Book Review for Shattered Memories by Susan Harris

A confused girl left has been in a position with no recollection of the last year sentenced to death for a crime she cannot remember committing. Alone and hopeless, she has left to her own devices to try and reinstate her good name. But is she really alone? Is she doomed to pay the price for slaughtering her family in cold blood, or welfare memories returned to her with the help of some unlikely allies.

Shattered Memories is a brand-new dystopian young adult novel by Susan Harris. This book is a stand-alone novel, however at its conclusion you will be wishing that it where the beginning of a series. This book left me wanting more, continuing to haunt me with the ending and underlying subtext days after the final page was turned.

The mind is a powerful thing. Not only does it contain the remnants of who we were, it holds the key to who we will become. While we should not dwell on the past, losing it altogether is a feat akin to death. I believe Harris had this in mind when she withheld a full year of the female main character's past while simultaneously placing her on death row as a result. Not only did Alaina face her physical death, she lived her emotional one. Because of this the reader is able to witness what can happen when the will to fight for yourself overtakes the fear of loss.

Harris does an amazing job at presenting characters that are likable and honorable but also human enough that we forget that this is a work of fiction. I found myself incredibly invested in the well-being of the main and secondary characters. Their troubles became my troubles and their victories became my victories. The dynamics explored relationally were filled with highs and lows and I felt each and every one of them.

I gladly give this book 5 out of five stars. This was the first of Harris’s books that I have read, but she has made a lifetime fan out of me. Shattered Memories is a book that I could not put down and I look forward to picking up more of her work in the very near future. This book shattered my heart in the absolute best way possible.

Find Shattered Memories here! 

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New Release Book Review for Nexus Tear by Meg Xuemei X!

Even the most powerful among us have a vulnerability somewhere lurking in between the skeletons laid deep to rest in the back of our moral and emotional closets. We shove those vulnerabilities so far back inside the closet that we allow ourselves to believe that these vulnerabilities do not exist. However, unlike the dead we have left behind, vulnerability is still very much alive, and has an affinity for making its way through the maze of our mistakes to the forefront of our lives at the exact moment we choose to believe we are untouchable. This is one of the very well laid out themes that author Meg Xuemei X, author of Nexus Tear explores, and it does so in a way that not only perpetuates the unique plot line that this series has taken shape in to, but it allows the reader to be introspective into their own live to see if they too have been making this fatal mistake, and is a cautionary tale of what you could become should you deny the parts of yourself by shoving them away for another day.

Xuemei also threads vulnerability with fear, which I think is a very accurate depiction of the human condition, and one that if we are all honest, would like to admit was not true. We are afraid of what we cannot control, and as is always is with places that should someone want to hurt us, will always be an open target no matter how violently we try to shield them . In Nexus Tear, the sequel to The Siren, we discover what Luccia, Ashburn and Vladamire have been up to since the first book. And we all find them in different versions of the same scenario. In one way or another, they each face things that are thrust upon them and in which they had no choice by to deal with. For warriors such as themselves, feelings are hard enough to express and cope with, much less ones you wish you did not possess. Warriors are rational beings, not emotional creatures. Or so they thought.

It is swiftly discovered that Nexus Tear has become an asset of value to many different people; the Sealers who want only to see the demise of The Siren, and it’s worth is also paramount to The Siren herself, as it could be yet another key to finding Etern. But as life always goes, there are many distractions that make their way into the path of attaining Nexus Tear, none of which is outmatched by the intricacies of the feelings she now harbors for both Ash and Vlad. Being a young woman, and a powerful one at that, comes with a very high price, hers being that her Siren’s insignia has somehow configured her DNA to mutate her saliva into a poison, barring her from being with any man, lest it burn him. So the idea that two men, two very different men are seeking to win her affections has her head completely spinning and she is left to not only decided and address her feelings for them, but her feelings about her reign as Siren as well.

Xuemei does an excellent job of breathing life into her characters, every struggle they face inwardly and every temptation and encounter they face outwardly is so humanistic and real that you can’t help but compare these circumstances to your own life, even if they are appearing in a netherworld. You can sincerely feel the pain of the burden of being the Siren when all Luccia wants is love, but you can also feel her pride as she accomplishes greatness for the good of those who follow her simply because of her status. You can also feel the frustration and tenderness that exudes from each of these boys that Luccia could have her pick from respectively, and see what genuine love for someone else really looks like. Even though it is complicated and even though most of their obstacles are insurmountable, what this love triangle does not lack is simply that, love, which is a nice change of pace from all of the lust triangles that try to sell themselves as love triangles. You do not need to be physical with someone to love them, nor is it necessary to love them only for their physicality.

Xuemei also addresses the power of fear. So many books recently only focus on the aspect of hope, and depict fear as a small obstacle that you need to climb over in order to have hope. But what Xuemei portrays is that fear can totally dominate you. Fear is not some quaint feeling that we have no and again that can be overcome simply by deciding to, but it is a force full of life that if you allow it, will take you over before you even knew you were fearful. I think we all need the reminder that fear is not something to be trifled with and that it is just as serious an emotion as love or survival. Further however, fear is something that we are able to overcome. We should not feel that we are only ruled by fear once it has grabbed but should know full well that we are the author of our lives, and that we have the ability to overcome all the fear and doubt that is imposed upon us in this life, and if we so decide, we will come out victorious on the other side. We will be bloody, battered and bruised, but we will be unmistakably victorious.

Nexus Tear as well is a work that should be recognized as a victorious effort. I loved the first book and was so thrilled when I was asked to review Nexus Tear pre-release. The story was never slow, and was full of unpredictable twists and turns. But even more than that, it held up a mirror to our own lives and allowed us to leave changed after the turning of the last page. I give this book 5 out of 5 morals, and am waiting with bated breath for the next installment!

Purchase Nexus Tear Here and today get Love's Prey Free Here!!  

Spotlight and Review for Hearts in the Storm by Elmer Seward!

Spotlight





Title: Hearts in the Storm

Author: Elmer Seward

Published: May 2014

Word Count: 35,400

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Content Warning: Mild profanity and “off camera” sexual situations

Age Recommendation: 18+

Synopsis:
Struggling with loss and regret, Trista sets out for North Carolina’s Outer Banks, hoping to find peace in her stormy life. Fate and an old golden retriever set her on a path toward healing with an unlikely hero, the man that the locals call “Duck.” Despite his careless and irresponsible behavior, Trista is drawn to him.


Trista discovers that Duck is haunted by the ghosts of his own shattered past. Desperate for help, she is faced with the necessity of placing her hopes and her life in the hands of this man that many blame for the death of his best friend. As Hurricane Renee bears down on the Outer Banks, Trista and Duck drive a wave-battered boat into the teeth of the storm. Each one hopes to conquer the tempest that rages around them and the tempest that rages within.




About the Author
Elmer Seward was born and raised along the Chesapeake Bay in southeast Virginia. Growing up, the cemetery behind his house was his playground. The metaphorical theme of death and rebirth that figures prominently in his novels is probably influenced in some way by the time that his mother heard, through the screened window, a small voice crying for help. Rushing from the house and through the yard, she discovered her all-too-curious six-year-old son at the bottom of a freshly dug grave. In that moment, he discovered that trouble is much easier to get into than it is to get out of. Sometimes we need help getting out of the hole that we jump into willingly.

He is blessed to have a blended family of six children and four grandchildren. He is also the reluctant servant of two crazy dogs, a Maltese and a Japanese Chin. All of these strongly influence the characters and events in his novels; however, his beautiful wife, Mitzi, is the true inspiration for the tender hearted but determined women in his stories.



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Review of Hearts in the Storm

Throughout my entire life, my mother has always had a one sentence fits all solution to any situation I seemed to find myself in when it came to feeling sorrow or loss. Whether it was enduring what I thought was the greatest heartache I would ever know in the fifth grade when the boy I liked didn’t return those same feelings, to being all grown up on the outside, but still feeling like that fifth grader on the inside and feeling like you somehow still don’t measure up after a series of unfortunate losses, my mother would always gently whisper to me, “Honey, I know that what you are feeling right now feels like the end of the world, and that you are all alone, but look around you. The world has not stopped turning and you have never been alone. You are neither the first nor the last to feel the way that you do. Everyone has something.” Those last three words have stuck with me my whole life, even in moments when my mother hasn’t been able to offer me comfort, her words from so many years ago still do. In Hearts in the Storm by Elmer Seward, the theme of broken hearts is explored with such literary finesse and heart wrenching story-telling, and if there were anything I could say to the characters within these pages, it would be that everyone has something.

