Blog Archives

Mylee in the Mirror

Mylee in the Mirror (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 2) by [Collins, Ellie]

Mylee is experiencing one of the most trying times in her young life. Not only is she watching solemnly as her parents’ marriage hits its rockiest stretch to date, she is unable to convince her mother that she is happier and more productive not being a cheerleader. To top it off, Mylee should be having the time of her life as she seems to have caught the eye of the school’s most desired boy–real homecoming king material. Mylee just can’t seem to catch a break. When her beloved Grammy, her confidante, moves into a new apartment farther from Mylee’s home, the struggle becomes even more real.

Ellie Collins’s second book in her Greek mythology series, Mylee in the Mirror, is a fantastic follow up to her first, Daisy Bold and Beautiful. This young adult fiction series is shaping up to be an artfully designed set of books with well-developed characters and engrossing plot lines. Collins is a master at incorporating current teen culture and dialogue. Her writing flows smoothly, and her characters seems to jump off the page–especially her main characters. Mylee and Ty are an adorable pair and their friendship leaves the reader rooting for them from their very first interaction. Collins seems to have a knack for drawing a thoroughly detestable antagonist. Sam is clearly sketched as the villain, and the dialogue she has given him keeps readers focused on exactly how wonderful Ty is for Mylee–writing perfection.

Collins manages to tap into complex relationships quite easily whether it be the parent-child relationship or the ever-evolving relationships between teen friends. She pinpoints the drama that so easily arises between girls over potential love interests while at the same time highlighting how easily true friends are able to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I am, again, intrigued by Collin’s use of Greek mythology in her plots. She pulls the story of her grandmother’s mirror and the tale of Aphrodite almost effortlessly into what, otherwise, reads as young adult fiction. The fact that Mylee is able to keep her experiences to herself and use what she learns from her encounters with the mirror is a truly unique approach in this genre.

Collins is an author to be watched in the coming years. The ease with which the words flow from her mind to the paper is to be envied indeed. Her writing is phenomenally engaging, and I look forward to seeing more from her series in the future. I highly recommend her writing to any parent of young teens looking to engage their children in well-written and timely books.

Pages: 180 | ASIN: B07JZKV317

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Cascarones

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is a book that feels more like a conversation between friends. Garza follows the life of a Mexican girl living in Texas and straddling the world of her culturally rich family and a whitewashed school she winds up going to in Houston. This isn’t the only aspect of her life that Garza delves into. She also explores the girl’s relationship with family members, her church, family traditions, and general everyday life. The book is a nice collection of individual stories about the same family with the same cast of characters.

This was a nice, easy read. It is simple without being boring. The individual stories make nice bite-size sections. This made it a fun, leisurely read. The book feels light. It doesn’t have that heavy, daunting feeling that some books do.

As previously stated, the book feels like a conversation. It feels like sitting and listening to someone reminisce about their childhood. I prefer first-person writing as a rule, and this book delivers. It makes it feel so much more personal and relatable. Readers will identify with pieces of Suzy’s stories and may see themselves in her experiences. Reading this book felt like getting to know a new friend.

I feel like I got to know the characters better through each story. Each story gave a better feel for the family. Even with short stories that could stand alone, the characters were well developed. It also gave a lot of insight into the culture of Mexican American families. It showed their strength and pride in their clinging to their traditions. There were quite a bit of Spanish words and dialogue in the book. I know very little Spanish and looked up a few words, but the vast majority of the meaning comes out in the context.

My only complaint is that I might have liked the stories better in a different order. I think I would have liked them to be in chronological order rather than jumping back and forth in time. It threw me the first time I realized Suzy was speaking as an adult. It took me a second to understand what was happening since it jumped from her being a kid to having kids, and back to a kid again. I lost my bearings a little but recovered quickly.

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is very well-written. There are very few errors, if any. It had a nice pace and flow. I liked following Suzy navigate between two worlds as she is pulled between her large Mexican family and living in America. It taught me a lot about the Mexican American culture that I didn’t know. I’d like to read more by Garza.

Pages: 162 | ISBN: 1724622889

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The High Court

The High Court (The Sky Throne) by [Ledbetter, Chris]

The sequel to the wonderful debut series The Sky Throne, we find young Zeus struggling with forces from beyond Mount Olympus in The High Court. The book picks up after there has been a lull after the tumultuous events of the previous book, with Hyperion and Kronos both being tried for crimes and will be hopefully brought to justice soon. It is when these trials grow near that the school, which is already underway with a new semester, when giants attack and force the occupants to flee. Zeus in the meantime is poisoned and will have to find a cure, before he succumbs the toxin.

