Book Highlight and Author Interview: Depths of Night

I was asked to partake in a book tour! Woohoo, this is the second one I have participated in and the book looks amazing. I am here to give you a highlight of the book and an author interview so here we go!

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Synopsis: 

After a harrowing end to a long sea journey, the famed northern warrior Ragnar Stormbringer and a force of warriors step ashore in the lands of the Petranni, a tribal people known for their workings in silver and gold. The search for plunder takes a sharp turn when homesteads, villages, and temple sites show signs of being recently abandoned.

When it is discovered that the Petranni have all taken refuge within a massive stronghold, Ragnar and the others soon fall under the shadow of an ancient, deadly adversary. Wielding his legendary war axe  Raven Caller, Ragnar finds his strength tested like never before.

Sounds great eh? I interviewed the author and here is what he had to say!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

The author of the book is Stephen Zimmer and you can find him on Twitter as @sgzimmer !

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I am a mix between those two approaches.  In writing my various series, I came to appreciate the importance of having a sense of direction and destination.  I never want to write myself into a corner, and I do want to know where I am headed in a story.  This requires a core structure in advance, in terms of a basic outline.

At the same time, I do not want to constrict myself in the instance that a great new idea pops up in regard to new subplots, twists and turns of the core plot, or new characters.  I like to be able to give my stories room to breathe during the creation process, so I do not plot or outline to the point where I don’t have any room to maneuver if new elements strike me in the process.

I have found that this balance works very well for me, both in writing series and also in the creation of stand-alone tales such as Depths of Night.

 

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing in today’s world is handling the many hats that need to be worn on a regular basis.  A writer has to dedicate a lot of time to marketing, publicity, the business end, appearances, and many other things beyond the actual creative process.

These areas can be very time consuming and sometimes exhausting, and the writer must find ways to make sure that the creative path continues forward and is not too inhibited by all of the other things involved in a writer’s world.

 

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I love to read!  I am currently reading Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Heinlein is a favorite author of mine, but other favorites include J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Clive Barker, R.A. Salvatore, Paulo Coelho, Guy Gavriel Kay, David Gemmell, Robert E. Howard, and many others.  Reading engages the imagination like nothing else and I think that it is very important for writers to set aside some time for reading on a regular basis. You always learn something about writing from reading!

 

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

In today’s flooded market, a good cover and title are extremely important.  Every week there is an enormous number of new releases, so you do not have long at all to catch a reader’s attention.  A good, catchy title, coupled with a strong cover, can help to gain the interest of a reader to consider buying your book.

I should also mention that a good cover requires more than just eye-catching artwork. A good cover involves skillful design and layout, including the section of title fonts and their placement.  A cover designer that is adept with both art and layout is worth every penny to a publisher or indie author who self-publishes.

 

Which book inspired you to begin writing?

My mother read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien when I was just seven years old, and she followed that with buying me a boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis in paperback.  I credit all of these incredible books for being the foundation of my inspiration to start down the path of storytelling and speculative fiction.  These powerful novels opened my eyes to the incredible possibilities of fantasy literature and I never turned back. 😊

Thank you for having me as a guest today at Breakeven books!

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Book Review: Pray for the Innocent

Another book review to add to our library of posts! Chris Connors is back with another of his magnificent reviews for Pray for the Innocent by Alan Orloff.

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Synopsis: Can former best-selling novelist Mathias King—now a rumpled, grizzled English professor—save America from a terrorist of his own making? In the shadow of the Pentagon, a secret DoD brain research experiment goes terribly wrong, and an ex-Special Ops soldier escapes, believing he is Viktor Dragunov, the Russian operative from the 80’s thriller novel, Attack on America. To capture him, the Feds turn to the person uniquely qualified to predict his next moves, the man who created the fictional character, best-selling author Mathias King. Now a reclusive English professor, King is reluctant to get involved, having sworn off the culture of violence after a deranged fan murdered his wife. But when innocent people start dying, King is thrust back into that dark world. With help from his enthusiastic graduate assistant Emily Phan, King must outsmart his own creation—while outmaneuvering the cover-up-loving Feds—before Dragunov succeeds in his hell-bent mission. To destroy America.