Seward has an unmatched talent for showing the vulnerabilities of the human heart and all the different shapes and shades it creates and the shadows that seem to haunt us as a result of having lived life. No one comes out of this world unscathed, yet it is our human nature to want to hide the hurt and deem them flaws. We relegate ourselves to traveling the path of a wounded soul alone, deeming ourselves unworthy of being the recipient of anything good until out scars have faded and the gaping gashes have healed. But Seward has such insight into the human condition that he shows that no matter who you are or what you have been through, there is never a moment that you are not worth the very best of an emotional life. Just because life has happened in a way you did not expect, does not mean you did anything to deserve it. We are the victims of a fickle universe, not the exactors of ever y aspect of our lives. By way of his characters, Seward breaks open the already broken hearts in his work, so that the crack can be large enough to let love back in, not simply let grief and self-shaming seep out and by connection he shows us how to break our hearts open and allow love to come back into our lives as well.

Seward’s capability for creating characters that you want to get to know is spectacular. From the very first page, you are intrigued by the nature of Duck, when he experiences his nightmare, and then on the very next page acts as a mischievous young boy when his sister comes to the house to check on him. Duck is controlled by his past, and lives his life in a way that demonstrates as much. Trista as well lives a life governed by her past, and when it is discovered that she has taken up residence next door for a little while, we wonder what kind of relationship is going to form between these two characters from there very first interaction together, which is refreshingly not the normal meet cute that so many other authors rely on as the perfect meeting. Theirs is so awkward and uncomfortable for both parties that it reeks of authenticity which sets the tone for the rest of the work. This book seethes authenticity, and its stormy winds carry with it the fragrance of a fresh perspective.

Throughout the story, small flashes of the past of each character are revealed. Normally I am not a huge fan of a flash back structure, because it just never felt genuine. I have now read a book that can slow in and out of time and space and still truly feel genuine and connected. The flashbacks keep you on the edge of your seat and always leave you wanting more, encouraging you to turn page after page until you have forgotten you are turning pages at all because you are lost in the emotional peaks and valleys of these characters lives. When suddenly all is revealed, you feel like the wind has been knocked out of you and yet a burden has been lifted from you all at the same time. This is a book that takes you on a journey of your own alongside these characters as they are on a journey of discovery of their own. Seward does a fabulous job of transferring what his characters are feeling from the page into our hearts, and that is the reason us readers even pick up a book to begin with. I also appreciated the parallel of the storm coming to shore in the Outer Banks, and the storms that were raging inside the characters. That detail was a stunning and perfect bow to encase such an immaculate work.

I am obviously all about the meaning of things over here at The Moral of Our Stories, so the purpose that this book aims to accomplish directly lines up with what I love. This is writing for a purpose in action, not simply writing to tell a story because you happen to be good with words. I feel that Seward did not simply set out to write a book, but he set out to help mend hearts, in which in my case at least, he has been successful. I give this book 5 out of 5 morals. There was not a thing that I would change, which is the highest of praise coming from a perfectionist. Thank you Mr. Seward for writing this book and sharing your creativity and heart with the world. It is an honor to host your work on my site.

 

New Release Desert Star by Lisette Brodey!

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Title: Desert Star
Series: The Desert Series #2
Author:  Lisette Brodey
Published:  November 12, 2014
Publisher:  Saberlee Books
Word Count:  100,000
Genre:  YA Paranormal
Content Warning:  Mild sexual content and non-gratuitous profanity
Recommended Age:  14+
Synopsis:
Larsen Davis isn’t afraid to stand up to those who bully him, but in a two-against-one situation at Mystekal High, it’s never easy. When classmate River Dalworth witnesses the abuse and intervenes, the two seniors become good friends. Larsen explains that he’s fighting another battle at home: his own mother, Raylene, bullies him for being gay.
When Larsen meets River’s mother, Arielle, and learns she is overseeing the renovation of the Desert Theater, he shares his dream for a career on stage. Soon, Arielle offers Larsen a job as her assistant, but Raylene is dead set against the idea of her son doing what she considers “gay work.” After Raylene gets a new boyfriend, Reggie, the bad situation at home worsens and Larsen has no choice but to leave.
Now working at the Desert Theater, Larsen feels the unearthly presence of someone in the long-abandoned theater. Meanwhile, as the theater nears completion, a talent show is scheduled for opening night. As it becomes more evident that the theater may have a ghost, it also comes to light that someone may be sabotaging the renovation and the show. Is the ghost real or just the handiwork of someone with a grudge?
Opening night at the Desert Theater sets the stage for a crime, never-imagined reunions, long-awaited explanations, and otherworldly miracles.
 Excerpt:
Larsen’s eyes began to water. “My father died when I was eleven. My mom says that the lack of a good male role model is what made me gay. She’s clueless. You know, Riv, when I was ten, my dad took me to the mountains one day. We were just sitting there, looking at the view, and he told me, ‘Son, when you grow up, there are gonna be some people who will bust your balls for being different. But take it from your old man, it’s okay to be whoever you are.’ ” “So your father knew you were gay?” Larsen wiped away a lone tear. “Yeah, he knew before I did. And I think he knew he was sick. That’s why he told me. I’m sure of it.” “Oh, damn, dude. I’m sorry. What did he die from?” Looking right, then left, Larsen paused before answering. “Some kind of lymphoma. My mother won’t talk about it.” “Sorry, Lars. I really am. So, what’s up with her?” Larsen looked in the distance and saw Jax and Antonio jump into a black Mustang where the driveway to the school met the main highway. “Let’s go, Riv. You don’t need to stand here and watch me hold the building up.” River laughed as he and Larsen started walking away from the school, toward the large expanse of desert where several students were still milling about, waiting for rides, or just talking. “I’ll tell you, if you can hold the building up, you can take care of those two clowns.” Larsen frowned. “Yeah, maybe. Anyway, my mom, well, she’s embarrassed to have a gay son. Tells me all the time that it’s hard enough being black, so what the hell did I have to go and be gay for. I keep telling her that I had as much choice in being gay as I did being black. But she’s not buying that. She told me she’s gonna squeeze the gay right out of me one day.” “Yeah, right. C’mon, come over to my house. Hang with me for a while. I live about a mile down the road, off to the right.” “I live about a mile and a half in the other direction. Oh, man, Riv. What if someone sees us walking to your house together?” “Then it means their eyeballs are in good operating condition. C’mon.” Surprised but pleased, Larsen walked alongside River. “You’re a pretty good guy.” River was embarrassed. “I’m okay. Tell me about your mom.” “She works as a waitress in Palm Desert. She goes in before I get home from school and gets off work around ten-thirty.” “She’s not around to cook dinner for you?” Larsen sighed. “No. I eat mostly frozen dinners. Sometimes on the weekend she cooks up a pot of something and leaves it for me to heat up. Or I cook a little something myself. But that’s not the worst part, Riv. My mom picks up men all the time. And she doesn’t know them that long before she brings them home. She says she’s doing it for me. Wants me to meet ‘real men.’ They stick around for a couple of weeks and dump her.” “Wow, dude. That’s some lame shit.” Larsen picked up a small rock and threw it as far as he could. “She told me the last guy dumped her because he couldn’t sleep in the house with a homosexual in the next room. What kind of idiot thinks that gay people are attracted to just anyone of the same sex? Or that we’re all sexual perverts? Makes me mad. Anyway, Mom told me I’m ruining her life.” River bit his bottom lip while Larsen’s words replayed in his head. “Sounds to me like it’s the other way around … sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” “S’okay, Riv. I’m down with the truth. Your parents gonna have any problems if you bring me home. I don’t want to—” “No. No way. My family isn’t like that. We’ve got our own history, you know. Nobody in my house is going to judge you. This is probably TMI, but my mom split on us years ago and went to live in LA with some loser producer. It’s a long story, but she came home, stuff happened, and then she and my dad fell in love again and got remarried. When she first left, we thought she was gone for good. So you never know. We’ve even got a dog now. Maybe things will get better for you.” “Don’t think so, Riv. My mom hates me more every day.”
About the Author:
 
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Lisette Brodey was born and raised in Pennsylvania. After high school, she moved to New York City where she attended Pace University and studied drama. After ten years in New York, several of them working in the radio industry, she moved to Los Angeles, where she held various positions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and CBS Studio Center in Studio City, CA.
Back on the East Coast, she worked for many years as a freelance writer, specializing in PR and the entertainment industry. In 2010, she returned permanently to the Los Angeles area. She is the author of five novels. Her first- published book, CROOKED MOON (General Fiction) was published in 2008. Her first-written, second-published book, SQUALOR, NEW MEXICO (General Fiction) was published in 2009. MOLLY HACKER IS TOO PICKY! (Women’s Fiction), was published December 1, 2011. In October 2013, Lisette’s fourth novel, MYSTICAL HIGH, book #1 in a YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series, was published. In January 2013, the author edited and published a book of her mother’s poetry (written 50 years earlier) called MY WAY TO ANYWHERE by Jean Lisette Brodey.
DESERT STAR, Book 2 in The Desert Series, was published November 2014.
 