Ledbetter is not letting his heroes off easy in this next book and as is tradition with second books of a series, the stakes are even higher than before. It is clear that his style and refinement in the craft is better handled than in the previous book. The characterization of Zeus also seems to be maturing somewhat, which fits because the characters are getting slightly older as time on Olympus passes.

The world building of this series continues to amaze, since not since Percy Jackson has an author created such a self-contained world of mythology and used it to such effect. It would be derivative to compare it to the likes of Harry Potter or other classic series where the majority of action and story happens at a school, but Ledbetter uses this setting to his advantage at every turn.

The only true issues that come up in this book, is the pacing. It’s hard to say if this book is the middle book of trilogy or another episode of a series, since there are places where the plot kind of peters out. This is made up for the stylized action sequences, but it is still something to be wary of when moving forward through the narrative.

All in all, Ledbetter has written another great installment in his Greek mythology series and anyone who enjoys fantastical settings and compelling, fun characters would be remiss to skip this series. Looking forward to the next entry of The Sky Throne.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B07F453DQ3

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Reactive: A Young Adult Dystopian Romance

Reactive: A Young Adult Dystopian Romance (The Elite Trials Book 1) by [Moynihan, Becky]

Reactive is a dystopian novel written by author Becky Moynihan. It is the first book in the Elite Trials trilogy. Set in Tatum city, Lune is the adopted daughter of the Supreme Elite – Renold Tatum. She longs to escape the city and regain her freedom – however the only way to do that is to win the Elite trials. She is focused and well prepared for her one chance at freedom. That is, until Brendon, a boy from her past re-enters her life – jeopardizing her only chance at freedom.

I was immediately drawn into the story by Moynihan’s description of Freedom (Cleopatra) Tatum’s charger. She realistically described the powerful physical traits of the animal and her more subtle personality traits. The relationship between the charger and Tatum was also convincingly described, it was as if I was reading about a genuine relationship between a rider and horse. The description of Tatum riding her charger was realistic, and made me feel as if I were experiencing the same sense of freedom.

The main character – Lune Tatum is described as a strong, determined young woman. Until Bren appears in her life, we see her actions as just that. She is focused and determined to win the Elite trials. Her strength is shown through the descriptions of her training regime, and the way in which she endures the cruel punishment of her father without allowing it to break her spirit. We see she is extremely careful with whom she forms relationships with, allowing herself to have only one true friend – Asher. Lune’s world changes when Bren – a boy she encountered long ago re-appears in her life. Against her better judgement she begins to develop feelings for him. She cares about his well being and worries about him. Lune begins to lose some focus in her training, and is often ‘saved’ from situations – for example when being assaulted by fellow trainees. I felt there were too many times that Lune was ‘saved’ by Bren. If Lune was determined and skilled and had a legitimate chance at winning the trials would she have needed saving so often by Bren? Sadly, the story changed from having a strong female protagonist, to almost becoming a story of a young women being saved by a handsome man.

The motto of the trials – Strength, Speed, and Precision could be woven more into the beginning of the story. This motto underpins the Elite Trials, it would reinforce this by having it appear at the start of the book, and reappearing throughout.

Overall, this is a highly addictive book with interesting characters. It is impossible to put down!

Pages: 397 | ASIN: B07GTVYDBC

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Imaginative Creation

Kate Robinson & Joe DiBuduo Author Interview

Kate Robinson & Joe DiBuduo Author Interview

The Contest and Other Stories is a collection of inspiring stories that got me to think and reflect. What was the inspiration behind this collection?

JD: I originally wanted to create a coffee table art book with all paintings connected to a framing story.

KR: Around 2007 or 2008, Joe started bringing these quirky short stories inspired by paintings to the critique group in Prescott, Arizona that we both belonged to.

In February 2011, he shared his draft and invited me to assist with the project as a co-author. We continued to work on polishing the stories and the connecting novella together. In our bios, we say that he has the vivid imagination and I have the word-whacking polish, but the truth is, we both contributed to the imaginative creation and to the nuts and bolts polishing and editing. We multiplied our mind-power by working together!

Joe DiBuduo

Joe DiBuduo

What were some themes you find yourself exploring in your short stories?

JD: The relationships artists have with drinking, higher consciousness, and insanity.

KR: As Joe says, some of the stories explore the artists’ lives directly in the genres of magical realism, dark fantasy, horror, the paranormal, and alternate history, or as a fabulous motif. The other stories were developed using a painting as a prompt, but have no relation to the artist or their work. Those stories explore life challenges and transitions such as birth, death, falling in love, relationships, family life, and work, also through the medium of various fantasy genres. The connecting novella explores the archetypal overbearing father who insists that his only son follow in his footsteps, while the son rebels to make his unique contribution to arts and literature.

