Amen and Amen by Gene Vickers is a simple but enchanting story set between the backwoods of Blairsville in northern Georgia and the elegant suburbs on its hilltop. While abject poverty and limited opportunities have kept one side of society barely scraping by, the other half lead extravagant lives filled with imported cars and vacation homes overseas. Long-buried secrets and animosity steeped in classism have divided the town for generations yet all that will start to change when the wealthiest boy in school befriends one of the poorest girls in the county. Their unlikely relationship will inspire a revolution throughout their town, leading to well-drawn lines in the sand becoming blurred as God and humanity intervene.
At its core, the book focuses on faith, family and football, first and foremost, and how those factors can come together to unite those who would be torn apart otherwise. Prepare to get swept away by interweaving tales that peer into the lives of the disenfranchised and the rich that prove that maybe the two have more in common than expected at a glance. Follow two disadvantaged adolescents in a heart-warming underdog story who join the elitist ranks of the football team in a move that upsets long-established social dynamics, for better or worse. Out on the gridiron, economics hardly even matter as the playing field is leveled to allow everyone’s God-given talent to shine through whether they reside in a trailer park or a mansion. Enemies can become brothers just as school friends can become lovers as long as everyone grows in grace and understanding.
Still, not everyone is without their faults and prejudices and, since the ages of old, the sins of the father can and certainly do come back to haunt his children so it’s easy to get caught up in the quaint town’s gossip mill and endless drama. Sinners and their descendants alike try throughout to reconcile with their past and present misdeeds from clandestine backroom dealings to unplanned pregnancies with only a hope and a prayer. However, with God’s eternal love comes forgiveness, culminating in a story brimming with vibrant characters, a touch of colorful language, and a whole lot of soul.
Amen and Amen is a twist on the classic boy-meets-girl theme yet the rags-to-riches theme can become repetitive. Some characters can feel one-dimensional at times as they heel-turn their previous convictions seemingly through faith alone and not necessarily hard work. Perhaps it just goes to show that humans are flawed and still God forgives all.
Read Amen and Amen if you want a feel-good Christian story filled with patriotic characters who, through their faith, prevail no matter what comes their way.
Pages: 357 | ASIN: B08DL6FB5P
Someone To Kiss My Scars is a wonderful amalgam of coming of age, mystery, science fiction, and love story. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that change as you wrote?
The character of Jazz was the impetus for this story—passionate about science, trying to find a way to deal with her childhood trauma and her ineffectual mother, forced to grow up much too fast in a world where body shaming is the norm. She has every reason to be depressed, to have no interests, to be bored with life and the world. Yet she has an unflappable spirit and a burning need to find some happiness in her life. I have always been fascinated with the nature of memory and consciousness. Where do they exist? How can two people who have experienced the same event remember it differently? Can ions passing across a synaptic gap hold memories? What if they actually exist outside the body and the brain is a receiver? These are all legitimate questions that many respected scientists have pondered. The experiment which Jazz conducts in the story where she trains worms, amputates their heads, and then discovers that the worms still retain their memories is an actual famous experiment performed years ago and redone more recently. So the idea that Hunter can capture the memories of others is a direct result of the ideas behind that experiment.
Hunter is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Hunter lost everything—his mother, his memories, his younger brother, his purpose. He lives with a seemingly disinterested father who offers no emotional support. He writes stories of imaginary worlds until his brain is invaded by salacious, cruel stories about people he’s never met. Where do they come from? Who can he tell? Jazz befriends him, both dying from loneliness, and their relationship grows. Jazz serves as his guide, trying to explain his visions. Once Hunter realizes that he can remove a painful memory and that so many kids have suffered horribly, he grows into a fighter, someone who will accept any burden to relieve others of their pain. He faces his dark past, which would destroy most anyone else, and channels his pain into the desire to rid others of their pain.
This novel explores abuse in many different forms. What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Too many people believe the experiences depicted in this book are rare and should not be depicted. In fact, more kids and teens suffer from abuse than most realize. I have seen the effects of every kind of abuse against a teen and the lingering harm such events cause throughout their lives. In my experience, most kids suffer some kind of abuse from others or themselves. Their stories need to be told. When some complain that such stories should be muted, that writers who use them sensationalize relatively rare events to drive a story, I have trouble stifling my anger. Too many people chose to ignore reality and believe that focusing on stories without sexual content will keep teens from engaging in sex. The most difficult job today is being a teenager.