 
Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
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My Interview with the Lovely Lisette

What made you decide/what motivated you to write your first book?

I’ve always been a writer. I wrote 150 pages of my “first novel” when I was a teenager, but it wasn’t one I cared to finish. Although I’ve been writing all of my life, it took many years for me to realize that I wanted to be a novelist, rather than a playwright.

The first book I wrote was Squalor, New Mexico, a coming-of-age story about family secrets and dysfunction. It’s actually set in 1970s East Coast suburbia and has nothing to do with New Mexico. But the title is explained on the first page, so readers will understand its meaning right away.

My motivation was unusual. Every time I heard someone say that so-and-so lived in squalor, it sounded like a town to me. I wanted to open a novel with the words, “My aunt lived in Squalor,” and then build a story around that. As it turns out, the first line of the book is “My Aunt Rebecca lived in Squalor.”

That was my initial motivation, but beyond that, I wanted to show how dysfunction in families travels from generation to generation when issues are kept secret or not handled at all.

I should point out that although Squalor, New Mexico was my first-written book, I published it second. Crooked Moon was my first published book.

Did you wrestle with the idea of whether or not your work would be well received when it came time to publish your first book?

Not really. Not in the way you’re asking. I worked very hard to write, rewrite, and learn from the edits. I was more into wrestling with getting the book right than overwhelming myself with worry about its reception.

Writing is such a personal process. Is it hard not to take bad reviews as a personal insult and do you see good reviews as a personal compliment or purely a compliment of your work?

That’s a heavy question. First, I tend to accept the good and the bad as someone’s opinions of my work, not as that person’s opinion of me. There are reviews that cross the line, but over the years, I’ve developed a thicker skin. And I never forget there is nothing in this entire world that will be liked or appreciated by everyone. That’s impossible.

Do you have anything that motivates you to write? Do you have a specific process or do you just write as the ideas come to you?

I have no specific process per se. I write about stories that I feel passionate about. I write about life: the people who cross my path and make an impression, good and bad.

My new book, Desert Star, contains many stories and themes. One of them is bullying. But it’s about so much more that that.

Right now, I have a basic outline for Book 3 in The Desert Series, which I have already begun writing. It will be the most romance-oriented book of the series.

When I’m finished with this YA paranormal trilogy, I’m going back to writing literary fiction. I’m already 27K words into my seventh novel, which began as a short story when I was a teen. I’ve known the characters for a lifetime, so you see, I’m very eager to finally put their story into a book.

I have plans for my eighth novel, but the details are still being formed. I have a folder on my computer for all of my notes and random thoughts. As I get closer to writing this book, I’ll have a physical notebook where I’ll jot down ideas as they come to me. This will be a very important book for me because of the strong, flawed characters I so want to write about.

I see that your work spans several genres. Has it been difficult to maintain a consistent readership or do you purposefully market to a diverse demographic? 

There are pros and cons to writing across different genres. But no, I didn’t really set out to market to a diverse demographic. I just told the stories I wanted to tell.

But to be completely honest, I did write Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!, my romantic comedy, for a specific reason. Before indie publishing was feasible, it was difficult to get an agent for my first two books, though I came close many times. It was so frustrating. When I’d go to the bookstores, I would see chicklit all over the tables of new releases at Border’s or B&N (bookstores, remember them?) and I decided to write a book in that genre to “get in the door.” Once I was 65K into Molly, publishing my work became feasible so I put down that book to publish the first two novels. A year or so later, I went back to Molly and finished it. I’m very proud of this book, and Molly has a lot of fans. But I can’t see myself writing in that genre again.

Anyway, despite writing in many different genres, my books all have a similar style in that they’re all character-driven novels with multiple story arcs.

Before the first book in the series, Mystical High, you had not written in the YA paranormal genre before. What drew you to write in this genre? 

I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal and have had many firsthand experiences with it. The Desert Series is, as I see it, “realistic paranormal.” By that, I mean that the characters deal with very true-to-life issues first and the paranormal activity blends with their lives.

There are many YA paranormals whose plots seem interchangeable. What inspired you to write such a unique story and was it difficult to maintain that originality throughout the writing process? 

Thank you for that compliment, Courtney. I definitely did not want to write in any formulaic manner. I started with a basic idea, and then, as I always do, I built on it until I had enough going on to write a book. As I wrote, more and more details came to me and then the book came alive. This is how I write every book.

I’m glad I don’t micro-plot from the beginning. Some of the best twists are often the unplanned ones.

Where do you find your inspiration for your plot lines? Are they ideas triggered through personal experience or are they thoughts that come to you when you are in a creative mindset? 

I would definitely say that my inspiration comes from people, whether it is people I know, people I observe, or even see on TV. Usually the characters come before the plot. But not always. Ideas can fall out of the skies, be a whisper in my ear, or come to me in a dream.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, as many avid readers are such, what would you say to them? 

I would tell anyone who wants to be an author to write what she/he is passionate about. Don’t try to emulate anyone else; develop your own unique voice. I would also caution all aspiring authors not to make the mistake of rushing to publication with an unedited or poorly edited book. That said, it’s important that one’s book is ready to be edited. Do everything you can to get it right.

I have always had a fascination with the morals or purposes that every author weaves into their story that they hope to impart to their readers, hence my site's name, The Moral Of Our Stories. What do you feel the moral of this work is, and why was it so important for you to share?

This book is chock full of morals, some more obvious than others. One of the themes of this book is bullying. We all know that bullying is horrible and that when someone is bullied, the pain of such an experience can remain for a lifetime. But sometimes, good comes from bad in unexpected ways. As for bullies, things never really end well. Anyone who gets off humiliating another human being is seeking amusement/fulfillment in the most toxic of ways. Bullies aren’t very happy people. The reasons why people bully are varied. While one might understand the reasons a bully is such an unhappy person, that understanding does not condone a bully’s actions. Bullies don’t win, even when they think they do.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Courtney. It’s been a pleasure. Good luck with your blog and your writing.

Christmas Is Murder by Carolyn Arnold. New Release!

No matter who you are, something dramatic always seems to happen during the holidays. Whether is be family drama or some sort of catastrophe, it seems like the universe waits until that exact moment when you have deemed it The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, to wreak havoc. In her new release Christmas is Murder the Mckinley Series Book Sever, Carolyn Arnold plays on that exact theme by placing her characters right in the middle of such a time as this.

The Mckinleys are always finding themselves around crime. At this point in the game, it appears as if crime has started to follow them, but that is just plain superstition.  However when Sean and Sarah’s seemingly perfect Christmas season is interrupted by an untimely and sudden death, they cannot help but follow their instincts, which beg of them to investigate whether or not there was foul play at hand. Throughout the novella, Arnold takes the Mckinley’s through a myriad of scenarios, with just enough twists and turns that leave us totally unsuspecting of what really happened until we arrive at the finale of her work.

When I began reading this book, I did not realize it was part of a series, so when things seemed like they were being left unexplained or that the book reached farther that the plot it contained, I looked it up to see if it was in fact part of a series. Hoping that it was, I was relieved to discover that it is the seventh book in the Mckinley series, even though the book stands on its own just fine as well. It reminded me of an episode of shows like Law and Order or House, were you can watch one episode and understand the main plot of the show, which is the case or the medical happenings respectively, but perhaps miss some of the secondary plot which has more to do with the personal lives of the characters involved with the show. That is much like this series. The case itself was capsulized within the pages of this Novella, but there were undertones in the lives of the Mckinleys that I knew I was missing the greater meaning of because I had jumped in mid series. This has only encouraged me to go back and read the books that preceded this one and has spurred my interest in this series.