What is the collaboration like between the two of you?

JD: Long distance.

KR: By the time Joe and I started working together on this project, he lived in Arizona and I had landed in California. So we shared thoughts and drafts for The Contest and Other Stories via email.

Will you be putting together another collection of short stories?

JD: We’ve been working on solo projects lately. I completed a connected short story collection in 2016 titled Story Time Karaoke @ The Chicagoua Cafe.

KR: I’ve been working on stories inspired by dreams and a novella created entirely from a series of dreams, with a working title of Loop: Life is But a Dream.

As for other joint projects, Joe and I just published a humorous dystopian sci-fi novelette, Space Race: Robot Rebellion in the Future Wild West (Tootie-Do Press, 2018). We also have a YA story, Thirteen, published in an anthology called 31 Nights of Halloween (Rainstorm Press, 2011). Neither of these stories fit the theme of The Contest, so we searched for other alternatives for publication.

Author Links: Amazon | KR Website | JD WebsiteGoodReads

The Contest and Other Stories by [DiBuduo, Joe, Robinson, Kate]Inspired by the works of international artists, this collection contains nineteen spellbinding Young Adult – New Adult magical realist, paranormal, slipstream, alternate history, and fabulist tales linked by a novella: Peter John Rizzo, a 1960 graduate of Yale University’s journalism program, inherits a floundering art magazine from his uncle, John Rizzo, with the provision that he must increase the circulation or forfeit all assets to creditors. Peter Rizzo, Pete’s father, is a banker who scorns careers in the Arts and Humanities, and is jealous of his late brother’s influence upon his wife and son. Classic Art Expose’s devoted but unorthodox editorial assistant, Jason, and two university interns, sisters Shirley and Evie, help Pete start a monthly short story contest with artwork prompts, hoping to expand and save the business. As the four friends publish the winning (and sometimes disturbing) stories over the following eighteen months, Pete battles his father’s attempts to ruin his business and his reputation, and in the process, discovers a sordid family secret. What else could possibly go astray?

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Audric Experiment

The Audric Experiment by [Barnes, Patrick]The story of Pierre Morena, a 17-year-old in the year 2328, when England is ruled by something called the Audric who rule society through neural stimulation, either serotonin releases to reward compliance or shocks to punish anti-social behavior, guided by a manifesto called The Financially Prudent World by the Audric prophet, Genesis Smith.

Pierre is the first person in this Brave New World to make it as far as 17 without ever once receiving a shock, earning him the nickname Pure Pierre. And then, after a strange and mysterious incident on the 13th floor of the Library in the Shopping (called the Athenaeum here), Pierre begins to wonder if he’s really as pure as he’s come to think. And he’s not the only one. Pierre is in for the challenge of his life. He’s always thought of himself as virtuous; but what is virtue, he begins to wonder, if it’s never been tested?

He runs into a group called the Gamblers who dress like bikers and quote Nietzsche but worship Grease-era John Travolta. They reject and resist the Audric principles and have their own currency. They want Pure Pierre to endorse their hair product, but he’s not so sure. A Gambler accidentally blows his arm off firing an unauthorized gun when Pierre stops for a Macchiato in a Gambler cafe.

We don’t learn too much about the world, though it seems to resemble a 1970’s version of the future, like you’d see in Logan’s Run or Buck Rodgers or Jack Kirby comics. But the world we are presented with is immensely interesting and beautifully drawn. People take pictures on their phones and ride in solar pods, but they still read print newspapers and play water polo. The water polo match at the beginning, in fact, is a thing of beauty, and it makes you wonder why there aren’t more books about water polo players. The Big Three manufacturers are Little Amore, Generation Gold and Walden Now, and they take at least some of their ideas from the Entrepreneurial Etiquette class where Pierre had been a star pupil, inventing a solar radio inspired by a 20th Century Orangina bottle. This combination makes a unique world that serves as an interesting backdrop to a compelling story.

Patrick Barnes engages and entertains in this novel and leaves you questioning whether we want to truly be happy or to just be comfortable. He drags Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Kierkegaard, even Einstein, into it. It’s like an episode of the TV show The Good Place only with fewer jokes and more suspense. The Audric Experiment is a fun, action-packed read that’s overflowing with great ideas and moral questions.

Pages: 300 | ASIN: B01N313ZXL

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Scream Aim Fire

Jennifer LeBlanc Author Interview

Jennifer LeBlanc Author Interview

Paper Heart is a collection of poetry about love, loss and life. When you first started writing poetry did you know you would one day publish a collection?

