, Joseph Carlos has to make a choice that shapes what kind of person he becomes.

Hold Fast is a young adult, historical novel in the vein of Kidnapped. Based on a true story, it combines brutal storytelling and a poignant sense of humor while tracing the route of the Deptford across the Atlantic Ocean. This book follows the lives of two Italian boys, but it also tells the story of Harrison, the Sea Watch, and the discovery of longitude.

The Voice Of That Time And Place

Jeff Rosen Author Interview

The Nothing Brothers follows a teenager from the 1970s who is on a journey of self-discovery through his passion for music. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I first began this novel in 1982, when I felt that my teenage years were long past (by several months).  I grew up in a world where music and irreverence were equal parts of everything.  As we entered the Reagan years, we experienced a sharp recoil back to something old and absurd.  As reactionary as we were to the adult messages we refused to hear, this reaction to our world surprised, scared and inspired me.

Beyond dismissing the ‘fear and consume’ message our irreverence targeted, the first draft of the novel centered on the erratic nature of memory and the correlation between memory and the voices that filled our heads.  The draft, completed in 1985, explored the way heavy metal voices filled a silence and spread like mercury into the furrows of my mind.  In the time vacuum of the 1970s bands carved out slices of meaning and their sounds merged to create individualized, sedimentary representations of reality.

I came back to the novel in 2019, inspired first by a haphazard reading of Tom Perrotta’s The Van, a novel that allowed me to identify my time and place as something historical.  Late 1970s suburban NY generated an irreverent voice, a latticework of mockery. The Van allowed me to identify the voice of that time and place, which was, of course, the voice of the original version of the novel.  At the same time, the return of mean-spirited self-importance, embodied by the Trump message, made me long for the time when we imagined a world governed by a less self-absorbed structure.  Those two forces brought me back to my original novel draft.

Working from within the first draft, I had the good fortune to be able to combine first-person authenticity with decades of life experience.  From that vantage, the story retold itself as something more complete, where self-discovery was contained in the past, and the present offered reflection on that contained experience.  As I state in the prologue, even a dumbass can learn a thing or two over 40 years. 

Did you plan the tone and direction of the novel before writing or did it come out organically as you were writing?

The first draft of the novel had no singular arc.  This time through, the arc wrote itself.  Though the novel is still told through story fragments, time and history revealed a throughline for our generation that resurfaced as a narrative in the book.  Distance permitted me the vantage I needed to consolidate the arc of our time, a search for meaning that fell short.

The recent writing experience also provided the luxury of first-person time travel.  I went back to the 1970s, filling my earbuds with the soundtrack of the time, transported in a nearly physical event back to the decade.  Like a weather anchorman reporting from a hurricane, I was able to simply report back on what I witnessed.  Characters uttered wiseass comments, events unfolded with the dull zaniness with which we lived, and music filled every overstuffed, rattling car we drove around in. 

The novel has a lightly mystical undercurrent, with the main character sensing that there is a magical connection to all things in the universe, a connection that can be discovered through heavy metal music.  Ironically, the organic reveal of the novel felt exactly like that in this version.  The decade came back to life, spoke its truths through the characters, and I simply reported on what I saw and heard.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

On an individual level, this is a novel of humility, and the conflict ambition creates for us and those around us.  It is also a novel about how hard it is to find direction in the absence of ambition.  All of the characters experience this tension point between striving and acceptance.  Our parents fell prey to a consumerism that (briefly?) struck us as absurd and themes in the book explore the struggle against a norm that took permanent hold during that time.

On a societal level, this is a novel about a transition between a past that still held connection to all of history and a present that had no interest in any history before the 1960s and a music-centered way of being.  Stories from the Depression and the Holocaust leave no impressions on the Nothing Brothers.  The past is something adults try to jam down their throats to no effect.  The characters feel strongly that lessons from that past no longer apply and seek to make their own, applicable lessons for navigating life.

