For The Love of Dirt by Jill Dudek
I found this new-to-me author not long ago, while grocery shopping. I love supporting Indie Authors, so, even though I don't have little people in my life, I bought a copy to read for myself. Sometimes, it is comforting to lose the stress of the day in a children's story.
I found this to be a delightful book. Written for pre-school age children, it tells a fantastic story of exuberant children and how they equate love to the fun things in their lives, like dirt and water. This is a wonderful story perfect for instilling family values and reminding us that playing outdoors can be super-fun.
The illustrations, by Megan Mack, were light, airy, and whimsical. They added much to he story, and shared a bit of gentle humor.
As I mentioned, I don't have little people in my life right now. But, I'll donate this book to my Local Little free Library. I'm sure the child who discovers it will enjoy the story.
Andrew’s second book in The Masterson Files series, Sinful Father, has a compelling plot driven by secrets and lies… with a creative flair readers don’t come upon often. I’ve read much of Andrew’s work, and I am consistently pleased with his imagination and talent.
In this installment of his action/adventure series, I discovered an angry anti-hero who surprised me with the sympathy I felt toward him in the end. I never wanted to like this man, but alas, maybe I came to understand him a little. Inside the pages lives a hero I thought I understood, only to realize he has more layers than a buttery croissant. I may never pull them all apart, but it’s going to be fun to try. There is a cadre of strong women who remind me that being feminine isn’t the same thing as being weak. There were several points in the story where I laughed, and two scenes at the end left me in tears for two very different reasons.
This story was so full of sneaky twists that I am eager to read book three, Deadly Daughter, to discover where Andrew will take me next. I am tremendously interested to see how my favorite characters will stay alive… and perhaps live their dream of anonymity… but I also want to be sure the dogs are okay. Also, if I’m being completely honest, there is at least one character I’d like to see tortured just a little bit (maybe two).
There are at least three more books in this series (rumor has it there may be more than the published five on the horizon). All I’ve read so far tells me that the series will only get better as I continue to turn pages. Inside Andrew’s books, you will find a promise to provide safety to those you love, see those you don’t like get a little of their own, and perhaps punish the evil-doers with a bit of justifiable torture.
If you enjoy investigating a different perspective of life through the window of fiction and perhaps wondering about the innate laws of human acceptability… Andrew Allen Smith’s The Masterson Files series will offer a wide range of emotional and intellectual experiences that will not disappoint.
Visit Andrew's Website HERE!
I grew up enjoying classic tales. Whether they were Grimm's or Disney, Hans Christian Anderson or Aesop, I've always enjoyed the structure of these stories. Fantastical events, animals brought to life, personification of objects and plants, and magical creatures. Each usually had a lesson or moral at the end... something to remember, something of value.
Recently, I discovered Lost Boy by Christina Henry. This is one of my favorite styles to read... an alternative creation myth. Its foundation is based on the original story of Peter Pan, but aside from that reference, this story stands as remarkably different. Leave behind your preconceived childhood notions. This story is told from Hook's raw reality and in his voice, going back to the very beginning. The book is infused with the details of a potential history that was either unrecognized or purposefully ignored in the original.
Ultimately, this style of writing could be considered Fan Fiction, with twists that remove us from the original in such a way that it becomes unique. Ms. Henry discovered a story that was neglected deep inside the fairy tale, and gave me the opportunity to stand just a little askew of normal to discover possibilities I hadn't imagined.
The book was spectacularly written, and it flowed effortlessly. The author offered a new relationship between Hook and Peter Pan that challenged everything I thought I knew. It was tight, exciting, and unpredictable. The descriptions of the Neverland Island were extremely vivid. Although there was a map in the beginning of the book, I had no use for it once I began reading. It wasn't difficult to drift into that world and find myself standing by, a mere wisp of a witness, as I took in the landscape. The descriptions of trees, swamps, fields, and mountains were perfect, in that I was able to imagine them from my own experience, rather than become hindered by the author's belabored definitions of these spaces. She gave me just enough to place myself, and then she allowed me to fill in the blanks on my own.