Arnold does a wonderful job of not only shaping a mystery that is unpredictable which is refreshing on its own, but making sure that the book as a whole is not weighted down with too much seriousness. Murder carries a lot of weight, so she infused her character’s humanity and personalities with the ability to see the humor in things and to laugh about their circumstances and the sometimes very sticky situations they find themselves in. It would have been very easy for her to weigh down her characters with more brooding and an all work no play nature, but the simply idea that she allows her characters to play and work at the same time was a lovely juxtaposition that you don’t see very often in crime series these days. They are all either a farce, playing on the incredulous nature of crime drama, or only serious and stay only in the darkness of the genre. I very much enjoyed that she brought a light human nature to this plot, for it made it and the entire process of reading it so much more enjoyable, because you know you are reading something special and unique. It is rare to find an author who can infuse light in the dark, and Arnold does just that.

The plot was very interesting and I never felt like the text was dragging. The book did not get off to a slow start with too much back story, but instead jumped right into the meat of the case, and the pace was set high and maintained from that point on. I give it 4 out of 5 morals, and congratulate Arnold on yet another book well done, and for making a Mckinley series fan of a reader who is seldom swayed so easily to invest in a long standing series. I highly recommend this to be put on your holiday Must Read list.  

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Also see the Books Page on the Author's Site Here

 

Roomies by Lindy Zart

We have all been there. You are in love. Crazy love. The kind of love that runs so rampant in your veins that it not only becomes a part of you, but it actually becomes you. It starts trying to make decisions for you. It struggles to over-rule you in the way you choose to talk or what you choose to wear or even who you spend your time with. At any given moment and without warning, you will discover that you have stopped caring about everything and everyone and have entered the land in your mind where your love lives. Should be great, right? Well, it also just so happens that this love is unrequited. Or is it? You are now living your life in the gray zone, and it’s horrible, maybe. It might actually be great, if you could ever stop contradicting yourself. This is the paradox that Lindy Zart explores in Roomies, and she does it flawlessly.

Kennedy is the every girl. Meaning that she is just as insecure on the inside as we all really are as well but tries to cover it up with a more dominant and appealing trait to conceal said insecurity. Kennedy’s poison of choice is sarcasm and a quick wit. While demonstrating confidence and self-assuredness on the outside, Kennedy is full of contradictions and confidence on the inside. Zart does an amazing job of shaping a female character that was in no way self-deprecating, but still mirrored similarities that all women share in the form of occasionally being thrown off course by what could be the love of our life. If only he would pay the heck attention.  I am honestly so sick of silly, insecure little female leads that I could spit, and Zart is the author that has FINALLY satisfied my need for a real female lead.  Zart also makes Kennedy come alive by infusing her with hilarious witticisms and charming quirks that make the reader feel like we could be best friends with Kennedy not simply appreciate her in the text of the book and leave it like that. I found myself wanting to know Kennedy more and more as the book went on, and further felt invested as she navigated through her suddenly full dance card of men to choose from, even though there was only one she really wanted to dance with.

 
Zart also does a stunning job of creating believable men in which we would want to be involved with. Talk about your book boyfriend mecca! With Graham and Blake being the two central focuses of the plot as well as of Kennedy’s new extracurricular life, Zart does an amazing job of making it difficult to choose who to root for. Graham, the ever constant friend and roommate who has always made Kennedy weak in the knees and whom she has shared a history with and had long since given her heart to. Even if it was unnoticed for so long Graham is the guy who we initially think is a no brainer for Kennedy to be with, but when Blake bursts onto the scene, we can’t help find his wounded soul, troubled past, and bad boy edge super sexy and want to scream at Kennedy to just jump on the back of his bike and ride off into the sunset. Talk about your love conundrum. I personally found myself wishing I were in Kennedy’s shoes for a bit, and was even able to do so and the book drew me in, and the emotions and experiences that Kennedy went through in her new emotional arena, I felt like I was going through too, and it made me laugh and feel so much all at the same time.

This was the first book that I have read by Zart, and I know that it certainly will not be the last. I read this book right after a very devastating time emotionally, yet when I dove into the world of roomies, my heart forgot to keep hurting and instead all the feelings that are splayed out on each page filled it up instead. In a time where I should have felt grief, this book allowed me to empty myself of that for a moment, and fill it up with the humor and the reminder how beautiful and fun and unexpected life can be, and celebrate that with these characters. For that I am grateful and this book and the author who penned it now hold a very significant place in my little book worm heart.

In case you were unsure by all of my overzealous praise of this book, I give it 5 out of 5 morals, but really it deserves more than that. It deserves to be recognized as a book that acts as a mirror for all of us, revealing the very best in us, and demonstrating that we all contain some of the worst, primarily in the form of uncertainty. It reminds us that life is far too short to wait to take a chance, because if you wait too long, someone else may come along and challenge you for what should have already been yours. However it also tells us that there is no such thing as too late, and that whatever is meant to be will be, and that we should simply embrace everything that we are with all of our heart, and enjoy the ride, wherever we may end up. 

Loves Prey by Meg Xuemei X

Fire and ice. Light and dark. Love and hate. These are the ties that have held the universe together throughout the history of human existence. One of these things cannot exist without its paring. And in return neither could mankind. We have come to discover that we crave the warmth of the fire but when we get too close, yearn for the snap of frost. We want our lives to be lived in the light, with our sprits free to be what they were destined to become, but when too much is revealed of our sins which always swiftly follow the discovery of our victories, we so wish to cloak ourselves in the darkness we once loathed. We yearn to love, yet find it so much easier to hate. For when we have tasted love, the real, unfathomable core of love that only comes to the luckiest of us, we cannot stand to face what life would be like should we lose it. So we choose to hate, for hate is what protects us. At least this is the code by which Xirena has lived her entire life.

Xirena never smiled. In fact, she could count the years on both hands that have come and gone without her smile gracing their presence. See, Xirena didn’t have anything she felt worthy of that gesture of happiness because she herself, and the life around her, were completely devoid of the sentiment. Aptly dubbed the Ice Queen by her classmates, Xirena had no problem taking on the role that the moniker bared. Her looks emanated frost, stopping anyone and anything from getting in the way of her one and only mission in life, which was to get good grades and get the heck out of dodge. No complications meant no reason to stay, that is, until the good looking Kai stepped across her path and planted himself in the middle of it.

Kai was the town’s most sought after guy. He had his own studio, in which the door and the windows were always left open, allowing for anyone to come and go as they pleased. It was common knowledge that he was an artist; so many a model would sweep in and out of his painting studio so that he could create his masterpieces. He also had a knack for always getting what he wanted, and when he laid eyes on Xirena, he immediately knew that she was just what he was looking for.

Throughout the story Kai is determined to break Xirena out from the icicle she has incased herself in by offering her his friendship. But as they spend time together, with much reluctance on the part of Xirena, Kai’s insatiable need for her grows, and it becomes apparent to them both that this relationship will soon become anything but platonic. While still frosty as ever on the outside, Xirena, to her own surprise, begins to feel sparks in her heart and warmth in her chest at the site of Kai. She often finds herself gazing at him through her window, as his studio is just across the way and in plain view. She is able to account for all his comings and goings because as he frequently liked to point out to her, he was an open book, and therefore so was his home. That is until Xirena and Kai begin to meet alone in his studio. When Xirena is present, he finds himself compelled to close up the studio, realizing that he is doing so because he wants her all to himself, and Xirena discovering within herself that she didn’t quite mind that this is how he felt. But she assured herself that she would never let him know that he was slowly thawing her heart. She was absolutely sure she was keeping up her façade, until she discovered she was smiling at him.

 Author Meg Xuemei X does an extremely seamless job at telling a tale that could easily have replicated so many before hers. She does not simply play into the love affair and the happy and warm moments, but rather leans into the moments of withdrawal, uncertainty, insecurity, and distrust that come from an encounter with your first love. Xuemei aptly displays the conflicted heart of a girl who once yearned to give her heart away, but after it being revoked over and over again decided to incase it in ice, so that no one could ever hurt her again. It is a universal theme that all women experience at some point. We all see our inadequacies instead of our worth. We shy away when we feel we are entering into something that while yes, could be wonderful, will probably be a flame short lived, and tamper with the idea that maybe it is better to not have loved at all, than to have loved and lost.