On a generational level, this is the story of a decade that fragmented into musical tribes, dissociated from the meaningless past and set off in pursuit of new ways to live.  It is the story of a generation that fell short.  That shortfall leads to the predicaments that plague us today, rooted in a return to blind consumerism, cruel racism and endless competition.  In the 1970s we knew better, we saw this future, and yet we did nothing to forestall it.  That failure has always troubled me, and the writing of this novel afforded me the opportunity to explore the root causes.

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

I recently completed a novella about a futuristic, corporate-driven utopia, where a handheld device doubles as your all-powerful PDA and home/vehicle-charging station, revolutionizing our ability to meet basic human needs in a world less governed by scarcity.  The main protagonist is an expert in calculating ecological footprint and drives around in a converted 1970s self-driving bus. 

The novel needs a rewrite, but I confidently calculate that it will take less than 40 years to complete.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Instagram | Website

Land with the solid thud of a body dropped onto a beanbag chair, back in the 1970s where everything and nothing happened all at once.

Wedged between the aspirations of the 1960s and the cynicism of the 1980s, Jensen Coaxials pounding until they blow, Leo Kraft and his fellow Nothing Brothers stagger around suburban NY in search of something. Simultaneously over-parented and invisible, Leo finds inspiration first in heavy metal, then in his Grandfather’s Bronx-fleeing generation and a former hippy sleepover camp, where he feels seen for the first time. We experience the 1970s through the bleary eyes of teens who wait for album releases, attend stadium shows, sit in gas lines, fight with tribal ferocity over music loyalty and generally ridicule and mock everything around them, until they are left with only one thing to mock: themselves.

In The Nothing Brothers, Jeff Rosen recreates a gripping real-time depiction of growing up and through the 1970s, transcending the bell-bottom centered nostalgic treatment of this lost decade. Rosen’s return to the 70s gives the reader a glimpse into the connection between that generational failure and the world we live in today.


Jessica is a normal teenage girl on a normal Saturday when her mom gets the news: she got a new job offer and Jess is moving to New York. The good news? They’re finally getting away from her abusive father. The bad news? Jessica, her mother, and her two younger siblings, are uprooting their lives and moving across the country. Come Monday, Jess gets to start a new school for performing arts. Her passion for music and acting throw her into the spotlight, much to the dismay of the school’s queen bee, Macy. Macy seems to have a grip on everyone’s life and connections to all the big producers. Will Jess be able to stand against Macy and her plans to destroy Jess? Or will Jess be another one of Macy’s many victims?

I felt that Saturday was an enjoyable young adult novel overall. The title of the book is not explained until the very end of the book, which leaves readers wondering throughout the book. And in those last few pages it was made out to be a theme.

I think this would be a great book for middle-grade readers or young teens who are struggling with fitting in at school or facing bullies. This is stirring melodrama that follows an interesting character through hurdles I think that many readers will be able to relate to.

I would recommend Saturday to young readers looking for a book that is easy to read but still carries an important message. The themes of bullying and conflict resolution make this a perfect book for that age-group. It portrays ways to stand up for yourself without becoming a bully. It discusses conflict resolution without condoning abuse or putting the abuser down. It portrays the difficulty of learning right from wrong in a manner that would be beneficial for any teen. I appreciate Cindy DeFuria for finding that balance in her story and I respect the message that she is sending through this poignant contemporary fiction book.

Pages: 188 | ASIN: B0BL5FH1VC

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Authors Do Make Stuff Up

Brooke Skipstone Author Interview

The Queering follows a seventy-year-old woman who shares her life story about being a lesbian through her writing and the prejudice she endures for it. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story? 

I’m a pantser, so when I start to write a book, I’m not entirely sure where the story will lead. And not entirely sure where the germ of a story originates. My last book (The Moonstone Girls) portrayed a beautiful, loving relationship between a brother and sister. In The Queering, I wanted to explore the opposite. In this case, Taylor’s brother, rather than being gay, struggles with his own loathing for gays. In other words, struggles with his own homosexual inclinations. Taylor and her best friend graduate with theatre degrees and hope to continue to live together, not as lovers, but as friends. However, her brother’s murder of a drag queen and insistence on accompanying the girls as they drive across the West forces Taylor and Brooke to worry that they will lose each other before they can express their true feelings. The idea of a post-college trip in a VW van with two girls and a man would seem full of fun and laughter. So twisting this trope into a harrowing, intensely dangerous event was key to the book. 