It takes real talent to flip everything we thought we knew about a place and the characters that live there, and convince us that we'd been mislead all these years. That's exactly what Ms. Henry does with this story. The dialogue between the characters is fresh, spontaneous, and sincere. The conversations were poignant, and laced with levels of innuendo I never thought to ascribe to them. These are people, not characters, and it was refreshing to read them that way. Their motivations and defenses seemed far more three-dimensional, with nuances that reminded me to never negate the other side of the story.
This book allowed me to question and re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about Neverland, it's rules for life, the people who live there, and the origins of it's magic. It captivated me, and held me firmly on the edge of my seat, just as the original had as a child. However, understanding this story through the eyes of an adult lends a clarity to the rivalry between Hook and Peter that I had not considered before. That was an interesting surprise.
This is a brutal story - both emotionally and physically - certainly not for the faint of heart, and definitely not written for children. It has made me reconsider what it means to grow up, and how impactful our expectations of children can be, long into adulthood.
I highly recommend this book. It was a fast read, I finished it in a total of about twelve hours, over four nights. Ms. Henry has written other fairy tale revisions, and I am eager to read them, too.
The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne
I've been a great admirer of A. A. Milne's work since I was a very young child. In fact, his stories from The Hundred Acre Wood are the reason I imagined I could be an author one day. The characters of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Tigger, Kanga, and Roo gave me all the information I needed about the kind of person I wanted to become... and the kinds of stories I wanted to write. But what I didn't realize was that there was so much more to Mr. Milne and his writing life.
In college, I learned that he wrote for periodicals... serialized stories and non-fiction, for newspapers and magazines... but I didn't know he was also a novelist. Recently, while fooling around on the Internet, I came across a story about his novel, The Red House Mystery. I was shocked. I thought I'd read nearly everything he ever wrote. Somehow, I missed this big milestone in his writing repertoire.
So, I went to the Guttenburg Project website, to see if I could find it... and I did! It's in the public domain! Imagine my elation at discovering I could read this piece of my hero's history! I downloaded it immediately, and began reading. Thank goodness for e-books. Say what you will, but when you have a strong pull to read a book, you just don't want to wait for shipping, even if delivery is promised for the next day.
I was immediately sucked into this story. It's a "closed room" mystery, in the style of Agatha Christie. It's also a tremendous homage to Arthur Conan Doyle, as the characters "impersonate" Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they try to ferret out the answer to the riddle.
I enjoyed the layers of details, and the little clues left along the way. I found myself trying to figure out the mystery before Milne revealed it... and after all, isn't that what a great mystery novel is all about? Honestly, although I was able to piece some of it together before the last two chapters, there were surprises at the end that I did not expect.
This was a compelling, quick read, Even though I really took my time to digest all the tiny bits (because I knew they'd be important to the ending), I still finished it in about seven hours.
It was a complete delight to discover a new, old book by my hero author! It makes me wonder if he's got anything else out there I don't know about? I will have to spend some more time going down that research rabbit hole!
I highly recommend this book... especially if you enjoy solving puzzles.
Oh, and I found it on Amazon, and have added the physical book to my "book buy me" list!
The Bookshop From Hell by David Haynes
If you've read any of my other book reviews, you'll know that I'm a reader who gravitates toward books about books, libraries, bookshops, and authors, regardless of genre. This book hits all the marks in ways I never anticipated.
I discovered this title while browsing for audiobooks on ChirpBooks.com, and after reading the synopsis, and listening to the short snippet, I was drawn in to the story.
This is a fantastic tale of a small town that gains a new bookshop. The proprietor is a strange, enigmatic man, but super generous. Everyone who visits gets a free book on their first trip into the shop. The books are compelling and nearly impossible to put down. Everyone in the town is drawn to read their story, even if they're not generally readers. Having a book selected just for you, will do that, I suppose. Reading a great story is a tremendous gift, after all.
The town changes because of the bookshop. People become differently engaged with their neighbors, and mysteriously, the energy of this once gentle town, turns ugly very quickly. Books are powerful weapons, especially when wielded by the unsuspecting.
The pace of the story is super quick, and it's difficult, because of that, to find a place to pause reading. My favorite parts of this book? The high school English teacher, the Librarian, the Student, and an ending left hanging and festering in your mind with a strong, unyielding desire to want more than you should.