It is often easy to tell if a book is written by an author working with a publishing house, or if the book is a self-published indie book. Alan Orloff’s book, Pray For The Innocent, is one of those indie novels that feels like it was run through a publishing house. The writing is clean, elegant, not clunky and tortured, and has a polished edge that you often obtain after professional editors have commented on it.

Orloff knows how to write characters that feel real. He uses little details that bring his characters to life. He does it so well I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d taken a class on how to write good characters. I was even concerned about one of his minor characters when the person she loved was killed. He had managed to make her “real” in just a few scant pages even though most of our knowledge of her came from her brother’s thoughts rather than her own scenes.

As I read the book, which had me up way too late, I was also thought, “Why hasn’t a publishing house grabbed this guy? He is better than some established prolific *coughLustbadercough* authors”. The premise was intriguing; some spy stuff, cutting-edge neuroscience research, an old professor with a tortured soul, an experiment that goes wrong. While the Amazon synopsis sounds a bit over-the-top with an ex-Special Ops soldier thinking he is a 1980s fictional Russian spy on a “hell-bent mission” to destroy America the author doesn’t let the novel turn into a jingoistic pile of patriotic propaganda. Instead he makes a rather implausible premise come across as more realistic without devolving to simplistic black-and-white ‘rah-rah USA!’ style writing.

I will nit-pick a few small things, and I mean really small, nothing that affects the book or writing. Nit-pick the first: A character watching birds, among other things, has a copy of the Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding to help him identify birds. That is not the book he’d use, it isn’t conducive to quick identification of tricky species—the bird seen is not tricky at all either—as there are pages of information about just one bird, often involving the bird in its drab fall plumage (the book is set in mid-summer so birds would still be in their brighter breeding plumage). One of the quick identification guides like Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America, or the ones by Peterson, or Sibley, or Stokes, or National Geographic are better.

Nit-pick 2: A scientist in the book says we shouldn’t try playing God. It is hard to imagine any scientist saying that. We recognize that we’ve been “playing God” for thousands of years when we treat and cure diseases, alter ecosystems on a vast scale, breed plants and animals to produce things that don’t look much like the original species, and now manipulate the genetic code.

Nit-pick 3: There is a serious misconception here. A character thinks his brother-in-law’s suicide is cowardly and selfish. This is a misconception that mental health professionals, among others, have been trying to correct for decades now. While the character might think this I was hoping somewhere in the novel this misconception would be addressed, but it was not.

Prior to this book, I had read two other excellent books—by publishing house authors—in two days so my standards for a good book were now pretty high. I was reluctant to start Pray For The Innocent in case it killed my reader’s high from the previous two books: I needn’t have worried. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. That it was written as an indie book makes it all the more remarkable. Definitely 5 stars out of 5.

Book Rating: 5/5

Click on the image below to see it’s Amazon Page!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in digital format by the author to be read and honestly reviewed.

Charles Tyrwhitt

Book Review: Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter

A new book review has found its way tot he interwebs! This one was Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter by Sarabeth Caplin. Oh and guess what guys! I was at Comicon last weekend and purchased some goodies for future giveaways 🙂 ok now back to the review.

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Synopsis: In a bittersweet twist of fate, I started out “too Jewish” for my Catholic friends in elementary school, but not Jewish enough for the kids I met at summer camp, with their youth group logos and wristbands. In Israel, I didn’t feel I had the right to call myself Jewish at all. Now I was too Christian for Jews everywhere, but still too Jewish to completely fit in with my new bible study friends.

In my most pessimistic moments, I wonder if I’ll never fit in anywhere, with anyone. It’s interesting because Christians are called to be pariahs, to go against the ways of this world. But I am a special kind of pariah.

Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of this one. It was basically a 140 some page testimony. Nothing against a religion of any sort, this book just could not hold my attention. The author had an interesting time discovering her thirst for more when it came to Jesus and being a  Jewish Christian and it was hard for her because she was raised as a Jew. The whole time she is talking about her journey, she is so worried about what her family will think when they find out that she is converting to Christian.

Her writing style was funny at parts because it would read as if she is making a sarcastic joke to you but it wasn’t enough to save the whole story for me.

There was one line that I did really like.

It would hurt, but isn’t it always better to be disliked for who you are than loved for who you are not?

This is a wonderful message to give people. You should never hide who you are to feel loved. This was one of her hard-hitting truths that she stuck by when she told her parents about her conversion.

I think I would recommend this book to someone who is interested in hearing more about other people’s religious testimonies. It wasn’t my style of book but I took a shot and read it anyway because I like to include all genres of books on the blog.

You can find the book on Amazon.

Book Rating: 2/5

Disclaimer: The author sent us a physical copy of the book to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: The Hermit of Blue Ridge by Cary Marc Grossman

Another review by our marvelous @saramact !! This time she reviewed The Hermit of Blue Ridge by Cary Marc Grossman. She has been such a great help and I appreciate all of her time spent helping us out at Breakeven books as being part of the review team. Without further ado, here is her review (Hey that ryhmes :P).

COVER 2 The Hermit of Blue Ridge

This book is about a writer who has secluded himself from the world, up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, living in a cabin with only his dog for company. Soon, a young woman bursts into his cabin in the middle of a snow storm, and hurls his life into chaos. As he tends to her in her recovery, they begin to learn more about each other and themselves. After noticing some strange tendencies, he soon realizes that she wasn’t entirely transparent with her intentions when she first arrived, and the strangeness of her purpose there is only exacerbated by what becomes a passionate relationship.

(Spoilers Ahead)

As Jeremy and Sarah begin to develop a passionate relationship, we are given insight into the uncomfortable feelings Jeremy experiences; being forced out of his seclusion, and being forced to consider love again, after being burned so badly several times in the past. We soon discover that Sarah has been having violent dreams about Jeremy’s first love, Pricilla, since she was young. This only adds to the tension in their relationship, as he still mourns Pricilla, and Sarah’s young age already reminds him of Pricilla too often.

It was interesting to read about these two artists, as Sarah soon takes up painting, as they create a cozy little life for themselves. There is a lot of turmoil in their relationship, most of which is told from Jeremy’s perspective as he adjusts to Sarah’s presence, age, and relationship to Pricilla. Though it becomes obvious they both feel deeply for each other, there are a lot of issues in the relationship.

It was a very well written telling of the two people trying to balance their lives together, and the characters were developed fully, and were very relatable. I really enjoyed the flow and skill of the writing, as well as the unique plot. I could have done without the casual domestic violence that was peppered into the book – I think there is a way to have passion and even anger written into a relationship without it becoming violent. There were also a few “typos” and one plot error where a character was where they weren’t supposed to be, though some of this could have been due to its e-book conversion.

Book Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us by the author in a digital version for an honest review.

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Book Review & Giveaway: Rats, Mice and Other Things You Can Take To The Bank

I finished another book guys! I did it. I read a lot 😀

This one was called Rats, Mice and Other Things You Can Take to the Bank by Leslie Handler. If you read the blog regularly, then you would have seen my post on the book highlight.

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Synopsis: Part memoir, part essay collection, Rats, Mice, and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank is written with both wit and charm. It will take you on a ride from finding a mouse in the house to the mortgage crisis, from a smile to a chuckle and from a few tears to the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket sipping a warm cup of cocoa on a cold winter’s day. Handler offers a rich, touching, heartfelt and reflective read that will leave the reader with an indelible uplifting spirit.

I really enjoyed this book. Reading this book was like sitting down with a good friend and chatting about life while having a coffee. It reminded me of the nice warm evenings spent in playing games and spending time with family.

Leslie speaks about her life and all the things she has encountered such as battling cancer, raising a family (more than just children, lots of pets), how she met the love of her life and how to cope with trends and technology among other things. All of her writing is very humorous and I found myself laughing a lot. She has a lot of good advice and it comes at you with a comforting motherly tone.

I would recommend this book to give yourself a boost in your mood. It will have you smiling in no time as you relate to more than one funny instance that we have all dealt with just like Leslie.

And you have the option to win it! She sent me two copies so I am hosting a giveaway! Click on the link below to enter and a winner will be drawn on May 31st!

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Alright well thats it for now. Talk to you later Bookworms and goodluck with the giveaway! I hope you win …..yes you.

