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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Gabby awakens in the ocean, frostbitten, alone and confused. As we get to know Gabriella Girard Blair we hear about her painful past and how it has propelled her life and lead her to this beach, washed up. Her most recent tragedy is losing her best friend and “female soulmate” and it seems that this is too much for her to handle. She has disappeared from her life, purposefully. She left behind a lifeless marriage and a life that seems haunted by her past. An old friend comes back in to her life and is determined to help. This is a love story, but it is also a story of self-discovery and the twists and turns in our lives, those moments that define us, changing feelings, and changing relationships and those that stay the same no matter how much time passes.
Eleanor Tremayne does a great job capturing the complexities of her characters’ relationships, which span over decades. She gives the reader an inside look into the mindset of her characters, so you can understand how their relationships and dynamics play out. The writing flows well and is not overly dense. She is a great storyteller. I love the poems that the author includes at the beginning of each chapter. They give you a little hint about what this chapter might include.
She wove the different characters and their pasts together seamlessly. If you are a fan of great character development, you will love this book. At times there were a lot of names to keep track of because she goes in to some details about their backstories and histories but once I was engaged with the characters it was fine.
There are some graphic scenes and graphic language, so this may not be appropriate for younger readers. The ending is intense and sad but has a great arch with all her characters. I loved how it ended and was hoping throughout that it would work out that way.
This was a romantic story without being over-the-top or cheesy. I also very much enjoyed how the main character was on a path of self-discovery and healing and how we got to experience how she processed this. A great original story with romance, heartache, trauma, friendship, and love. This was a fun and easy read that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Pages: 372 | ASIN: B07D9YQ8BP
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Made of Stone introduces readers to Desiree Palmer’s first fictional creation, Satori Stone. She is a carefree and witty single mother living in the Midwest. She embarks, unwillingly, on mystical journey being torn between good and evil. Her world begins to spin out of control when she goes home to visit her mother for Christmas. Her quirky neighbor Naoma and a stranger she meets along the way quickly turn into her new life support system. She will face a decision to accept her new fate and learn to use her natural powers or lose her family forever. Will she decide in time?
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Thrust back to feudal Japan, martial arts expert Aiyana Amari’s most challenging battle is the choice to either return home or leave the love of her life behind.
To save her family’s dojo and keep her father’s legacy alive, Aiyana Amari travels to Japan to compete in the Meiji martial arts tournament. But on the eve of the competition, Aiyana is thrust back to 1853 into the life of a geisha.
Captain Derek Blackburn, a sailor for the Dutch, returns to Japan to avenge his brother’s murder and secretly plans to assassinate the one ultimately responsible–Shogun Ieyoshi.
Like the two stars celebrated in the Tanabata Festival, Aiyana and Derek meet on the seventh day of the seventh month. Their wills clash. Aiyana is desperate to get home, but Derek needs her for his scheme of revenge. After falling in love a decision tougher than a sparring match must be made. Will Aiyana return home or stay with her one true love in the past?
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Surrender to You follows the passionate relationship of Mellie and Morris as someone goes to dangerous ends to keep them apart. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
I think that my inspiration came from watching too much Criminal Minds. Everytime I watch that show it gives me some many ideas. I feel like it is something that could actually happen since there are so many people with mental illnesses that go untreated.
Mellie and Morris have a fiery relationship and a deep bond. How did you develop their relationship, did any of it happen organically while writing?
I think that a lot of their relationship came organically while I was writing it. I knew that I wanted them to awkward in the beginning but after awhile they took on a life of their own. I don’t like to plan it out in took much detail. I kind of like to let the chips fall where they may.
There is a fantastic mystery at the heart of this romance book. What were some themes you wanted to capture around the stalkers motivations?
I wanted people to realize that this is something that could happen to anyone. Someone can fixate on you for the strangest reason. Half the time it could be a simple look. Mental illness has so many variations and left untreated can be dangerous to the person themselves, as well as those around them. Unfortunately, so many people go undiagnosed for years. I feel like more help should be available and that isn’t always the case.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book that I’m working on will be centralized around Michelle and Damon, titled Addicted to You. I’m hoping to have it out by the end of October.
Mellie: Mellie has been hypnotized by a pair of gorgeous green eyes, attached to a very yummy package for months now. Unfortunately for her, her brain goes on hiatus anytime Morris Jackson is around. Looking like a bobble head whenever he asks her anything isn’t the best way to go about getting a man like him interested. Not like ruggedly handsome men go for quirky, accident prone introverts like her. Plus, even if she did have a snowballs chance in hell with him, him being her brothers SWAT teammate doesn’t bode well for her. A girl can dream though!