This book was creepy good, and even though there was more "language" than I'm usually comfortable with, the story insisted I overlook that part and keep going. I'm glad I did. I'll be reading more from this author in the future.
My only disappointment with this book (aside from the creative language) was the fact that it's not available in paperback (only audio and ebook). It's a point I hope the author changes, as this is one I'd enjoy putting on my shelves, signed by the author, someday.
Hell House by Richard Matheson
A story of a haunted house, told with a twist... okay, several twists. This is not just a story about ghosts roaming the halls, things going bump in the night, and lights flickering when they shouldn't... this story aims to justify science and the paranormal. The house itself has a story goal, and works well to disengage the characters that visit from the reality they thought they understood.
It's an interesting notion, to have a scientist, in this case, a physicist, attempt to explain the unexplainable. He brings with him, his wife, who serves as an "unbiased witness", and two mediums, one physical and one mental, to help support the notion that the paranormal has energy that can be explained, and therefore, eliminated. Each has their own reason for coming to the house, and each has a different emotional impact on the reader.
I enjoyed the idea that one of the characters endured time in this house in the past, and another is religious in their beliefs. Those oppositions made the story far more intriguing. They were all being paid to be there, but it seemed they all had a far more important stake than just the cash. Throughout the book, I constantly asked why they wouldn't just leave, but at each turn, something far stronger than money drew them back, regardless of their longstanding beliefs, and in spite of the house's reputation. Given the puzzle of trying to figure it all out, I probably would have stayed, too.
I thought the author created a foreboding sense of urgency in the story goals of each character. The combination of the physical, psychic, and emotional responses from the characters, along with the mysterious origins and later reclusiveness and abandonment of the house, certainly held my attention.
The ending seemed too tightly wrapped up... but I didn't have nightmares, so I'm okay with that. It was fun to be startled intellectually as well as emotionally. The gore factor was relatively low, considering this is a horror novel, so that made it easier for me to read and enjoy.
Stephen King calls this book "The scariest haunted house novel ever written." I don't think I agree with that. I thought Amnityville Horror was a far scarier haunted house... but if you like scary stuff, this is certainly worth the time spent, and I had more than a few chills crawl up my spine when reading.
Mighty Mila by Katie Petruzziello
I discovered a new-to-me-author today! While browsing through my Facebook feed, I noticed a recommendation to try out this new children's book. I was grabbed immediately because the post told me that this book was promoted in honor of Deaf Awareness Month. As a hearing impaired person, this is a topic that always grabs my attention.
Reading children's books brings me a few moments of "nice" during my work day, and I enjoy taking the break. This story was a joyful read. Although the main character, Mila, has cochlear implants, and they do make the world different for her... they certainly don't make HER different. She experiences the same daily goals of being a "big kid" that I think every child encounters at one point or another... some of us grown ups are still working on that challenge, too.
There was a strong message of independence, amid an underlying theme of inclusiveness. The illustrations are wonderfully drawn with characters who exude lots of personality... even the cat. I especially enjoyed all of the fun accent words the author used throughout the text to make the reading more engaging.
There are Listen, Look, and Think questions in the back of the book that make it an even better reading experience for the whole family or classroom.
I will look for more books by Ms. Petruzziello for the little ones in my life.
I was overwhelmed reading this book... not because it was difficult material (which it was), and not because the complexity of the relationships and internal dialogue of the characters was so intensely emotional (which it also was), but because everything written in this story is REAL LIFE. Confronting that can sometimes be overwhelming... and I've never been happier for the experience.
D.A. Reed has created a masterpiece of Young Adult fiction with this story. From the complexity of teenage angst to the thoughts, speech patterns, and body language of teenagers, to the adult interactions... this author got it all right. As a person who has been touched by teen suicide in both my generation and my son's generation, I cannot endorse this book enough. It is poignant, it is accurate, it is raw, it is unsettling, it is tender, it is difficult, and it is necessary.