One of the main themes is the love between Jazz and Hunter. They know EVERYTHING about each other yet they still love. Hunter has seen Jazz’s darkest days and deeds and finds his heart still filled with love for her. As Hunter says, “People start to heal when someone cares enough to accept their suffering. They finish healing when they kiss someone else’s scars.” Redemption comes only when someone tries to help another.
What is the next project you are working on?
I am currently writing the sequel to Some Laneys Died, but I also have plans to write a sequel to Someone To Kiss My Scars. I also have ideas for two other books dealing with racial conflict. Too much to do and not enough time to do it.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, Brooke Skipstone, ebook, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, love story, mystery, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, romance, science fiction, Someone To Kiss My Scars, story, teen fiction, writer, writing, young adult
Phantom’s Mask is a thrilling continuation of your War of the Realms series. What were some new ideas you wanted to introduce in this book that were different from book one?
Each book in the series has a very different tone. Book I thrived on suspense and the hunter/prey relationship, and it introduced the scaffolding for the world building. Book II has much stronger action scenes and shows off more of the supernatural powers. It also portrays a completely different side of the main character cast. In the first book, the Alpha fugitives were relatively helpless, always on the run with many of them unable to access their true abilities. In the sequel, they’ve shifted from defense to offense in a big way. Azar played a more direct role as an antagonist. Character development is a gradual process throughout the series, and you’ll definitely know the characters much better after this book.
I enjoyed the delve into Cato’s past. Did you have his past already planned or did it develop as you were writing?
Yes, it was planned! I had to be careful with the way I presented Cato in the first book in order to set up his transformation in the sequel. Because Cato’s memory has been so critically damaged after two years of torture, the reader gets to discover his past piece by piece as he searches for the answers. Cato actually has two different journeys; navigating his way through the present and uncovering the truth about his past.
I likened the book to Stranger Things or The Boys on Amazon, but I found it difficult to find a comparison as the book was quite unique. What sources of inspiration did you draw from?
Cato’s earliest conception was heavily influenced by a cartoon I loved when I was young. The idea of having ghostly powers fascinated me, and I often pondered what that kind of world would look like when I was bored and letting my mind wander. I thought, what if all the stories about spirits and mythological beasts were actually true, at least in part? Maybe we got some parts wrong in all the retellings. But what if those beings had been here a long time ago? What if they still exist, just not in this world anymore? Cato evolved into his own being, and I pulled religious concepts, fairy tales, paranormal superstitions, mythology, magic, and natural phenomena into a brand-new world around him where the spiritual and physical could coexist.
Cato in particular was an interesting study because I had to figure out what kind of Cryokinetic he should be. There are so many examples in comic books, movies, television shows, literature, etc. Should he create elaborate structures, like Elsa from Frozen? Slide on ice tracks like Frozone from The Incredibles? Create walls and shoot a frosty blast out of his hands like Iceman from X-Men? This factor would determine what kind of fighting style he would have. I also had to think about how his technique would have changed from the time he was Phantom to the present, how he would have honed his abilities during his intense trials. I decided to make him conservative with his ice. He rarely uses it on a large scale, instead preferring to protect himself with armor, form shields on his arm like a gladiator, utilize ice blades on the offensive, and shoot small projectiles across short distances. Because the creatures in this world have a limited reservoir of power, Cato has to be smart about how much he uses at one time. No ice castles!
This is book two in your War of the Realms series. What can you share about book three in the series?
Book III is going to focus heavily on character development and internal conflict. Cato and Axel were both pushed to the brink in Book II; the next installment will show Cato grappling with the person he was, the person he’s become, and the person he’s expected to be, and Axel is in a dark place psychologically after the events of Phantom’s Mask. Character relationships across the board will be put to the test. RC’s secretive past is going to come back to haunt him. Azar, who is used to always getting what he wants, just suffered a devastating defeat and will need to reevaluate his strategy. But most importantly, Cato finally uncovers the truth about what happened to him, and he has to come to terms with it and decide how to move forward.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, paranormal, Phantom’s Mask, read, reader, reading, Sara A. Noë, science ficiton, scifi, story, supernatural, suspense, teen, thriller, urban fantasy, writer, writing, young adult
In Jackiem Joyner’s debut novel, Zarya, he takes us on a wild journey through the mythical planet of Cydnus. In the first chapters of the book, there is a heavy focus on the parents of the main character, Zarya, as we are taken through the events right before their mysterious disappearance.
However, later on, the author shifts gears to primarily focus on the main character and her journey through life. As a strong female lead, she exudes brilliance and the unrelenting resistance to hide it, something quite against the norms of the time.
She is portrayed as a confident woman, unhindered by the status quo, and possessing courage that makes her willing to go to extreme lengths to find her parents. Together with her best friend Kizzy, and acquaintance Marco, she embarks on a quest filled with curveballs, tons of action, and unexpected camaraderie.
For a book set in a land that doesn’t value its women, it is interesting that the author includes a lot of strong female characters, all of whom are very keen on making Cydnus a better place. And the few male characters in the book are mostly either evil or rather subdued. It almost seems like the women are fighting against an ill-functioning patriarchal system.
If there is one theme that clearly stands out throughout this book though, it is the importance of family; both chosen and blood bound. But at the heart of it, this book is about the old age fight between good and evil. As such, it contains several scenarios that force characters to choose between what is right and what is easy.
Predictably, the protagonist has a righteous egalitarian vibe to her while the villain seems to be purely evil. In this regard, I feel like more could be done in terms of character development to add more depth to them. I would have loved to see different sides of the characters to make them more realistic.
For instance, it would have been helpful to learn more about how Zarya coped with the absence of her parents in her early childhood and how this affected her behavior. This would have made her plight much more relatable.
However, the plot is solid and is full of detailed and engaging action scenes. Also, the dialogue is quite entertaining and there are no signs of long-winded paragraphs. All things considered, this book is very fast-paced and easy to read. As such, it leaves me yearning to read the sequel. For its ability to enthrall me as a reader, I heartily recommend this book.
Pages: 361 | ASIN: B01J6OXCQY
Tags: action, adventure, author, book, book review, bookblogger, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, Jackiem Joyner, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, science fiction, scifi, story, teen fiction, writer, writing, yalit, young adult, Zarya
Jam Sessions follows a middle school boy named Phillip who has to forge a new path for himself through a new school that he’s transferred to in the middle of the school year. Phillip struggles with bullies, but finds a creative outlet in Mr. Filter’s class where he starts the day with a writing prompt that sends Phillips imagination soaring. Now, if only he could apply that creativity and passion in his real life.
Jerry Harwood has created a cast of characters that are both easy to dislike and easy to empathize with. Chuck and his friends are easily unlikable and I loved Ashley, Daniel and Jaylan. I really liked all the teachers too, especially the language arts and P.E. teachers. I did feel like Phillips mom should have played a bigger part in the story, but it didn’t hurt the story in any way. From the first time we meet Chuck I thought that he was just a pain in the butt kid who likes to be a bully and embarrass people. Chuck and his gang of hooligans didn’t really evolve much but that honestly worked for the story because they continue to be the fundamental antagonists.
Jerry Harwood does a great job detailing what a panic/anxiety attack feels like, I could almost feel and see Phillip having his attacks. It was great that he found a way to cope with his attacks. Even at the beginning when the author is describing Phillip and his mom running away from home, everything is perfectly detailed. When Phillip is standing in the back of the room on the first day of school, you could feel him praying that he is invisible and then realizing that he really had been during that class because not one person had cared about him being there or noticed his presence. It was sort of sad.
The story flowed easily and was well written. I enjoyed the small cartoon characters at the beginning of each chapter and I liked how short the chapters were. I read the book in one sitting, because it was an enjoyable read and I loved that Phillip was able to turn things around which gave the book a feel good ending.
Pages: 214 | ASIN: B0868XNSH9
Tags: author, book, book review, bookblogger, bully, children, childrens book, contemporary, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, humor, Jam Sessions, Jerry Harwood, kids, kindle, kobo, literature, middle school, new readers, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, school, story, urban fantasy, urban fiction, writer, writing, young adult
Rise: A Blood Inheritance Novel by M. Ainihi is the first novel from the “Blood Inheritance” YA dark fantasy series. It follows the story of Amanda Garrett, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives in a small town with her father. The book starts off with a prologue set hundreds of years before the main story takes place, where we learn of the imprisonment of Erol, a jinn(genie), and the reason behind it. Hundreds of years later, while on a day trip in the woods with her dad, Amanda stumbles upon an ancient artifact she discovers contains a jinn(genie), which is Erol, that will change her life forever. Amanda’s life soon spirals out of control as she is sucked into a fantastical world where she’s orphaned, kidnapped, and forced to work for a powerful wizard who seeks a mythical talisman. All the while, Amanda harnesses dark powers unbeknownst to her. And as she sets off on her journey, Amanda learns about the creation of the universe, different mythical creatures, realms, and her own demonic ancestry. She has to deal with unwanted feelings and make decisions that will harm those she loves, some of which leave both her and the reader shocked.
Rise is an incredibly fast-paced novel, one-second you’re following the story of a joyful girl, completely unaware of the journey she’s about to begin, and the next you’re reading of genies, evil wizards, gods, and the creation of the universe. Although it is 160 pages it is extremely detailed and provides the reader with a good understanding of the characters and the realms they reside. As for the language used, it is fairly simple to understand, which makes it a suitable read for anyone. I did find a couple of spelling mistakes and redundancies but really nothing to fret over. The main character, Amanda, is very believable. She starts off as a naive young girl, happy to spend time with her father and worried over trivial matters. But as the story develops, so does she, as she becomes a troubled young woman trying her best to understand and control the dark powers and impulses within her.
Throughout the book, we get to see two sides of the same character and that makes it a lot more interesting. Other characters, such as Erol and Aden, also provide a refreshing break from what you might expect from a genie, for even though they want to do good with their powers, they also have secrets and desires that add complexity to what could otherwise be bland and predictable characters. M. Ainihi does a great job creating a beautiful setting, making you feel like you’re actually visiting the realms described. The theme is very fun and original. the author provides a different concept with the genies, as opposed to your typical vampires and werewolves. I very much enjoyed reading about these mythological creatures and all the lore behind them.
Pages: 162 | ASIN: B075PX97CK
Tags: adventure, author, book, book review, bookblogger, dark fantasy, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, M. Ainihi, nook, novel, paranormal, read, reader, reading, Rise: A Blood Inheritance Novel, story, supernatural, suspense, teen, thriller, writer, writing, YA, young adult
Silent Screams follows four friends in the aftermath of a school shooting that unravels secrets and relationships. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this compelling story?
It came from a song called Prom Queen by Katie Turner. She has a line about a audience that was never meant for me. It was where the idea for Zachary came to be. It was also my 50th novel that I wrote. I wanted to add elements from each of the first 49 in there.
We really get to dive deep into each unique character in the story. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Honestly, it was Cass. I just had such love for her. I wanted so much for her to be strong and be able to move past all the hurt she had to deal with. I just honestly don’t know how she handled that situation. You find out your boyfriend is cheating on you, and you can’t hate her because she lost her life from one of your best friend’s actions. Then on top of that Jarele was a good guy. He helped Cass through so much. It was hard for Cass to hate Jarele. I just was impressed by her strength and where she ended up.
In this story we get to explore how families and relationships are all different and complex. What were some themes you wanted to capture within them?
Honestly, that everyone goes through some hardships in their life. I also wanted to go through this idea that no one is a full villain or victim. With Gabe each person viewed Gabe in such a different way, and I really wanted to portray that. My theme for all my novels is make sure to not judge someone because you don’t know what’s behind someone’s closed doors.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available
I’m working on a campy book. It’s a lot like my High Schools Queen trilogy. It’s called Cutthroat Cheerleader. It’s sassy, campy, and a murder mystery too. It will be out actually in October.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: author, author interview, book, book review, bookblogger, contemporary fiction, drama, ebook, family, fantasy, fiction, friends, ghost story, goodreads, high school, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, relationship, romance, story, teen fiction, womens fiction, writer, writing, young adult, Zachary Ryan
The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
A Little Bit Extraordinary by Esther Robinson
A Saint and a Sinner by Stephen H. Donnelly and Diane O’Bryan
Silver Award Winners
Mountain Heat by Natrelle Long
Pandora’s Gardener by David C Mason
Posted in Literary Titan Book Award
Tags: action, adventure, author, author award, author recognition, biography, book, book award, book review, bookblogger, business, childrens book, crime, dark fantasy, drama, ebook, entprepreneur, epic fantasy, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, historical, horror, kids book, kindle, kobo, literary titan, literature, memoir, mystery, nonfiction, nook, novel, picture book, poem, poetry, read, reader, reading, romance, science fiction, scifi, space adventure, story, suspense, teen, thriller, writer, writing, young adult