The dynamic she creates between her characters is electrifying, so much to the point that you can feel the static seeping in through your fingertips. Every page is laced with passion and high stakes emotions, emotions that at times you find yourself feeling right along with the pair. There are moments where your heart will soar at the thought of their happy ending, and then feel as if it is being pulled out of your chest at the stench of possible betrayals, miscommunications, and the potential loss of a pure love.

It also should be noted that Xuemei has created a female lead that does not need saving. She is capable of saving herself and does not once look to Kai to be her savior. She only craves to be his equal and his partner. While he gives her the priceless gift to see herself as she truly is, and not what she has been conditioned to see herself as by the naysayers of the town and her family, she does not rely on him for her freedom. Because of his assurance in her worth, she sees that she is worthy of a life equal of that to the beauty that she not only displays on the outside, but possess on the inside. He is her avenue toward freedom, but it is Xirena who walks that avenue with the intent to change her life.

The use of fire and ice is also something that separates this story from that of the dime a dozen romance novel. Xirena had held on to her coldness in pride, until she comes across Kai who is all fire, blazing bright for everyone to see. There is an inner turmoil that arises in her because she knows that his fire will destroy her chill, and she must decide which one she will sacrifice for the other. Just as darkness must be sacrificed for light and hate sacrificed for love. The journey to that discovery is full of pitfalls and mountain peaks, but in the end it is always realized that it is a journey worth the climb. I give this book 5 out of 5 morals. I appreciated the connection I was able to make with the characters and the life that Xuemei breathed into them. It is well worth the read and is a story that will stick with you long after the last page is turned. 

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Dust by Sarah Baker

 Eve, the daughter of the Wilson’s was about to start out on her own in order to find farm work somewhere and in doing so, was separating from her parents. Even though parting ways was the last thing that any of the three members of which the family was comprised wanted, they all knew that it was much easier to find a room to rent for two instead of three, and easier to find work in one area for one person that it was two. Since so many farms were going asunder, the best way to ensure that both Eve’s father and she were able to be gainfully employed, they needed to try their lot in different towns so that one would not be competition for the other, and the odds for both of their security doubled. Eve’s mother was so sick from the amount of dust that the dry land had amounted to, that her healthcare and recovery were of the utmost importance to the family, hence why they felt justified in their separation. They were willing to do whatever it took to save each other, and the plan in which they formulated seemed to be the only course of action that would allow the potential of reaching that goal.

As fate would have it, while Eve was attempting to navigate to bumpy and pot holed road to the farm she was referred to, she had quite an accident. She injured herself masterfully, and knew that if she didn’t find shelter for even just that night; things were going to become even bleaker than they already were. But just as she was about to give way to hopelessness, Faye, one of the inhabitants of the farm she was on her way to inquire from, saw Eve and came to her rescue. She promptly brought her to the house, bandaged her up and set her up to stay for at least the night. Upon awaking the next day, Faye decided to offer a position as a farm aid to Eve, which left Eve aghast and beyond thrilled of the luck which she seemed to have stumbled. But her joy was short lived, because Faye’s brother, the other inhabitant and caretaker of the farm, did not take very kindly to her. However Faye fought for Eve to stay, and although Liron was none too pleased, Eve was able to stay on at the farm and was able to start making that new start for herself that she and her family were so hoping that she would.

While I did very much enjoy reading this book and the story it told, I feel like it is rather disjointed. For more than two thirds of the story, everything is normal, and any kind of foreshadowing to other worldly and paranormal content is very sparse. So sparse that it feels like it simply did not belong. Had there been a stronger suggestion or thread in the plot to suggest that such paranormal changes were in fact going to be taking place later on in the story, I would not have felt like I was reading two separate stories within the binding of the same book. I also think that the relationship arcs that were created were rather abrupt. There really was no adjustment period or development between the characters. You did not get to watch them grow from one point to the next, which is the most beautiful part of the development of a story. The relationships instead hop from one extreme to the very polar opposite with no real warning or reasoning behind it, and your head is left spinning trying to understand the motive for not only the new and current feelings, but why they were so drastically different in the beginning. There was no great cause that induced the shift in both plot and character development, which is a shame.

I did very much appreciate and pick up on the symbolism that derives from the biblical sort throughout the story. I loved that Eve being tempted by the salesman very much imitated the biblical story of Eve being tempted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. And this is only one such example of the biblical undertones that the story plays on. All allusions were very smartly placed and executed perfectly. There weren’t so blatantly obvious that you felt you were hearing the same story again, but delightful enough that if you knew where to look, this undercurrent of a theme added a really lovely layer to what could have easily been a very one dimensional story.

Even with the disjointed nature of the book, I still enjoyed the concept. I think that maybe if some of the smaller nuisances were explored and played upon, the book would be even that much better, but as it stands it was a nice read. I give this book 3 out of 5 morals. It was very easy to keep up with and was a nice, light read in which could be completed on a lazy afternoon. I hope the best for both the author and her work’s success and am thankful for the opportunity to have been able to review this work. This review was written in exchange for the book and is written honestly and without biased. I was not paid to write this review.

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Hazards In The Home by Rachael Bates

Hazards in the Home is a short, paranormal novel by Rachael Bates. I was not familiar with the work of Bates prior to this reading, and the short summary which described the book sounded extremely enticing, so I was very excited to read this piece.

My excitement was quickly quelled within the first few pages. The novel paints a picture, albeit a poor one, of a freak accident that occurred in a chemical plant, unoriginally named Toxico, in a small town in Canada and the paranormal effects that this happening ignited. The story alternates between the year 2015, when a new family whom had never head of the accident moved into the town, and the year 1990 when the accident actually occurred.

The novel is very disjointed. It is told from the points of view of too many different characters, and you are never quite sure who is talking, and to what they are referring. The opening of the book I felt began very strong, explaining the accident from the point of view of Katherine, a girl who was in class during the explosion and survived. She lamented over why Toxico was so important to the town and yet why it was also so feared as the accidents surrounding the plant where very frequent and common knowledge. If the novel would have stayed in her point of view  in each time period or even included her as an anchor character throughout the plot, I feel that the book would have been greatly improved, however since this was not the case, or the case for any of the characters in the book, it felt very ungrounded. There wasn’t really any solid idea that I could hold on to and take away as a reader who understood the plot that had just been presented to me.

I do feel like this would be a good first draft for a short story. It was much shorter than anticipated, and I was very surprised that it ended as abruptly as it did. It was not a story that ran out of ideas. On the contrary it was a story that ended with too many ideas unfinished. Perhaps the author was simply in a rush to get a story out, but perhaps if a little more time was taken and the book as extended into a full novel, the concept would have greatly enhanced as each thought could have been completed. To me it read more like a concept piece for a screen play than a short novel. Also, I counted at least half a dozen typos, which only adds to my theory of the piece being a rushed effort.

 

The story was full of a lot of very good ideas, and if those ideas were simply fleshed out a little more, the arc would have contained more substance. There is a good foundation in all of the characters, but I don’t feel as if I really got to know or understand any of them. They each had something that I wished I knew more about, and not in a good way. Maybe if the characters were more well-rounded, the story itself would have made more sense. Because there were so many characters with so many different trajectories, it was hard to pinpoint exactly where the story was taking you.

I give this short novel 2 out of 5 morals. The plot was original, but it was very sporadic. I had a very difficult time discerning who’s voice was speaking at a given time, and at points confused as to why certain content was where it was and how it was furthering the central plot. There were many different bunny trials that had the book been longer would have sufficed to round out the mystery surrounding the central theme, but as it stands it only distracted from what I believe to be was the main story line, which was the paranormal activity, caused by the conspiracy and cover up of the Toxico plant explosion. Had the plot focused on this theme instead of getting lost in other trivial matters, I feel the rating of this book would have greatly increased and would experience great success. I hope that Bates continues to work on this story and develop the potential that it displays into a book worthy of the greatness of the idea.

Moryak Trilogy By Lee Mandel

The world is in a state of turmoil, the likes of which it has never before seen. Russia is imploding in upon itself, the disintegration caused by radical revolutionists whose sole purpose it to simply further their own ideas and agendas. Rapidly lost are the initial reasons why these revolutionaries became patriots to their cause, which was the goal to save Mother Russia from an autocrat society. Bloodlust and greed however quickly began to poison the purity of their plan of salvation, and what was left was a part that strived for self-exaltation and Soviet rule.

It appeared that this bloodlust and affinity for violence seeped across the world, and it was not only Russia who was affected by the slow takeover of the government by terrorists. In the early 1900’s, the entire world was on the brink of change. It was unclear at times whether or not that change would be for the good or the bad, as the scale often seemed to wax and wane between the two in equal measure, but as the events in Russia began to escalate, so tipped the scales in favor of a devastating war, the involved the entire world. International affairs were in their infancy, and as such were difficult to navigate to say the very least. Unimaginable decisions demanded to be made in order to save all involved, and the source of that salvation fell into the hands of a very complex and unexpected candidate: Stephen Morrison.

In his trilogy, Moryak, Lee Mandel follows the lifetime of the very unconventional life of Stephen Morrison, at least which is what he is called throughout most of the book for the reader. Throughout his life, Morrison had to adapt into the identity of many different people, all whom were not assumed identities, but just different representations of who he housed within himself to serve the task he was presented with at that particular season in time.

 
 Watching the same central character become so many different combinations of himself was quite an interesting concept to me. Nothing about him really changed in his core. He always remained the same person, his quirks and speech and fundamentals always remained, but because he always lived his life in such extreme circumstances and was shifted around into so many different roles, none of which lacked importance and dependence from others different portions of him were brought to the forefront, no matter how severe they were. Understanding this concept is tantamount to understanding the book. The trilogy blocks itself into the three persons of Morrison, the first being Morrison, the second Lev who turns into Morrison, and the third where the last transformation into Moryak takes place. It is obvious that you are not reading about three separate people, but you must understand that they are not simply three detached identities of the same person. Morrison lies beneath them all it simply depends on his calling as to which he can act out at any given moment. He is who he has to be. Which when you doubt his honor, only reminds you that at his core, Morrison is a man of valor.
Mandel does an excellent job of painting portraits of worlds gone by. His detail is immaculate and in depth that there is nothing left to try and figure out. The story is very fast paced and you must be able to keep up with the switch of continent and inner story line, but he does a good job of steering you in the right direction. Because of how quickly this book was paced and how wide of a location the book spread, sometimes it was difficult to realize where you were and who was speaking. There are many, many supporting characters in this book that all serve the main plot, but sometimes it was very confusing attempting to remember who was who. This especially happens when dealing with the Russian. Many of the names were so similar that it was very hard to know who was talking to who and to recall what each character’s arc was on their own as the confusion lent to blending them all together.

Because of the book’s length, I also feel that there were some very common redundancies that could have been left out. There was many times that I felt I was reading the same description of Morrison’s eyes and the anger that they held over and over again, simply from a different mouth. Perhaps if the descriptions had varied in inflection or had used other descriptive words I would not have felt this way, but as they felt verbatim, I felt I was just being told information I had already been provided on many occasions.

That being said I feel that Mandel did an excellent job capturing the seriousness and importance of the times in which Morrison lived. I gleaned a lot of information from this book. Even though it is a fictional novel, much of the historical content is accurate and that is something that I very much enjoyed and appreciated. I give this book 3 out of 5 morals. This is one of the best historical fiction books that I have ever read, and I hope that Mandel continues to write and bring more relevance and marketability to the history of not only our nation, but of the nations who have so greatly contributed to our history.

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The Farewell Season by Anne Herrick

You can feel the excitement in the air. The sweet smell of freshly cut grass freshly churned dirt made from dozens of cleats, and the aroma of those few precious weeks between summer and fall float on the breeze. The sounds of clashing bodies and grunting opponents seems a fitting soundtrack to the ambience it inhabits. It’s the beginning of preseason football practices, and Eric Neilson, one the high school’s linebackers is amidst the battlefield that is the football field. But what most of his teammates don’t know is that Eric has also been fighting battles on a different war field and just how affected he is becoming by his time in the struggle.

It had only been four months since his father had passed. A father who was so largely involved with his football interest and subsequent achievements, that the pain of such a fresh wound was only becoming increasingly magnified each time he stepped out onto the field. With each practice his eyes would wander from his target to the unfilled space in the bleachers that his father used to occupy during his lunch hour to cheer his son on in the preseason. Soon however, he did notice the presence of someone new.  Glynnie, a girl who was known for her journalistic efforts with the local newspaper and was interviewing one of his teammates who was injured in search of a story for her column and had caught his attention by her quirky sense of style. Shortly after his acknowledgement of her, did she approach him in the hopes that he would allow her to interview him for her piece.  A most unlikely fit, Eric did not think much of Glynnie at first. But little did he know that the connection which awaited the two of them in the future would be the beginning of his accepting his grief, and becoming the man his father would have been proud of.

Just when he was least expecting it, and in the throes of his self-inflicted emotional torment, a bright spot began to shine through. This unexpected friendship with Glynnie started drawing more and more of his focus toward happier things. Toward things that could maybe make life seem normal again. Here was this girl whom he had overlooked for three years, and yet she was the one he found himself sharing his struggle with. When surprisingly they both bond over the frustrations they feel in connection to their fathers, that relationship only grows stronger. But because Eric has yet to let go and face his grief, there was always going to be something standing in the way of his happiness. What Eric had to realize is that what was standing in that barrier was himself.

Anne Herrick writes a captivating tale about a boy who loves to play football. All of the elements of the sport are infused in every page of this book, taking you back to the time when you were in high school and the main event of the week was the Friday night football game. You can almost feel yourself back there, wrapped in nostalgia while still holding focus to the originality of the story she has written before you. It is a beautiful thing to be able to recall you past and still absorb a new story being told to you as a way of identifying with the world the author has created. Herrick does this beautifully, but this is not all that she accomplishes in her writing.

Herrick breeches a topic that for most  is very difficult to broach, much less express in a way that doesn’t sound preachy but instead speaks right to where we all have at one time or another found ourselves. This is a story about how you cannot outrun your broken heart. You cannot quit your so called failures. You cannot burry your heartache. You cannot bring back your past. The more you feel you are running from your feeling and the event that spurred them, the faster in fact you are running right back into them to simply live it over and over and over until you break. Losing a loved one is simply unbearable alone. To lose someone whose placeholder in your life is irreplaceable and then to act as if you are untouched by that lose is simply impossible, but it is a feat that all too many of us think that we can take on. But through her character Eric, a good, kind, boy next door kind of guy, Herrick shows us what can happen when the impossible burden brings us to breaking. She executes these avenues of heartbreak and healing with such agility and care, that there is no way that these messages could be missed.  To those of us who have experienced this type of emotional turmoil, it is a reminder that we must continue to carry on and actually allow ourselves to feel our feelings. To those who have not yet encountered this inevitability of life, it is a depiction of how life can hit you in the last place you ever expect it to. Eric was all too used to taking hits on the football field and walking away from them unscathed, but when he had to take such a massive blow to his heart, the same actions he took with football were no longer valid. It’s in the learning of this that he would find healing, and by connection, so can we.

I give this book 5 out of 5 morals. Barring a few small editing typos that I found (which may have been an error in my download in the book) everything about this book was seamless. I could not put it down. In fact I read it in one day I was so pulled in by the story and the emotions it brought with it. I was reminded of some of my own feelings that have been pushed down, and now feel inspired to reexamine those situations to ensure that I am making the most out of my life and not letting my emotions make me. I wish much success for this book and would be hard pressed to find anyone who would not want to experience its impact. 

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The Hood With No Hands by C.S. Boag

The name is Rainbow. Detective Rainbow. His business card may read Bruno Scutt’s Detective Agency, but in the words of Rainbow himself, “Whatever it says, I’m still Rainbow.”

Rainbow is the sort of bloke who is in the business of solving crimes. Any caper that comes along with a string of dough attached to it is the type of case that Rainbow finds himself inclined to take. Living the life of a man off the grid, an occupational hazard, this private eye knows how to stay undetected. Since he himself is a master in the art of detection and has been in the game for no small amount of time, he has become quite adept at existing only when necessary, the rest of the time being spent in a myriad of dress, station, and persona.

We meet Rainbow right about the time in which a dame by the name of Sally Kane comes to the private eye in need of his services. She has become weary of her husband, a joker named David Jones. She laments that she has this intuition, or rather what she labels as “an informed judgment” that something underhanded is going on with her husband and she needs to find out what that something is. She wants a baby, and she wants to make sure that this man she has decided to make hers isn’t one of the nefarious sorts. Of course Rainbow requires payment up front, and once the beautiful Ms. Kane presents the dough, it is up to Rainbow to strike out and do what he does best, and that is to sniff out the odorless misdoings of what most people would assume is just another joker on the street.

As Rainbow begins his quest to figure out just what it is exactly that has set the stunner of a dame Ms. Kane on edge about her husband, his query is quickly brought to a halt. It seems to be that this Mr. Jones really is something of a curious man, because incidentally there is nothing on him, and nothing on him turns into him being nothing at all. Rainbow has come across a man with no background. Nothing to trace, nothing to go one. The only proof of his existence is the Relator’s business he appears to run, and the fact that he is married to Ms. Kane. It seems that Rainbow has stepped into quite an interesting and tedious task, one in which he will need to rely on all of his instincts and resources to suss out.

This caper takes Rainbow on many a twist and turn that are each quite surprising and yet somehow unfulfilling. He seems to find himself grasping at a hundred different straws, trying to make them into a suitable bale, but the twine with which he needs to tie them all together is always just beyond his grasp, until suddenly in the eleventh hour, everything changes, and we watch to see just how suited this Mr. Rainbow is at his chosen career path.

Author C.S. Boag has done a magnificent job bringing back the lost art of the Noir Who Done It genre. It is a genre that has been lacking in content for so long, that I feel that we have forgotten its charm, but Boag lights up every single page of his book with just that sentiment. He also infuses sarcasm and witticisms in every line of thought in which Rainbow thinks. He has not only created this character that get to watch, but we get to know this his motives, his thoughts, and his pre-determined and not so pre-determined actions that he is willing to take in order to solve the seemingly unsolvable case. Boag has made Rainbow not only someone that we love to watch, but someone we feel that we know. His thought pattern is completely honest, and the hilarity of that honesty is so refreshing. The way that Boag has shaped the speech and colloquialisms in which Rainbow exists by is truly a joy to read.

I was thrilled by the idea that while I was reading the book, I had no idea what was about to happen next. As is all too unfortunately common in the genre of mystery, most everything is predictable. However, Boag surprised me by constantly surprising his characters, and it wasn’t until the last twenty pages of the book that I, alongside with Rainbow, were able to put a cap on this caper at long last, and with much satisfaction and relief.

This is but the first of the adventures of Mr. Rainbow, and I for one cannot wait to pick up the next installment and see what the fella is up to. The book ends in a mostly complete way, but there is still a small cliffhanger that will leave you desperate to grab the next volume in search of an answer. Boag tactfully wrapped up every detail, of which there are many, but he still had the wisdom to leave us wanting more. I heartily give this book 5 out of 5 morals, and am so pleased that I was able to play a small part in introducing Mr. Rainbow to those who may have overlooked him.

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The Siren: Laments of Angels and Dark Chemistry Book 1) by Meg Xuemei X

The ancient myth of the Siren’s is a myth as old as time. In Homer’s the Odyssey, these creatures were of unparalleled beauty and exquisite in every way. They would stand on the shores of the sea, spinning their enchantments for the ears of the Sailors beyond, luring them in with their perfection and playing on the men’s lust. But the Siren was not simply a beauty to behold that went only skin deep like the sailors would have liked to believe. These creatures contained powers greater than anyone could have ever surmised; they held the power to pursued and enrapture, extracting loyalty from all their voices could reach. The Sirens were a race beyond that of a mere mortal, and knowing they outmatched humanity in the way of mind games, they declared themselves the ultimate race.

The Sirens in the Odyssey are but one shade of a tale that is centrifugal around the understanding on Sirens. In Love’s Prey, the Sirens have indeed become a greater race, but have infused themselves in the middle of the human race. The Lam family, a family of Siren Blood, lived in the greater Chicago area. For years, Jed, The Siren, had been searching for his successor to take his place and carry out the destiny of the race. All the grandsons and sons of Jed were tested and ultimately made candidates to become the heir apparent. That is until a little baby girl, crying and wailing, was brought to the Red Mansion in which the Siren lived. It had been millions of years since a girl was produced from the lineage of the Lam family, and although women were not considered for the position as Siren, Jed found the extraordinary circumstance of the birth of a girl to be no coincidence. He immediately placed a test before her to see if his curiosity had led him correctly, and to the shock of everyone, she passed the test. The test was a matter of choice. This demonstration of her boldness in choice would later in life serve her well, because in the years to come, there were many choices that would lay before her, and their outcome affected more than simply her.

At sixteen years old, Lucia was heralded the new Siren. As thrilled as she was to be the Chosen One to fulfill the duty of her race and bring all the realms of the galaxies together, she discovered that the cost her destiny demanded was insurmountably steep. She was in love, and this was something so new and foreign to her that it fueled her and brought her much happiness and even more drive to be the best Siren she could. What’s more, is that that love was returned to her in equal measure. Vladimir was her one and only.

 
The Siren was not just a title, but a job description, of which the burden was heavy. Many a task were set before her, all of which went unaccomplished by her predecessors. Amid their research, a sudden change occurred in the atmosphere, signaling the presence of a lost city, or a city that was hidden to the rest of the world and could only be accessed through the paranormal. This is where the real journey began. Lucia knew that this is where she would find the Eye of Time, but when she arrived there she found more than she bargained for. The island which they now knew was called Nirvana was the home of a boy named Ashburn, and it would soon come to be that Ashburn was a necessary piece to the puzzle of the quest, but what piece no one was very sure. Throughout the journey, things become complicated the more Ashburn becomes entangled with the Siren and her crew. But what was even more dangerous was that since his very nature was so conflicted, no one could decipher whether he was made of light or darkness. The decisions that demanded resolution because of his existence became to pile high, and Lucia was the only one who could possibly make these choices, even when they were deemed impossible.

Xuemei has written a very original plot that dances on many story lines of ancient myths, and givens them the most enchanting and invigorating twist. Her themes are timeless but most certainly not stale. She has blown the dust off some story lines that have been overused and abused, and breathed a fresh set of well-placed words onto it. I appreciate that she took a very well-known mythical creature and twisted it so that Lucia could still be a heroine in a paranormal setting, but she let just enough of the original traits of the Siren which are so uniquely theirs that it made Lucia so much more interesting. It is refreshing to read a YA that still has magic in its binding, but are free of Vampires, Zombies, Witches and Werewolves. For this purpose alone, this book would stand out among the rest, but her adept story telling even furthers that agenda. Never once was I confused as to where I was or what was going on. The book had the fluidity to it that all writers hope for. It was a page turner and I actually could not put it down.

More importantly to me however, was a thread that she weaved in her story that you would have to look closely to see but once you do, it’s as bright and brazen as all the rest. Xuemei addresses the importance of choice. In almost every situation the characters are placed in, a choice stands in front of them. At some points, the choice may seem to be no choice at all because the cause for what was occurring could not be traced. But even still, she created a space where a choice could still be made. Do I lie down and roll over and give into the inevitability that I am ill equipped to change? Or do I fight with every part of me not to give into the pull and fight to figure out its purpose. There is nothing more valuable to learn in life than that you ALWAYS have a choice, even when you don’t see one. You make choices every day and are completely unaware that you are making them. Xuemei conveys that we need to start paying more attention to all the decisions we make, because not only are we responsible for their outcome, but that outcome reaches beyond you alone.

I very much enjoyed this book. I am already anxiously awaiting the second book in the series. I give this book 5 out of 5 morals, and if there were more stars to give, I would tack them on as well. This is a must read and an author to watch. I very much look forward to what comes next in the lives of all of the Characters and to watch this book rise in notoriety.  

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The Tethering by Megan O'Russell

Imagine that while living a very menial life at best, your entire existence is interrupted by a world you thought only occurred in books of legend? Further, imagine that you are told that you yourself are a part of this mystical world, and have the chance to be whisked away to the realms of all things unbelievable so that you may become a part of the grand scheme of a race that has been suspect of existence for centuries, but never aptly confirmed. This is the crossroads at which Jacob evens finds himself, and the path he takes will forever change his destiny and to whom that destiny is bound.