When I first started writing it at ten years old, it wasn’t something I really thought about. Essentially I was already doing that by writing a poem on a legal pad, tearing off the page, and then handing it to my mother to read. So it didn’t really cross my mind at that time. It wasn’t until I later started reading it more, in books from the library, that I thought to myself “I want to do this. I want my words in a book like this.” Because I loved reading and I loved reading poetry and anything lyrical that spoke to my soul. It was a lot like music to me and music is something I have an undying love for.

I felt that the poems all explored very emotional topics. What were some ideas you often explored in your poetry?

A little bit of everything, but all of them stem from personal experiences. So depending on the emotions the experience evoked, the tone and feeling would reflect what I felt at the time or what I was thinking. A lot of my personal experiences are things that were hard to overcome or hurtful. Which is why those poems are dominant in the collection and not the brighter happier ones, because that’s not what this collection is about. It’s about each little piece of my heart being put on paper whether good or bad, no matter which outweighs the other. It may not be something every reader can relate to, because these are my thoughts and my emotions. Some may interpret these poems differently than others and for some it won’t evoke much, but that is because this is about me and what I went through. That being the case, it’s very subjective. If someone reading it didn’t have the same experiences they won’t understand it or be able to relate to it. I basically wrote it as a form of therapy for myself. If others can relate and really enjoy it great, but if others don’t that’s okay too.

My favorite poem is ‘Be Every Color of the Sun’. Do you have a favorite poem from the collection?

I actually don’t have a favorite because I like them all for different reasons. One that stands out though, that I had a very emotional experience writing is Scream Aim Fire. That poem pulled from a very dark place and stems from a broken relationship with a family member that I truly care for, but we have grown apart because of arguments and constant misunderstandings of each other. I honestly wasn’t sure putting it in the book was a good idea at the time, but it may speak to someone else going through the same thing with someone in their family. Finishing it and actually getting the words down helped me release a lot of pent up resentment towards that person and it was how I was able to move on and let that dark cloud inside me drift away.

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

I am currently working on my second poetry collection titled Lotus & Fury which will be released hopefully in February of 2019. I also have a few other projects that I am outlining for fictional stories that will be released later next year.

Author Links: GoodreadsTwitterInstagramTumblrFacebookBookbubAmazonWebsite

Paper Heart by [LeBlanc, Jennifer]

It is crinkled, torn and frayed,
but it’s still a heart all the same…

Paper Heart is a collection of poetry stemming from the places where light and darkness have shaped who Jennifer LeBlanc is as a writer. Written over years of introspection, love, pain, and hope, each poem is a placeholder for something that held her mind for either a bright moment or a dark hour.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Adventures of the Cabin Kids: 88 Mountain View Cir.

Adventures of the Cabin Kids: 88 Mountain View Cir. by [Lipscomb, Zachary]

Adventures of the Cabin Kids follows a group of children, known as the Cabin Kids, through various adventures they experience during their time at 88 Mountain View Cir. They are the fun childish adventures kids often have when left to roam the woods. They meet wildlife, explore the woods, and have to deal with a trio of bullies called the Field Boys that try to chase them off their mountain. By coming together as a team the Cabin Kids are able to beat the Field Boys at their own game. All the while they have to make sure they are back home for supper.

Any grade school child would enjoy this book. From beginning to end it’s filled with the kinds of ‘adventures’ experienced when exploring the woods. They are minor things, like helping a deer and following train tracks to see where they lead, but the book presents these in such a way that each holds it’s own unique interest to the Cabin Kids.

The Cabin Kids are supportive, helpful, and kind to one another. These are exactly the kinds of family and friends you want with you as a kid. The kids are cute, in their mannerisms, and in how they utterly support one another. The illustrations certainly help sell this point. Each illustration in the book looks as if it was drawn by the kids themselves and fits the story perfectly. I wish that there were more illustrations that showcased more of the memorable moments in the story.

The ideas presented are simple and easy to understand for any child. While the motives are sometimes vague, the emotions and actions of the children are something that sets this story apart from many other stories of this genre. Honest and kind to the core. When the Field Boys show up, you can tell they are definitely trouble and the challenges that ensue are sure to cause reflection of playground games in any child.

Adventures of the Cabin Kids showcases the complete support and friendship kids can have toward one another. Foregoing any challenges or drama within the group and instead focusing on the intrigue and wonder of the forest and what could be waiting just down the next trail.

Pages: 24 | ASIN: B07965DQJ9

Buy Now From Amazon.com

A New Beginning

A New Beginning: A Jenny Dewberry Series by [Olsen, J.J.]

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

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The Watchers: The Blood Dagger: Volume 2

The Watchers: The Blood Dagger Series by [Hayes, Misty]

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

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: