Guest Post: Creating Powerful Characters

Get ready to explore a gem of mythic fiction in Michael Williams’ Dominic’s Ghosts Blog Tour. Taking place February 13-20, 2019, this blog tour celebrates a new stand-alone novel in Michael’s ambitious City Quartet.

Atmospheric and thought-provoking, Dominic’s Ghosts will take you on a unique kind of journey that involves a conspiracy, legends, and insights from a film festival!

About the Author:
Over the past 25 years, Michael Williams has written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the best-selling DRAGONLANCE series to the more recent lyrical and experimental Arcady, singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. In Trajan’s Arch, his eleventh novel, stories fold into stories and a boy grows up with ghostly mentors, and the recently published Vine mingles Greek tragedy and urban legend, as a local dramatic production in a small city goes humorously, then horrifically, awry.

Trajan’s Arch and Vine are two of the books in Williams’s highly anticipated City Quartet, to be joined in 2018 by Dominic’s Ghosts and Tattered Men.

Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent much of his childhood in the south central part of the state, the red-dirt gothic home of Appalachian foothills and stories of Confederate guerrillas. Through good luck and a roundabout journey he made his way through through New England, New York, Wisconsin, Britain and Ireland, and has ended up less than thirty miles from where he began. He has a Ph.D. in Humanities, and teaches at the University of Louisville, where he focuses on the he Modern Fantastic in fiction and film. He is married, and has two grown sons.

Synopsis of Dominic’s Ghosts:
Dominic’s Ghosts is a mythic novel set in the contemporary Midwest. Returning to the home town of his missing father on a search for his own origins, Dominic Rackett is swept up in a murky conspiracy involving a suspicious scholar, a Himalayan legend, and subliminal clues from a silent film festival. As those around him fall prey to rising fear and shrill fanaticism, he follows the branching trails of cinema monsters and figures from a very real past, as phantoms invade the streets of his once-familiar city and one of them, glimpsed in distorted shadows of alleys and urban parks, begins to look uncannily familiar.


Author Links:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Mythical-Realism-The-Michael-Williams-Page-128713900543978/

Guest Post: Creating Powerful Characters

I was asked to write about creating “powerful characters,” which is an interesting distinction from the usual request about “good characters” or “believable characters.”

I could comply with the usual request. Consistency and plausibility are the foundation of any well-drawn character, and a number of writers can do those things and do them ably. But I have a feeling that what’s asked for here is something more—that intriguing moment in fiction where you encounter someone you’ll never forget: Sherlock Holmes, perhaps, or Madame Bovary. Captain Ahab, Hamlet or Gollum.

The figures who haunt you after you close the covers of the book.

Because almost anywhere you look, you can find the standard advice on character plausibility and consistency: writers I know keep notebooks, fill out character sheets, base the people in their stories on the people they know, or “cast” their stories with the screen personalities of appropriate actors or with the best guess at the temperaments of historical figures.

I mean, everyone has heard these methods already. Pick out a tactic that works for you.

Sometimes, though, you hear this complaint: “I just couldn’t relate to the character.” Pay close attention to those moments. Are readers actually saying the character is unrelatable? If so, the solution probably lies in some of the tactics I’ve mentioned above.

However, a lot of the time, what a reader might be saying is, “I couldn’t identify with the character.” And that, to me, is a very different thing. You can believe in a character without that kind of identity that a lot of readers demand: after all, who’d want to be Iago or Saruman, and yet we are fascinated by them, like by something glittering and poisonous. Very often the most powerful characters are figures strange to us, people who stretch our imaginations rather than confirm our assumptions. We do our work as readers in coming to know them, and the fascination of discovery takes the place of the ease in feeling that we already know them.

In short, when I read about a fictional character, I’d rather be asking “What’s up with her?” than resting in the assurance that “she’s just like I would be in that situation.”