In her debut novel, O’Russell does an astounding job at creating a stark contrast between the world that Jacob inhabits in the beginning, and the world that he is introduced to upon the discovery of his magical talents, even though those two realms exist one within the other. However, the only world that Jacob wants to be in is the world that includes his best friends, and consequently the not-so-secret love of his life, Emilia Gray.

Time passed just as it does, and the ever perfect high school student found himself receiving a call from the principle to immediately come to his office, Jacob obliges and makes his way to the office, where the news that awaited him was of the grimmest nature. Upon receiving this heart breaking news, all of the emotions in him began to swell, and even though the principle continued to talk, Jacob was lost in his emotions. Until the windows blew in. Suddenly he found himself on the floor being shielded by the body of the principle. It was later discovered that all the glass within the building had exploded, and was assumed a terrorist attack upon the school. What were the odds that Jacob would receive such horrible personal news and have such a large catastrophe happen around him in the same day? Too stricken with grief to give it much thought, Jacob ignored the question rumbling around in his head, and instead headed to his empty home, to lick his wounds and morn his loss. Then Emilia showed up.

As it turns out, Emilia and her family are of the race of Magickind, specifically witches and warlocks, and very astute ones at that. Where that not unbelievable enough, upon his arrival Emilia’s aunt, Aunt Iz, informed him that he too, was of their kind. The alleged terrorist attack at the school was in fact a very large and accidental display of the powers that Jacob possessed. In his emotional turmoil, his magic had unleashed accordingly, resulting in the unfortunate and unintentional destruction of the school. The Manson House where he now found himself, was actually a place of training for witches and warlocks, and Jacob had been brought there to decide whether or not he wanted to enter in this world in which he had always believed was myth.

There is a delicate balance in this piece between one very ordinary world, and one mythical world that exists in the pocket of and sometimes right out in the middle of this very regular world. O’Russells composition of these two worlds is complete and believable, right to the very last detail. The amount of depth in which she provides to build such a place that pulls you in so that you yourself believe that such a story could actually be true requires an immense amount of talent. A talent that is displayed on every page of the book and should be recognized for the brilliance that it represents.

O’Russell’s book is of the YA genre, which at this time I feel is the most competitive of genres to try and debut a novel. However I have no doubt that this novel will still come out on top. It is similar enough to the ideals that the most successful books of the genre contain, yet original enough to not simply be one of the same. This book is full of creativity and ingenuity that has yet to be displayed in any of the current YA novels out there in my opinion, and I have read the majority of the ones that currently line the shelves.

O’Russell’s debut is one that will command notice. This first novel provides a strong foundation on which an impending series will be built, and I for one and on the edge of my seat to see where she takes Jacob, Emilia, and the rest of her characters on their journey to save the integrity of Magickind. I give this book five out of five morals. I genuinely enjoyed this page turner, and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next installment in The Tethering series. 

The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braids by Michael McClung

The gap between the rich and the poor is as wide as ever. Most people aren’t willing to do anything about it, and continue to live their lives in with the mindset that this is the lot that they have been cast, and have determined to live in their squalor. But that’s most people. That’s not Amara.

Amara is a paid by commission thief, who inside her circle of well-connected bandits, is among the best in her trade. The story opens with Amara dealing with a fellow comrade of hers, Corbin, who has come to her for help and to seek refuge for a piece of plunder for which he is attempting to keep safe. Not thinking much of it, Amar takes the stolen goods and hides them in her hidey hole for safe keeping. But when Corbin failes to come back for his plunder, Amar knew something was not right here.

 As dread began to mount in the usually cool and calculating Amar, she started out to search for Corbin, and what she found would lead her and a band of an unexpected band of cohorts along a journey where even the highest minds of the land could not have predicted its end, much less its ultimate purpose.

McClung has done an excellent job at mixing the expected paranormal happenings with the most unusual settings and what would usually be a gaggle of unlikeable characters. McClung not only humanizes thieves, bandits and public servants with too much power, but he renders them to be endearing, likable but most of all capable. He takes those who we normally wish to see fail, and turn them into the heroes of the story and elicits his readers to root for their survival and ultimate triumph.

 

McClung made an amazing effort to show through his stories that even when you are greeted with an insurmountable task, sometimes all you need to do is look within you or to the ones that you trust that surround you to solve the problem. If you can believe in yourself, no matter what anyone else’s opinion is of you, you can always discover what the correct path for your life will be. He demonstrates this in his characters over and over again. Characters that normal society would intently look their noses down upon as being lesser than they, in actuality embodied the quality of being overcomers. They never needed the affirmation of the masses in order to know what the right thing to do was. Even though they were considered to be the bad seed, the always and without hesitation, acted upon what was right.

This is by far one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It was so unexpected and delightful, that I was able to really lose myself in the world that was placed before me. I give this book 5 out of 5 morals, only because there are no more stars to give. I cannot wait to read more of the adventures of Amara and her unlikely crew, and to become one step closer to discovering the fate of the world as they know it. McClung is an author to watch, and I expect only great things to come from his efforts.   

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The Ugly Daughter by Julia Legiam

Legian and Burke take us back to a time that we would all much rather have not have happened in our history as a human race, and show us the after effects that so many people were left with. We begin in Vietnam, in the late seventies and are immediately harkened by the remnants of a war gone by.

The authors tell the story from the point of view of Legian, or as referred to in the book, Loan, as she looks back on her adolescent life, starting at age eight. The setting in which her story takes place is a startling reminder that wars don’t end when the treaties are signed, and that the land that these battles were fought upon remain ravaged for many years to come, leaving those who remain behind to live in lands that were unintended graveyards, haunted by events that they had no control over, and no escape from.

But Loan’s story does not focus on these wars of our past, but on the wars she faced as a child growing up in a place where the fighting, harshness, and brutality infiltrated the very souls of those living in the time in between battles.  At the start of the story, Loan and her sister are living with their beloved grandmother, but because of a severe and brutal act of barbarism they were forced to leave and live with a new family.  Loan and her sister are placed in a new home, with a handful of strangers in an environment that they would soon become all too familiar and comfortable with. Although calling their new residence a home is quite a generous description. Their new living quarters was basically a lean to, a hut with sheet for walls and mud for floors. When they arrived they did not arrive to a celebration, but to a knock down drag out argument between the parents. They beat each other verbally and physically with fervor and it seems with even some pleasure on the abuser’s part.

 
From here the story takes us through the many different homes and families that Loan was shuffled to. Sometimes she was with family members and other times she was with onlookers who took pity on her and took her in, but there were only few things that remained constant: that wherever she went, abuse was always sure to greet her at her new destination, and that when those fleeting happy times did arrive, they were always going to be short lived.

Even though Loan saw and told of things that most of us in our lifetimes will never even encounter once, I feel that the purpose of her book was not for the reader to feel sorry for her. It was also not for the reader to only feel shock at the horror of her circumstances, even though that was a large side effect to these retellings. As a reader I truly felt that in Legian sharing her story, it was to highlight the importance of faith. In every circumstance that she found herself in, she always relied on the necessity of her faith. Many of the scenarios she found herself in would have been too large for even the most cared for and self-affirmed adult could have handled, much less a, eight year old child with only abuse as her constant. She never felt weakness in turning to a greater force than herself in her times of need, and she always credits that faith for her eventual salvation from each hardship. Loan’s life is certainly one of the law two steps forward, one step back, but in her case it was two steps forward two miles back. Her resilience is something to be respected and replicated in ourselves, and the way to do that from Loan herself, is to trust in your faith.

Because of the extraordinary circumstances of Loan’s life, this book read more like a novel than it did a memoir, which I personally very much enjoyed. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It is a quick read that is full of twists and turns, even if those twists and turns are heartbreakingly tragic. It is a story of harrowing persistence, and the best part of it all is that the character, in which these awful situations molded and shaped, actually exists in this world, and has the opportunity to make it a better place. This book, I feel is only the beginning of those efforts, and I count myself lucky to have been someone touched by this story, and will live with her courage in mind when I find myself up against struggles that I think are too much for me to take. This is only the first part of her story, and I am on the edge of my seat for the next installment and will be one of the first in line to be able to read what comes next.

I also would like to add that the descriptions of abuse in this book are at times extremely vivid, and for someone who has been abused, these scenes would very easily be a trigger of response for them.  I would recommend a disclaimer including this statement or one like it with the book to alert readers of the vivid nature of the violence this book contains. 

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