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Book Highlight: Rats, Mice, ​and Other Things​ You Can’t Take To The Bank

Hey guys, so I have received 2 copies of this book Rats, Mice and Other Things You Can’t Take To The Bank by Leslie Handler. I will be hosting a giveaway with the other copy starting next week! For now, I will be giving you a highlight of the book.

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About the Book: From an award-winning syndicated columnist comes a collection of essays – sometimes nourishing, sometimes passionate, sometimes humorous, and always relatable. Read this book if you are feeling sad. Read this book if you need a good chuckle. Read this book so that you never ever feel like you’re alone.

In one of the essays, the author summarizes her embarrassment for not being supportive of her husband. She writes “When your sad, you get the kind [of tears] that roll down your cheek flowing freely.They drip down your collar and snot up your nose. No. These were different. These were tears of shame and embarrassment…These were tears that didn’t want to puddle or roll. These were the tears that didn’t want to come out at all but couldn’t help themselves as they reluctantly dripped sideways into the hairline instead of following gravity down the face. These were my tears.”

These essays shine light into the soul and leave it wide open for all to see. This gifted storyteller is a keen observer of her own human nature and is not shy about sharing it. Part memoir, part essay collection, Rats, Mice and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank is written with both wit and charm. It will take you on a ride from finding a mouse in the house to a mortgage crisis. It’s so engaging that you may just find yourself wondering how your own personal stories ended up in it!

About the Author: Leslie is a 2015 Society of Newspaper Columnists award winner. She’s an international syndicated columnist with Senior Wire News Service and a frequent contributor to WHYY and CityWide Stories. She freelances for The Philadelphia Inquirer, ZestNow, and BoomerCafe, as well as blogs for HuffPost. Leslie currently lives smack dab between Philadelphia and New York City with husband Marty, dogs Maggies, Hazel, and Ginger, a collection of fish, said husband’s cockatoo who she’s been trying to roast for dinner for the last 33 years, and a few occasional uninvited guests. You may follow her blog and read published essays at LeslieGoesBoom.com.

She also donates a portion of her book sales to the National Alliance on Mental Illness so buy her book and support a great cause!

Click on the image below to check out her book on Amazon!

Best seller findings, jewelry beads, gemstone beads, pearls, glass beads, tools and much more.

 

Book Review: Burying Leo by Helga Gruendler-Schierloh

Woohoo! Another review is done and another book added to the shelf. This one was called Burying Leo by Helga Gruendler-Schierloh.

Burying Leo

Synopsis: Ingrid always loved to sing. Auditioning for a summer job after high school shattered her dreams. She fled Germany for Detroit where she married with the hopes of starting a family. When hope crumbled, she attempts to sing again. Will singing bring the life Ingrid always desired, or will her mutilated soul lose her everything?

This book was somewhat interesting. I feel like it was definitely too long for the storyline it had because once the characters were introduced and you got to know them, there was little left to build on their personalities.

Ingrid was struggling with her inner turmoils and it was frustrating because it takes her so long to do anything about it. Granted she did have some events in the past that were deeply unsettling and would be hard to cope with. The introduction of another character named Mick to help her work on and push past her barriers was a good way for the author to add some depth to the novel.

Her husband Joe was just annoying. I know that the book is set in the 90’s so they weren’t exactly up to date on equality (2018 millennial mind here) but he did not treat her well and any woman in her right mind would have left him rather than put up with his bullshit. This is also a good thing that the author created his character this way because it helps you feel for Ingrid and want her to succeed in the end by escaping her clutches and attaining her dreams.

One thing I found kind of hard to follow was the dialogue at points. This novel is very obviously written by a multilingual author and there are many parts where people make statements in German and you don’t really find out what they said.

There were lots of little twists that kept me going to the end of the book so that was good (I like when a book is unpredictable).

Book Rating: 3/5

Click on the image of the book below to see it on Amazon!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author in a paperback version for an honest review.

Also if you guys are feeling generous or compassionate, my cousin just received a diagnosis from their vet that his dog has bone cancer and they are doing surgery to amputate one of its legs. They don’t have a lot of money and the surgery is quite expensive but this dog means the world to him. They have set up a GoFundMe page to help with the costs. You can check it out at the link below and even if you don’t donate, just sharing it and spreading the word would mean a great deal to my cousin who is just doing anything he can to save his dog.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-save-spryte

Charles Tyrwhitt

April Giveaway Winner

Hey guys, another short and sweet post to announce our April Giveaway winner! The winner will receive a bundle of punk rock stickers and a 3D printed robot.