Additionally, the book’s first line came to me in a flash: NO ONE in the world is actually named Brooke Skipstone. What fun? Adding my own name to the mix intensified the intrigue. What if a young woman lost her girlfriend and because of the times felt she couldn’t pursue another lesbian relationship? How many women have married and had children because they were afraid to face their true identity? Taylor did the same but found herself lonely and purposeless late in life until she decided to write lesbian romances. At least her secret life could be significant even as her real life with a cheating, possessive husband devolved into lonely indifference. But when her brother is released from prison, seeking revenge, Taylor must make a choice whether to fight back and expose herself or hide until she is killed.

Are there any emotions or memories from your own life that you put into your character’s life?

Yes, there are, but I am wary of questions like these. Too often readers jump to conclusions, especially family members who try to find themselves in my characters. Authors do make stuff up. They do not write secret codes about their personal lives.

That being said, I did major in theatre and played harpsichord while my girlfriend played Viola in 12th Night. Many individuals in the theatre department (as well as music and dance) were gay and were often thought of as other by the straight group. There wasn’t blatant discrimination, but there wasn’t total acceptance either. And outside these departments, members of the LGBTQ+ community had to be very cautious.

I did travel through the West after college (though alone) and currently struggle with my family’s acceptance of my books, so I am thoroughly familiar with Taylor’s conflicts.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The overwhelming dominance of the patriarchy in our lives, even today. Living as your true self, no matter the cost. Love is possible even late in life. Alaska girls kick ass, literally. Trauma early in life affects everything afterward, but sometimes we find a way to cope. Young lesbians rock when they’re free to be themselves. And like my epigraph says: Those who hate queers are a threat to everyone.

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

I honestly do not know. I am waiting for an idea to hit me so hard I can not live without writing about it. I imagine I will have something ready by late summer.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Instagram

Editor’s Pick Booklife Reviews: A fast-paced yet thoughtful romance of coming out and finding love in later life in Alaska
5 Star Clarion Reviews: A riveting novel . . . about love, courage, and solidarity
Trapped between a homicidal brother and a homophobic podcaster eager to reveal her lesbian romance novels, a seventy-year-old grandmother seeks help in Clear, Alaska.

Suffocating in a loveless marriage and lonely existence, Taylor MacKenzie lives only through her writing, using the pen name Brooke Skipstone, her best friend in college and lover before her death in 1974.

Afraid of being murdered before anyone in her family or community knows her life story, Taylor writes an autobiography about her time with Brooke and shares it with those closest to her, hoping for understanding and acceptance.

Accused of promoting the queering and debasement of America by a local podcaster, Taylor embroils the conservative community in controversy but fights back with the help of a new, surprising friend.

Can she endure the attacks from haters and gaslighters? Can she champion the queering she represents?

And will she survive?

The Eyes of the Leopard – Book Trailer

It is the Stone Age of France; a prehistoric era of giant mammoths, painted caves, and fearsome cave lions. Fleeing starvation in their home territory, thirteen-year-old Sev and his family have been grudgingly accepted into the powerful Bear Clan. Yet as his father climbs the ranks of the mysterious group of shamans known as the Lion Lodge, Sev finds himself questioning the strange beliefs of his adopted band. Determined to unravel the secrets of the Lodge and prove his bravery, Sev accepts a dare to enter the Cave of Lions-a forbidden cavern high on the mountain where the shamans of the Lodge commune with powerful spirits.

When Sev’s trespass is revealed by his rival, Bakar, he is forced to make an impossible choice: join the Lodge or be exiled from the Clan-and exile is a potentially fatal sentence in the Ice Age world. Even joining the Lodge is no guarantee of survival, as their deadly politics are reinforced with dangerous tests of loyalty.

