Left on Main (Heart of Madison Series Book One) by Crystal Jackson is a contemporary fiction story. Freelance travel blogger Libby Reynolds moves to the small town of Madison, Georgia after her marriage falls apart, and she is determined to make a new life for herself. But it’s hard for her to move on when she was blindsided by her husband’s desire for a divorce. Then she meets Seth Carver, the owner of Lost Horizon Antiques, and she can’t deny that she feels drawn to him. But is she ready to take another chance on love? Especially with a man who has his own reasons for protecting his heart. Or will they allow their fears and past hurts to tear them apart?
I enjoyed the romantic element of this story, and I liked the characters because they were relatable and believable. The descriptions of the town and various businesses, as well as the changing seasons, painted a vivid picture of Madison, Georgia. Libby and Seth both had interesting jobs (travel writer and owner of an antiques shop), which were different from other books I’ve read, and I liked that unique aspect of the story. After their past heartbreaks, I wanted to see a happy ending for both of them.
The story starts out a bit slow with too a lot of focus on secondary characters. At the beginning of the book, there was a lot of interaction with secondary characters and not enough interaction between Libby and Seth. Libby doesn’t meet Seth until Chapter Five, and then after that brief introduction they are apart again until Chapter Fifteen. During the first quarter of the book, there was an issue with repetition, when the same information was mentioned more than once as Libby related the same details of her upcoming coffee date with Seth to multiple characters. There were so many characters–at the tea room, the coffee shop, the newspaper office, the antique shop, and all Libby and Seth’s family and friends–that it was hard to keep track of them all and remember who was who.
Once the story shifted to focus more on Libby and Seth’s romance and less on the secondary characters, things began to pick up and the book held my interest. I would have liked the story to end with a proposal and Libby saying ‘yes,’; but I suppose that’s just me being emotionally invested in the characters. There was a sneak peek of the next book at the end of this book, and I’m interested in reading more of Libby and Seth’s story.
Pages: 249 | ISBN: 198828175X
Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.
Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?
On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.
On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.
I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?
Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…
In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…
Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”
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Physical: The catastrophe of desire by Mari Reiza is a wild ride of a read. For both main characters, two middle aged women, Kiki and Fatima, it is indeed a catastrophe, but of their own making. Kiki is virtually strapped in a small town in Northern Italy and finds herself alone after her longtime boyfriend leaves for an “upgrade”. Fatima finds herself in a crisis of identity after having twins and struggles to find purpose in her enlarged family. Yet, both women feel pulled along by their baser desires to rekindle the energy and passion they had in their youth.
Overall, the book reads very fast pace, which for a shorter book is expected and I would say enjoyed it. There are moments where the book reads as if Reiza is experimenting with stream of conscious, but then it breaks away from that to continue in a more traditional narrative pattern. The change can occur on the same page or even within the same paragraph, which may be disconcerting to the careful reader.
The characters themselves are a varied mix of character strengths and flaws that can keeps the reader engaged. Kiki has a mouth like a sailor and clearly has a drive and motivation to make something of herself if she can overcome her very physical, base needs. There were times it was hard to follow her storyline given that she self-sabotages to a large degree. Fatima on the other hand seems to be the polar opposite, in the sense that she is in a steady marital relationship with children, something Kiki is allergic to. Fatima is no prude though and is as explicit as Kiki is about sex and the like. Both women seem driven to try and enliven their lives in any way they can no matter the cost, even if it dramatically disrupts their lives.
The story is told through both women point of view in alternating chapters and some heavy style choice make the narrative more “telling” than “showing”. But these are easy to push past as you get drawn into the struggle of Kiki and Fatima. The strongest point of Reiza’s writing is that you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. They are clearly tired and bored of their current lifestyle and need to do something to shake it up. It truly appeals to the deepest core beliefs that individuals can have when they have reached a “rock bottom” or stagnant part of life.
Overall, it is a classic contemporary fiction story. Of two women trying as best they can to beat back the overshadowing struggle of age and day to day responsibilities. Passion isn’t only reserved for the youth; it can always be rekindled later with a little help.
Pages: 143 | ASIN: B01N9ZU9XL
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In the third book of the Atriia series, Kynneth Zeria has declared himself King after the death of his brother Jerrod. He thinks Christa is dead and blames Lor LaRosse for stealing her body. He vows revenge, but in truth, Christa and her two children are alive and living with Hannen in hiding. Dahla is raising the decoy “heir” at Cas Zeria.
Kynneth is beating the drums of war, determined to bring the other Lors under his rule and defeat Lor LaRosse. When he papers the land with propaganda, Christa’s safety is compromised. Hannen orders her to never leave their home. Of course, circumstances intervene, and she is discovered. She may be able to stop a battle, but can she stop an all-out war?
The book offers a calm beginning, following Sam/Hannen and Christine/Christa as they heal and rebuild. Their shared experience on both Earth and Atriia get a lot of play here, with some surprising and heartwarming results. The first two parts of the novel are a great way to get reacquainted with the characters and the unique Atriian dialect—which can be a challenge—so there’s a glossary in the back if you need a refresher. Hannan loves her fiercely, but she struggles with the fact that he is her stepbrother. Even if they are not blood-related, she can’t bring herself to touch him, and if she does give in to her desire, another pregnancy would certainly kill her.
Don’t let the lovely pastoral scenes lull you into a false sense of security. This is the Loper of Zeria and the Foul Fraigen Dropper we’re reading about! Passion, danger, and the madness of King Kynneth are spreading across the land, and Christa—or her legend—is firmly at the center of it all. Powerful men from all sides of the conflict want to use her for their own gain. Some want to kill her, others to use her as bait, or want to lock her away to sate their own lust for power. But Hannen can’t let her go. He stalks her with a single-minded purpose: make her his forever, or die trying.
Christa Clavin again shows her bravery, even as she fights for her life through delirium, rage, and pain. She’s true to her headstrong nature, prone to ignoring advice she doesn’t want to hear while making incredibly risky decisions. Another constant is her sense of responsibility for the people whose very lives depend on her actions.
Fair warning: some of the scenes in this book make the other two books pale in comparison. Some of the horrific situations are pure nightmare fuel; it’s no wonder Christa has so many bad dreams.
The people of Attria think Christa Clavin, the Loper of Zeria is legend come to life, and indeed, her fate may be led by the hand of the divine Sola herself. It’s not hard to imagine her becoming a beloved hero of legend. I think fans of this series will certainly feel the same.
Pages: 569 | ASIN: B01KEMXROY
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