Morris: Those blue eyes sucker punched him the minute he looked into them. It felt like the ground had literally gone out from under him. Mellie is everything that he could ever want and everything that he shouldn’t have. Even if he didn’t know that she’s too good for a guy like him, her brother would never be okay with it. He is over protective and proud of it. But at some point you have to say screw the consequences and go after what you know is meant to be yours.
Too bad someone wasn’t happy for them when the found their way to one another. Someone will make sure they don’t stay together by any means necessary. They’ll even kill to get what they want.
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Beguiled follows young Miriam as she struggles to follow her dreams through a turbulent time in history. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Initially, I had the idea to write a story of the kind of life my mother, born in 1910, might have had, if she’d had the gumption. Which she did not, so the story of Miriam Levine, 1st generation Russian-Jewish girl, is entirely fictional. There are a few biographical markers, e.g., Miriam’s Pop was active in the leftist-unionist organization called the Workmen’s Circle. My maternal grandfather was as well. Similarly, he was a cultured fellow, albeit not formally educated, and introduced my mother to cultural events from a young age. The character Miriam developed her aspirations to go on stage from the experiences her Pop exposed her to from a young age.
The story transformed itself immediately from anything biographical to an exciting adventure of Miriam and her girlfriends as they make their way through a difficult time in history punctuated by WWI, the “Spanish” flu, women’s getting the vote, the Roaring 20s, the relationship between young people and their immigrant parents, and the status of women.
Miriam is a well developed character that I grew attached to. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a young woman in the 1900’s?
Research, research, and more research helped me to describe a girl of the early 1900s. I read many books about the times, including novels of women of that period.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been a psychotherapist and life coach all my adult life, so am accustomed to hearing people’s stories and helping them to make sense of their lives. So, the emotions of a woman of this period seemed little different to me from my clients’ stories. Yes, women have approached the glass ceiling and many are in marriages that are fundamentally equal or mutually enhancing, but with the outing of many in the MeToo movement, it’s clear that women’s place has not appreciably changed vis a vis powerful men.
I liked how the politics and drama of the time was not front and center, but served as a backdrop to Miriam’s story. Did you do any research for this story to keep things accurate?
As stated above, I pored over many historical books of this period, as well as historical novels about the early 1900s. Having been in graduate school for a PhD back in the 1980s, I learned how to do research and to enjoy it. I was not, however, a big history buff, so my becoming absorbed in this research was a surprise to me. One funny thing: in one of my last drafts, I realized that NO character ever was described as smoking. So, I had to go back and add smoking Lucky Strikes, Camels, pipes, and cigars to many scenes.
WWI was certainly in the background only in Beguiled. Miriam and her friends barely seemed to register that there was a world war going on in Europe, until Miriam arrives home and discovers that her father’s Workmen’s Circle is having an important emergency meeting to discuss US entry into the War. Then a young German boy barges in to say that his family was beaten bloody right in their neighborhood, an unthinkable thing in their multi-ethnic close community.
Many people have suggested I write a sequel to Beguiled, but that would take me into the Depression of the 1930s and I don’t know if I want to go there, particularly since our country seems liable to get there itself.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Beguiled was just released on May 1st 2018, so I’m devoting some time to publicizing it before embarking on my next story. But, I’ve had the idea of locating an appealing news story of a woman who lived in another era. I enjoy researching historical fiction and being an archaeologist in searching out details of a bygone period. In order to find this appealing person, I’ll need to immerse myself in the Boston Public Library’s newspapers from the last century or even before. There are also archives of women’s letters housed at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, where I’ve done research before. I look forward to being able to do this, once my initial marketing campaign is over.
Beguiled is about every person who ever had dreams that were interrupted by cultural mores, by discrimination, or by their own shortcomings. Miriam Levine, born in 1900, dreamed of going on stage, until an almost fatal mis-step forced her to postpone her “real life.” A serendipitous offer compelled her to confront her inner demons and society’s expectations. As Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the Wizard of Oz, she recites at age 16: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
The story is inspirational for young people and their parents who dearly wish to access the American dream. The historical context of the decades before the Great Depression, the role of immigrants and women’s suffrage parallels tough political dilemmas that the US faces today.
Will Miriam have the gumption to follow her dreams? Will those dreams yield her the happiness she seeks? Or will she find that her childhood fantasies “beguile” her to seek ‘fool’s gold?’
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The Witch Trials is an interesting historical drama centered around the life and times of a middle-class woman living in France during the 16th century. What served as your inspiration while writing this book?
I imagined how difficult it would be during the middle ages to be a strong, intelligent woman, constantly having to hide their true self for fear of ridicule or rebuke. Then it hit me, I should write a story illustrating that. I also am inspired by world history and how all cultures and countries tie in together and effect one another both knowingly and unknowingly.
I enjoyed the historical accuracy in this book. What kind of research did you undertake to get things right?
Allot. Which is why I usually shy away from writing these type of books. However, I wanted my first published books to showcase my writing skill and I felt the best way to do that was to have an organized field of reference. I love learning about history and seeing how that contributes to todays society. As the medieval time period is my natural obsession, I picked a topic that many people know of, but dont really know the historical background to, within that time period. I used typical college outline format as a baseline and timeline reference and filled in the blanks with my imagination. My next series after Witch Trials, a novel currently in edit, will showcase my imagination more in depth.
Sylvie’s character is an intriguing character who struggled for a dream beyond what many women settled for at the time. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character?
1. Knowing that you have something so invaluable to those around you and feeling a spiritual calling to share it, but fearing to release it. (More captured in book 2 of Witch Trials).
2. Discovering a tolerable balance as a women in this time period; knowing when to show strength and when to hold back.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Witch Trials is a short story series. So I am currently working on book 2 now. I expect it to be released in time for Christmas. I am also working on a fantasy novel currently in edit.
Once upon time, women struggled to gain notoriety capable of any feat besides household responsibility. The struggle was life and death in the resistance of recognizing the inevitable rise of women. Starting life in Italy with a wealthy protestant family. Sylvie idolizes her father Dr. Fiore. Sylvie has her hopes set on being one of the first female doctors known to the area. But when Sylvie is married off to a wealthy craftsman named Leon, in France, she quickly realizes that this dream may be out of her reach and possibly run the risk of death. Is Sylvie’s dreams worth dying for? This book starts our journey in a small town of Eze in Southern France in the late 1600’s and tells a fictional story based from real time events in our history. This is book one of a new short story series.
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When Gabriella is handed the death box at her boyfriend’s funeral, she has no idea how her life is going to change. Her life becomes more than a stage; it becomes the looking glass through which the past and future can be seen.
Destiny Revisited begins in a Boston chapel in 2001, where Gabby flashbacks to the beginning of her journey–to Savannah, Georgia during the early sixties. Her memories take her to the university where she escapes a tragic love affair and finds herself living an extravagant, but ultimately mundane lifestyle in Kentucky. That is, until multimillionaire Sterling Powers, introduces a naïve Gabby to his special world of sexual intrigue.
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In Breaking Worlds we learn about the divide between Lisen and Korin and we witness their daughter’s determination to change the world. What were some driving ideals behind the characters relationships?
Once Rinli died in Protector of Thristas, I knew what had to happen. The death of a child can either bring the parents closer together or rip them apart. I decided to go the latter route and see if I could help them heal eventually. It was difficult to write because I love these characters, but it was necessary to show how two people so closely bound in life and love could respond so diversely to such a tragedy. Now for Rinli, resurrection was not kind. She’s 16 at the time of her death and harbors strong resentment toward the mother who bartered her life for peace. I asked myself how does the psyche of a person who dies and then lives again survive such a painful ordeal? Jon Snow in Game of Thrones remembers nothing past his murder when he’s revived. Jesus Christ reawakened in his tomb a glorified being, but of course he had godhood going for him. But what does resurrection do to a 16-year-old child with deep emotional wounds? And it became clear to me that the rift between Rinli and her mother was only going to widen despite Lisen’s previous efforts to protect her. Sad and tragic as all this was for these three characters, challenging as the work was for me, it was fun to write. Am I wicked for saying that? I doubt any author would feel differently.
This book has clearly been crafted with care and is full of emotion. What were some themes that were important for you to continue in this book, and what were some new ones you wanted to introduce?
The continuing theme of the consequences of decisions remained paramount in my storytelling. I find tales of redemption the most interesting of all, and there can be no redemption if there is no sin. I love breaking characters into pieces and watching how they reassemble themselves and the relationships they’ve broken in the process. In Breaking Worlds, I wanted to explore what it means to be the helpmate to a person with the potential for greatness. I delved into the parallels between Korin and Madlen in their roles as lovers/supporters for their beloveds, and Madlen’s unquestioning (or barely questioning) devotion to Rinli fascinated me. And beyond all of that were the variations of grief and the effect grief has on us as people. I found it both harder and easier to dig into the pain of grief as I wrote because I had just lost my best friend to cancer. Harder for the immediacy of what I’d just been through, but easier because it was so fresh. What it comes down to is what I say on my Facebook page. “I love combining characters with conflict and crisis and then watching as they suffer the consequences of their choices.”
This is the fifth book in the Lisen of Solsta series. Has the series grown beyond what you had originally imagined or are you still following a clearly defined path?
Well, the series has certainly grown. I never expected to write past Blooded, book 3 in the series. But as I’ve noted before, I grew curious about what would happen when “the bill came due.” In other words, what would happen when Lisen had to hand Rinli over to the Thristans in the desert as their “Mantar’s Child”? Then another question emerged after I finished Protector of Thristas (book 4). What would a world broken by Mantar’s Child look like? That led quite neatly into Breaking Worlds.
What can readers expect in the finale of the Lisen of Solsta series, book 6 Pushing Madness?
Breaking Worlds and Pushing Madness were written together. I didn’t know if I had enough material for two separate books, so I kept pushing forward with certain criteria set up for what length would be too much for one book and where I would split the book into two if that became necessary. In terms of the story, my intent is to clear the table, to answer all the questions–in short, to tie up all the lose threads and hopefully leave the reader satisfied while allowing the ending to be a bit messy. I’m not a fan of endings that are too neat. I prefer to be left, as a reader, with a few things to tidy up for myself, and that’s what I strive for in my endings.
Left with the blood of a tragedy on their hands, Lisen and Korin can no longer face one another. Korin heads east towards the desert, while Lisen remains in Avaret with two children in need of comfort Lisen cannot provide. Never has she felt so alone. As war threatens on the horizon, two deserted people must somehow find their way back to life, to each other. Will Lisen and Korin reunite in time? Will the truth of the dead and the living be revealed?
Return to Garla and Thristas where love may not conquer all, but it can serve as an ally in the fight. Where all that seems well doesn’t necessarily end well. Where loyalty can be bought with a nudge. Where all the magic in the world may still fail you. Where, with Garla and Thristas on the edge of destruction, Book V of Lisen of Solsta’s saga drives the story closer to the inevitable conclusion to Lisen’s story.
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Beguiled by Karma Kitaj is definitely a MUST read. One of the greatest things about Beguiled is it hooks you right from the start. Within reading the first two paragraphs I was hooked, I knew right away that this was going to be a book that I couldn’t put down until I had finished it.
The story of Beguiled starts out with a young woman leaving her husband. Upon leaving her husband with her young son this woman finds herself on her parent’s doorstep as she really has no other place to go. As the first chapter closes the reader is taken back in time to this young woman’s childhood. Beguiled isn’t just a romance story, it is a story about growing up and finding your own way in the world.
Beguiled follows the life and adventures of a young girl named Miriam and follows her story as she grows into a young lady. Miriam is a young Jewish girl with Russian immigrant parents who grew up during the 1920’s. The story goes into the hard childhood of Miriam and how no matter what she did she could never please her mother. Miriam’s father loved the theater and took Miriam to as many shows as he possibly could. The love of theater instilled a strong desire in young Miriam to become an actress, despite what her mother thought.
The story takes place during the 1920’s where women were not seen as equals to men. Beguiled does touch upon some political aspects, but the story is not overly political. Beguiled is filled with historical events and is written in a way that allows you to really connect with the characters. Women’s suffrage is touched upon in Beguiled and the author also tackles some other social situations.
As you progress deeper and deeper into Beguiled you will find yourself pleasantly surprised at the way the story is told. As you read one page and then another you can’t help but find yourself wanting to know what is going to happen next in Miss Miriam’s life. Beguiled isn’t a typical romance story filled with wanderlust and girls who are seeing stars; there is only the slightest suggestion of romance towards the very end of the book. The main story behind Beguiled is that of a young girl who grows up and finds out just who she really is and how she can actually make a difference in the world.
Although this story does go back in time, it doesn’t jump around from past to present as many other stories do. Something else that I really like about this book was how each chapter identified the year it was taking place in. If you know your history you can easily follow along with the events that were taking place and perhaps anticipate what was about to happen next.
Pages: 349 | ASIN: B079924GDK
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