A YA adventure novel set in France during the last Ice Age, The Eyes of the Leopard is inspired by archaeologist and anthropologist Dr. Brian Hayden’s lifetime experience in the field studying prehistoric and ethnographic hunter-gatherer societies. Hayden’s expertise brings realistic depth to this classic coming-of-age story, painting Sev’s life of communal hunts, ritual feasting, and spiritual ceremonies “with the vivacity of a graphic novel” and providing an excellent introduction for young readers interested in archaeology. With art by professional archaeological illustrator Eric Carlson, the novel has been acclaimed by other archaeologists as a successful union of scientific work and storytelling.

The Queering

A 70-year-old woman with long, thick hair, more brown than gray, named Taylor Baird MacKenzie writes award-winning romances from a town in Alaska. Although she had great talent, Taylor hides behind the name of another character because her books deal with issues related to lesbian liberation and her city, Clear, is made up of intolerant and prejudiced residents. During Taylor’s process of revealing herself to the world, through The Queering, we get to know her story and several characters that are capable of stirring all kinds of emotions in the reader.

Brooke Skipstone very wisely casts doubt on the veracity of the story in question. The author blends reality with fiction. One of the best examples of this is that she uses her own name as the alias of Taylor Baird. Another point is the poetic way in which Skipstone inserts another book during the narrative. It’s like reading two in one. This is a thought-provoking story that deals with some tough but necessary topics. However, it can be triggering to people who have suffered homophobic attacks. The book is intense and during some episodes I felt a great sadness for the inability to do something about it. But this is the world we live in, and Brooke Skipstone does a fantastic job of reflecting that reality in the story.

The Queering is a unique story that carries a powerful message. If LGBTQ+ literature truly has the power to generate acceptance and liberation, then readers need to ensure that it is increasingly widespread. Everyone can and should have the right to be who they naturally are. This is a must read for anyone who is willing to open their eyes and live in someone else’s shoes for a while. I would like to end this review by borrowing a few words used by Brooke Skipstone on one of the pages to make a genuine wish: that we can live our lives feeling embraced by love, buoyed by daily laughter, and fully engaged with life.

Pages: 344 | ASIN: B0BJJ4LNPD

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Cult Girls

Talia has lived a vastly different life from most girls. She has been sheltered, taught politics are of the devil, told that men are superior to women, and used to recruit members to her family’s religion at a very young age. Her years as a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken a toll on her. She wants more than anything to have a normal life with a husband who values her while holding onto the love of her devout family members. Finding that balance is nearly impossible when you are a member of a cult.

Cult Girls, by Natalie Grand, captures the essence of what it means to grow up in a religious cult and slowly fade away from the only life you have known. Talia, the book’s main character, knows she wants no part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses now that she is an adult, but she struggles to find a way to keep her family and friends from being hurt as she transitions away from that life. Her story is a poignant one told in the form of a graphic novel and based on a true story.

I had my reservations at first about the format of the book, and I expected a much less serious tone than the author provides. I was, however, genuinely surprised at how effective the format is in delivering Talia’s message. I can see how incredibly useful Grand’s choice of format will be in reaching younger readers. Girls who are considering leaving a situation similar to Talia’s are much more likely to pick up a book like Cult Girls than a self-help book or a book with a religious tone.

In a time when cult escapism is becoming increasingly prevalent, Talia’s experience will resonate with many readers. Unfortunately, young women around the globe will relate to Talia’s life and her desire to be free of the life she knew as a young girl. Grand has gifted readers with a guidebook to living a life away from the influence of a cult.

Cult Girls has taken unmatched courage and determination to write so openly about life as Jehovah’s Witness. Repercussions for speaking out against the church are real and the author clearly understands the impact her work will have on both members and those who may be recruited. I can honestly say that Grand’s work is one of the most unique takes on religion and the characteristics of a cult I have ever encountered. It is a definite must-read for anyone considering leaving their church or considering joining an organization like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Pages: 95 | ASIN: B09VNYW5SX

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