Congratulations to @pretty_little_library for winning the giveaway by sharing the contest with other book lovers! I will message you to arrange an address to send you the prize.

As for May’s giveaway, you guys should get excited! An author gave me two copies of her book to do a giveaway so I will be posting at the end of the week. There will be a book, a bookmark, and more stickers up for grabs!

Talk to you soon book worms 🙂

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Book Review: Break by Clare Littlemore

Our reviewer @saramact was really excited when Clare Littlemore read her review and loved it. She even sent @saramact the second book of her series called Break so that she could read it too. So now, here is Sara’s review 🙂 !

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Synopsis: It’s been three months since Quin transferred to Patrol and discovered the terrifying truth about the community she lives in. Citizens of The Beck are disposable and those in charge are capable of terrible cruelty. Vowing to protect those around her, Quin has joined the Resistance. But she knows she is risking everything.

A rebellion of any kind must be secretive and clever. Gathering enough people to fight seems like an impossible task. When those closest to her are directly threatened, Quin knows she has to act. But time is running out. Governance will stop at nothing to protect the world it has worked to build. In the end, Quin must decide how far she is prepared to go to rescue the ones she loves.

Picking up soon after the previous book, Quin, our main character, is still adjusting to her new position in Beck society as a Patrol officer. In this dystopian society run by strict rules, Patrol officers are given more knowledge than the average citizen, which introduces them to some of the hidden horrors “required” to maintain this society and defend against outsiders. Quin and a group of rebels are quietly plotting action against the Beck society in this novel. They must stay under the radar while helping as many as they can and preparing to fight back. In this book, we learn more about the upper levels of the Beck society, while Quin and her group of friends struggle to retain appearances of good citizens while the horrible actions taken by the upper levels only get worse in their desperation to maintain control.

Just like the first novel, this book keeps you on your toes, waiting to see what happens next. This book, though, has even more action throughout than the first one, as we learn more about what it takes to keep such a strict society running – and how the citizens affected react. The characters are well developed, and the plot is entertaining without being predictable. The organization of the society is well thought out, with interesting aspects to be learned throughout the book that keep you searching for more. Overall this is very well written and entertaining and deserves to be one of the top books in the genre. I am eager to read what happens next in the series, as we were left on another cliffhanger at the end of the book!

My only complaints would be about some of the minor dramas between the characters, which are so common in young adult novels – confusion over feelings that would be solved with communication. This does give some depth to some of the characters, but I always prefer when these clichés can be avoided or written in a new way so that it feels less familiar. I also wish there was more of it! I can’t wait for the next book, and I wish this one had been longer.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can click on the book below to check it out on Amazon!

Disclaimer: This book was provided to us by the author in digital format for an honest review.

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Book Review: Practice Makes Purpose by C. Paul Schroeder

A new book review of Practice Makes Purpose: Six Spiritual Practices That Will Change Your Life And Transform Your Community by C. Paul Schroeder. This book was a short read at only 198 pages and had some good insight into life and how to approach it.

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Synopsis: The Six Spiritual Practices are a new formulation of a very old set of teachings and disciplines. If you apply them regularly, you will have more energy and vitality, more focus, more compassion, more clarity, and more joy. And these effects will ripple outward into your marriage and family, your parenting, your workplace, your friendships, your neighborhood and city. These practices will change your life and transform your community. They will connect you and the people around you to Purpose, the experience of belonging to something infinitely greater than ourselves.

This book was interesting. It has a lot of good values and it teaches you to gain purpose through 6 spiritual practices. It is kind of like a self-help book but for re-evaluating your day to day decisions on how to interact in different situations. I mainly found that the 6 practices help a lot with self-control.

The author uses examples of how these steps can help in family life and work life so it makes it relatable. It is a great book for someone that wants to gain access to another side of themselves.

I’m not a big fan of self-help type books but this one was a decent read and easy to get through. If you are looking for some spiritual evaluation, take this book for a spin.

You can find the book on Amazon.

Book Rating: 3/5

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author to read and give an honest review.

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