This story channels the day-to-day experiences of teenagers in a way that feels a little like voyeurism; and if that thought doesn't frighten you just a little bit, it should. The bravery these characters show reminds us that everything is worth healing when we take the time to talk and listen. The resources and discussion questions in the back of the book encourage this dialogue between friends, families, and teachers.
This is a book that should be on a bookshelf in a central part of every family home, and in every classroom. It should be a part of every educator's and religious leader's continuing education program. I am certain that all who read it will be touched and motivated to help others in some empathetic way.
When you are given the gift of seeing teen suicide from the inside, you can't help but become changed. Thank you, D.A. Reed, for giving us this profound insight into a world we must not ignore.
If you don't have tissues nearby, make sure you have them when you read this book. If you're a writer yourself, make sure you have two boxes.
I was incredibly impressed with Ms. Torre's ability to reach deep into herself, pull out the emotional angst every writer experiences at some time or another, and place it squarely on the page. From realizing you need to write a story, to realizing you can't write it, to finally realizing that there is no other solution than to collaborate with your career nemesis, the story grips strong at the heart strings and daily struggles of every writer I've ever known, myself included.
Ms. Torre has created an ideal recipe for escape reading. She begins with the hearty stock of a frustrated writer. That alone, however, isn't enough to make the story a part of the reader's soul, so she mixes in the unfailing love of a motherhood. To that, she adds the doubt of a marriage that feels somehow, "off". She then adds suspenseful spice in the form of a backstory that has missing pieces. For good measure, she throws in a couple heaping spoons full of an undercurrent threat of what comes next. Garnish it all with the necessity to maintain professional boundaries, and you have a story that digs deeper than most.
This book will take you through the beginning, middle, and end, hanging by threads you didn't know were hanging, and attached to characters in ways you didn't know was possible. The emotional connection you feel to the writing will last long after you've finished the story.
I read this book in audiobook format, on a long drive while traveling to our cabin. I listened to it while walking the trails with the dog, I listened to it while making breakfast and sitting in the hammock in the afternoon. It was sincerely, unputdownable. The narration was exceptional, and added depth to an already impressive story. Some books lend themselves very well to being read aloud, this is one of those books. I finished the story while driving home one afternoon, and was grateful for the fact that I was driving on the highway, and passing cars couldn't tell that I was crying like a heartbroken teenager at the end.
I have not read any of Alessandrea Torre's other books, yet, but you can be sure that they are on my list of must reads. I highly recommend this particular story for all of my Indie Author friends. You will NOT be disappointed!
Suspense, Humor, Mystery, A Dashing Englishmen, A Flattering Younger Man, the Wonder of a Museum's Backstage, and Chocolate... what's not to love about this story!
Luba Lesychyn is an extremely talented writer. She understands how to dangle details in ways that have you looking forward to more excitement, without anxiety. She's a comfort writer. Pull up a cozy blanket and dive right in. I immersed myself reading her pages at night, after a day of work... shunning the rest of the real world, and allowing myself to get lost in her imaginative Toronto. I regret nothing.
Theft By Chocolate is an amusing and spirited read. The story eavesdrops on the days of a chocolate addict, who is also sleuthing her way through an irresistible mystery. At every new chapter, I was impressed by Luba's expressive writing style. When her characters walk through hallways filled with anxiety, sit quietly in a cathedral, or collapse on the bed in sheer exhaustion, you experience every moment as if that character's reality was your own. Luba entices you to step into her world and live it fully.
Through the intrigue of the story, she shares valuable reminders of some of life's most important lessons, in ways you'll never forget. Yes, a spoonful of powered chocolate does affect us in exactly THAT way! Secrets are often hidden in (nearly) plain sight, so you should be keenly observant. Public humiliation doesn't always have to be the precursor to a doomed life. And most importantly, Librarians can indeed be seductively charming, in their own bashful way.
Luba Lesychyn is an author who clearly understands how to bait her literary fish and then reel them in for the vigorous PLOP on the sandy shore. But not to worry, she'll tuck you back into the water again, safely returning you to the comfort of characters you are sure you know, and environments that you wish you could visit, without ever revealing the entire mystery. And that's exactly what we want from an author.
Thank you, Luba Lesychyn, you will continue to have a place in my TBR pile!
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