My own Vine: An Urban Legend—one of the books in my City Quartet—met the objection of one reviewer that one of the central characters was “unsympathetic”. Well, a drug-addled homeless Elvis impersonator, haunted by paranoia and delusions of grandeur, might not be someone you’d want to buddy up with, much less grow up to be. But I maintain he’s interesting as hell, and his recurrence in the other three volumes—a secondary character in Dominic’s Ghosts, a cameo appearance in the pending new edition of Trajan’s Arch, and one of the two principal figures in the soon-to-be- released Tattered Men—make you more and more acquainted with Tommy Briscoe, so that when you glimpse him from the corner of your eye or when he settles in your sight, I’m hoping you’re curious, eager for more.

All of this without necessarily “identifying with him,” though depending on what book of the Quartet you read first (and you can start with any of them) you may be more sympathetic than if you began somewhere else. Just like living around someone like Tommy: where you start may shape where you end up. But you’ll stretch your thoughts along the way. Explore the character’s contradictions and layers. And that’s the power of characters, and of fiction.

Tour Schedule and Activities

2/13     Ravenous For Reads
www.ravenousforreads.com

2/13     Breakeven Books
https://breakevenbooks.com

2/14     Marian Allen, Author Lady
www.MarianAllen.com

2/15     Inspired Chaos
http://inspiredchaos.weebly.com/blog

2/16     I Smell Sheep
http://www.ismellsheep.com/

2/16     The Book Lover’s Boudoir
https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpress.com/

2/17     Jorie Loves A Story
http://jorielovesastory.com

2/18     The Seventh Star
www.theseventhstarblog.com

2/18     Willow’s Thoughts and Book Obsessions       http://wssthoughtsandbookobsessions.blogspot.com/

2/18     The Horror Tree
www.Horrortree.com

2/19     Sheila’s Guests and Reviews
www.sheiladeeth.blogspot.com

2/20     Jazzy Book Reviews
https://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com/

Amazon Links for Dominic’s Ghosts

Print Version: https://www.amazon.com/Dominics-Ghosts-Michael-Williams/dp/1948042584/

Kindle Version: https://www.amazon.com/Dominics-Ghosts-Quartet-Michael-Williams-ebook/dp/B07F5Z4L18/

Barnes and Noble Link for Dominic’s Ghosts: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dominics-ghosts-michael-williams/1129262622?ean=9781948042581

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Book Review: Otherworld by Jason Segel

Bookworms! I read a book from my own pile over the holidays! This one was for pure pleasure and it kept me engrossed for hours at a time. It was called Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kristen Miller.

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Synopsis: The company says Otherworld is amazing — like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive — that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.

Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

Guys, I loved this book! I read it over the Christmas break in 3 days. And that was between family visits and Christmas dinners. It has such a Ready Player One vibe and that kept me interested from start to finish.

My friend Neil got it for me and he knows what I like in a book. He is the one that got me to read the Red Rising trilogy which is my favorite series of all time as I am sure that you know if you have read my other posts.

But back to this book. It was set in New Jersey and involved this game called Otherworld which was essentially a crazy immersive VR game where you could be whatever you want to be and go out into this world and explore. Simon buds a friendship with this wild child named Kat and they find themselves trapped in a game much deeper than they could ever imagine.

The world that was displayed in Otherworld was fantastic and the way certain gamers were portrayed was pretty spot on. It is sad to see that some people leave their humanity behind when playing online games and completely disconnect from their moral codes.

I want to say more but I can’t say too much about the book because I don’t want to give it away. I am very excited about it and just want other people to read it so we can talk about it. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good YA Sci-Fi story with a bunch of twists and turns.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon (I recommend you do) or find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me as a gift by a friend for Christmas. I read and reviewed it because I wanted to and for no other reason.

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Book Review: Unsavory Delicacies

We have Sara’s first review of the new year ready to share with you. This was the second book in a series that she started in 2018. Let’s see what she had to say about it.

*Also check out her Etsy store Adorkable Lil Crafties to see what she makes in her spare time*

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Synopsis: Rogues, Russians, Revenge…The Ingredients of a Three Course Meal.

Crème Brûlée

Rogue operative, Monique Beauvais, cons a software genius into selling her a coveted technology that would allow its user to control CIA drones while they’re in flight. And she will go as far as killing him in public in order to have it.

To the Last Bite

A renowned food critic–whose scathing reviews have closed down restaurants–gets a savoury surprise.

Shashlyk and Morezhenoe

CIA operative, Ridley Fox, leads a team against one of Russia’s most powerful crime families. He discovers secrets, but not one that he was expecting to find.

Three stories with three consequences. All containing three Unsavory Delicacies.

This collection of three short stories follow Ridley Fox, a spy operative we were introduced to in Brooks’ first novel. Mostly.

SPOILER HERE
In the first short, we have an agent attempting to kill her supplier for some tech, only to discover that the supplier is actually Fox in disguise, and takes down the agent in her own apartment.

In the second short, a food critic is killed by a chef whose food he actually enjoys, for stealing his girlfriend and giving him a terrible review in the past. No sign of Fox in this one, so who knows why this was included in the collection.

In the third, Fox is undercover attempting to find some important files from a Mobster who owns a restaurant. He gets away with it only because he manages to take down one bodyguard which apparently terrifies the Mobster into submission.

I’m not exactly sure what this collection is supposed to be FOR. One of the stories doesn’t include Fox, and none of them include Parris, who is supposedly the other main character. Overall the stories seem like introductions to what could be a more interesting larger story, so maybe they’re a hint of what’s to be in the third book? They also don’t do much to make me like Fox as a character any more than I did after the first book, as he seems to just be an arrogant ass, which might be the point. I personally like at least a couple redeeming qualities in my main narrators, but that might just be me.

I’m interested to see what Brooks will do for the next book, and I hope that it’s a full-length story like Pandora’s Succession. I ALMOST liked that book, and I feel like Brooks has potential as an author if he can use some more original dialogue and plot points. There are some pretty major cliches here that make it feel like you’ve read these ideas in another form already.


Book Rating:
2/5

You can buy the book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: The Apollo Illusion

Happy New year bookworms! It is 2019 :)!! How did everyone do on their reading challenges? Did you have a reading challenge? Mine was to read 30 books in 2018 and I managed to read 34 so that was fun. This year, my goal is to read 50 books so hopefully, I can pull it off.

Today I have a new book review from our external reviewer Chris Connors. He finished this one before the holidays started but I was busy with traveling and visiting with family and friends so this will be our first review of 2019.

This one is called The Apollo Illusion by Shari Lopatin and seems very interesting. I believe it is sci-fi but let’s see what Chris had to say about it!

Apollo Illusion_front cover_final

Published Date: May 19, 2018

Publisher: BookBooks Publishing LLC

Synopsis: The year is 2150 and bullied nineteen-year-old Flora can no longer ignore the burning curiosity to learn what’s behind the towering Wall surrounding her home state of Apollo. Citizens still read books, discuss philosophy, and send text messages, but questioning The Other Side is forbidden. 

When Flora’s naïveté accidentally reveals a dark secret about Apollo, she’s forced into an isolated web of truth, lies, and survival. Fearing for her life, she leaves behind a clue for her childhood friend, Andrew, placing her last hope in their special bond.

The Apollo Illusion is a story for the hackers, the techies, the seekers, and the rebels of the world.

This is a Young Adult genre. I am not the target audience for that genre. I do not get lost in teen angst and burgeoning love stories so I tend to notice plot holes instead of overlooking them due to a flood of raging hormones. I do read YA though (Darkest Minds, Hunger Games, Newsfeed, all in recent months).

So, I dived into Shari Lopatin’s book, and found myself enjoying it more than I expected. The technical writing, grammar, and sentence structure are polished. Her bio says she’s worked as a freelance writer, and all that practice has paid off in terms of a solid technical skill set.

Then there’s the story itself. I started the book at bedtime thinking I’d read 20-30 minutes before sleep. At the 70% mark, I forced myself to put the book down and go to sleep. I have an almost religious devotion to maintaining the same sleep schedule to avoid chronic insomnia that plagues my siblings. Having me voluntarily disrupt my schedule for a book means the author has written a good yarn.

Initially, the story didn’t grab me. I’m still not sure why. Maybe the first part had been overly edited and now felt rehearsed, a bit sterile, too technically perfect? But in a short time, the story pulled me in as the questions began to build. I don’t know if the writing changed or if I adjusted to the style. Either way, the book wouldn’t let me go.

The chapters are narrated in first-person by the two main characters, a technique which greatly contributed to my sleep deprivation; I had to keep reading so I could find out what was happening to the other character when they were separated.

The story kept a strong pace with nicely timed slowdowns building to crescendos. The flow was almost classical in nature where fast and slow movements in a symphony build to a final satisfying finale (think Beethoven, Mozart). The ending did resolve many of the questions that Flora had raised, and it seems some of the things left unanswered would provide fertile ground for continuing with the Apollo saga (please continue!).

Some plot points puzzled me as they went against human nature. We’re told most citizens of Apollo haven’t seen the Wall that protects them. Why not? They were highly educated in arts and sciences yet seemed rather lacking in curiosity except for a small handful. Highly educated goes hand-in-hand with curiosity and pushing the boundaries, and even people who aren’t highly educated are curious and/or at least explore their own geographical location. These people are in the majority, whereas in the book they’re the minority despite the education levels. I had difficulty accepting that an almost ideal society would so easily let go of its urge to explore.

Also, the protagonists went outside the Wall using a tunnel and some elaborate methods to avoid detection from all the cameras. As we later find out others had left Apollo years ago. How they escaped could be for another novel, but it was strange that no-one in the community talked about the missing people with the one exception of Andrew’s dad who went missing 11 years ago. Even strangers commented on this after all these years. So why did no-one also mention other people who had also gone missing, some even more recent? Why didn’t Andrew know about others who had lost a parent or relative? If your dad mysteriously disappears when you’re 8 you’d eagerly search for similar stories in others, and others would share their stories with you.

As well I found the hackers on The Other Side lacking in certain skill sets. Maybe because the story is gripping, exciting, page-turning I shouldn’t have noticed this. Basically, one of the hackers wants to find Apollo, but can’t do so unless he gets the name of the community. My inner hacker objected to that: you do not need a name to figure out where Apollo is located especially if you’re a hacker group that is good enough to hide the people who will pay from the government itself.

They can infer Apollo is nearby. The community would leave a good-sized footprint. You can narrow down potential locations by looking at a map to figure out where you can hide a community. E.g., that nuclear waste dump next to a big abandoned city seems like a good candidate to check with a drone to see if it really is a waste dump and if the city is abandoned.

Even if the government had erased every bit of historical data about the formation and location of Apollo (that would include the name “Apollo” so getting the name doesn’t help anyway) the hackers still have access to data and communications from people so they would use pattern analyses. E.g., they could map the locations of those who send and receive messages (all people on The Other Side communicate solely by electronic means), overlay it with a map of population centers and look for spots where no communication occurs to see if those blank spots are large enough to hide a community.

And they could probably use power consumption records, census data, satellite and aerial photography (past and current), individuals’ journals, old photographs, even conspiracy theories from 75 years ago when a city population was displaced because someone “turned” it into a dump site for nuclear waste. Intelligence agencies have a vast array of pattern analyses tools, like changes in communication frequency and locations, to alert them to potential terror attacks.

If there are future books maybe they’ll deal with those issues, as well as go into more detail what the official story was on the return of the people. The sparse details given explain why the two main characters were back, but wouldn’t seem to fit the others who returned. Also, why isn’t medical technology as advanced in Apollo as it is in The Other Side? I understand avoiding some of the items that led to almost virtual enslavement in the past, but if you’re building a paradise wouldn’t you want advanced medicine? Again, that could be something for future books.

Regardless, these points didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. If I had started this book earlier in the evening, I would have read it in one sitting. I hope Lopatin continues with the story of Apollo, Flora, and Andrew. I want to know what will happen next.

Book Rating: 4/5 stars.

You can buy the book on Amazon, find it on Goodreads and check out the author at her website!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: Factfulness – Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World

Sara sent me a great review of a book she read. It wasn’t on our TBR but it was her little side project and clearly, she loved this book. Take a look at her review below.

*Sidenote: If you are looking for Christmas presents for someone, Sara makes these adorable little craft creatures. Check out her Etsy Shop to see what she has. I know the Potterheads will love her little creations.*

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Synopsis: When asked simple questions about global trends—what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school—we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective—from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.

Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.

I think the best summary of this book is one of the final paragraphs in the book:
“I don’t tell you not to worry. I tell you to worry about the right things. I don’t tell you to look away from the news or to ignore the activists’ calls to action. I tell you to ignore the noise, but keep an eye on the big global risks. I don’t tell you not to be afraid. I tell you to stay coolheaded and support the global collaborations we need to reduce these risks. Control your urgency instinct. Control all your dramatic instincts. Be less stressed by the imaginary problems of an overdramatic world, and more alert to the real problems and how to solve them.”

This book is amazing. Everyone should read it – and I don’t ever even read non-fiction!
This book explains why the world is better off than we think, and what some of our major misperceptions are. The impressive thing, though, is that this is explained in an entertaining, and easy to understand way. It’s a quick, easy read, that thoroughly and simply explains major misperceptions we ALL have about the world, and where our focus actually should be – while still being backed up by plenty of easy-to-follow evidence.

Seriously. Read this book. It’s an easy read and helps you realize that things aren’t as bad as we think, and where we should actually be directing our efforts to improve the world. Read this book. Buy this book for someone.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was an extra read that Sara took on to for a fun side project. It was not asked of her to review it. She just chose to.


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Book Review: Pandora’s Succession + Giveaway Winner

A new review by our external reviewer Sara MacTaylor for a book called Pandora’s Succession by Russell Brooks is ready to be read. Don’t forget to check out Sara’s Giftshop for some gift ideas for Christmas!

Pandora's Succession by Russell Brooks

Synopsis: CIA operative, Ridley Fox, never stopped hunting his fiancée’s killers—a weapons consortium called The Arms Of Ares. When Fox follows a lead to one of their top-secret bioweapons facilities in Chechnya, he barely escapes alive. However, he’s learned that Ares has weaponized a hyper-deadly microbe called Pandora. The trail leads Fox to Tokyo, where he teams up with an old flame and fellow operative, Nita Parris. Aside from Ares, they must contend with rogue agents who’ll stop at nothing to get Pandora. This throws Fox and Parris into a deadly game of spy vs spy, as they must rely on each other to locate the microbe. For if it’s unleashed, it could mean the end of humanity.

This book was a great first start to the series. The novel follows the main character, Ridley Fox, a secret agent, as he works to stop two separate rivaling organizations fighting for control over a deadly substance that would wipe out humanity. There are many twists and turns along the way, a variety of characters and organizations and locations.

Unfortunately, there is almost TOO much going on sometimes, especially at the beginning. I found it a little difficult to remember which character was which and which double agents worked for which organization, etc. I eventually got it sorted about halfway through the book and was able to enjoy it more.
The action is entertaining and I was eager to see where the story went, and I’ll be happily reading the next book in the series. I would like to see the story and the characters fleshed out more and think that this book is a great start to the series, and has set itself up well to continue the action and entertainment.

Book Rating:4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and leave a rating on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in e-book format by the author to read and give an honest review.

Giveaway Winner: Trish Carlson


There is also another book on the block that you should check out if you haven’t heard of it yet. It is called Addicted To Hate by Lucia Mann and it is a great one! You can find it on Amazon or on her website: www.luciamann.com!

Addicted to Hate - Front Cover


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Book Review – Mermaids Are Real

You get a book review! YOU get a book review. We have another one for you guys over here at Breakeven Books. This one is called Mermaids Are Real: The Mystiq Prong by Bo Wu.

Synopsis: Benji Fisher has spent the first twelve years of his life growing up in a small fishing town, Topside. He’s gotten used to the gang of dolphins who follow him on his surfboard and the voices he hears under the water; odd things that have, in their repetition, become part of normal everyday life.

However, none of that prepares him for the recruitment speech he gets from an octopus named Octavius and three of the dolphins the night before his thirteenth birthday.

What would you do if your ‘calling’ in life required you to take a leap/dive of faith? Would you take the plunge?

This is a fantastic book. If I had to say a book that it was like, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan comes to mind. This series was just magical and I had the same feeling of magic and adventure when reading this book. It was mainly set underwater which appealed to me as I love the water and was called a fish as a child.

The main character Benji is very lovable. He is just trying to figure out his life at 13 years old and is then thrown into an entirely new world that he now needs to adapt to and become a part of. He reminds me of a young Aquaman (DC Comics). There are so many interesting aspects of the underwater world that this author has created and it was a pleasure to explore and learn the history of the Aquari.

Once again, I quite enjoyed the antagonist of the story. For some reason, I always like them the most. He demonstrated a strong leadership and badass attitude towards leading his people and ruling over the Topsiders (the people on land).

There isn’t really anything bad I can say about the book. The author gets a little too descriptive at times about the surroundings or the process of an action being portrayed but other than this small detail, it is a great book. I would recommend it to YA readers and anyone who wants a good old classic adventure on the bottom of the ocean.

While reading this book, I found it rare that I actually wanted to put it down. And I was excitedly telling my coworker about it while on our lunch break. It is a book that sticks with you and leaves you wanting more.

Book Rating: 4.5/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads and the author on Facebook and Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in physical format to read and give an honest review.


Book Blogger List

I’m on the Top 100 Book Blogger List!

Wow guys. I saw this morning that I had some traffic referred to my blog from a source I had never seen before so I checked it out and it turns out that I am on the Top 100 Canadian Book Bloggers and Websites to Follow list! You can find me at #49 on the list (in the top percentile by 1% woop woop).

You can find the list here: https://blog.feedspot.com/canadian_book_bloggers/

It is days like this that show all the progress I have made with this little blog. I never would have started this if it wasn’t for my friend Kylee Bakowski. She gave me the idea to start a blog because I talked about books a lot and she saw it as a way to get myself connected with other like-minded people. I am glad that I listened to her and tried it out 🙂

The blog has been live for about a year now and it has been a productive year full of book reviews, being a part of various blog tours, interacting with so many authors and above all the book blogging community. I put enough time into this blog that it could be a full time job. Wouldn’t that be the dream….reading books for work!

Anyways, just a little update this morning but what a cool surprise to see that I made it onto a list. If you get a chance, check out the blogs on the list. A lot of them are the fellow bloggers that converse with me on a weekly basis and will provide excellent book reviews for authors out there.


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Book Review: Lessons From Life

New review up! This one was called Lessons From Life: Four Keys to living with more Meaning, Purpose, and Success! by Steven Darter.

Synopsis: In his deeply personal and inspirational memoir, Steve Darter asks himself the question: What is the purpose of my life? Using incredibly entertaining storytelling, Steve takes you on a journey of emotion, reflection, and insight that encourages you to think about how to live with more meaning, purpose, and success at any age–young, old, or in between.

To me, this book was just ok. I don’t know if it was because it was a self-help style of book or what but I just didn’t feel like I gained much from reading it. That being said, it is not bad. I just didn’t feel like I really got into the book like I would have liked to.

The author is very genuine in his stories about his life and how he overcame certain struggles or how he dealt with insecurities. The stories about when he was a child were entertaining. His love for his family is very strong and he represents that in a lot of his “lessons”.

I lost interest when it started to get a bit pushy with the religious stuff. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and practicing their faith but when it is pushed on others, that tends to put me off. And I found a lot of the stories got very repetitive. In the second half of the book, I would be reading one of the stories that accompany the lessons and would think, “I have already read this” or “I already know this from earlier”.

One quote I did like from this book was

The mind can be a wonderful tool if you allow it.

It is a good concept for a book. I just believe that it could use a little more fleshing out. This may also be a generational thing. I brought this book home with me when I was visiting for Thanksgiving and my mom saw this book on the coffee table. She picked it up and sat down for a bit, flipped through the chapters and read it for about 20 minutes. She seemed to like it a lot so maybe this book is just better suited for an older generation (sorry for calling you old mom).

Book Rating: 2.5/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in physical format to read and give an honest review.


Book Review: The Bird Queen’s Book

Our external reviewer Bonnie Humber has sent in her first review for the book The Bird Queen’s Book by T.L Frances. Bonnie is new to the reviewing team. She runs paint nights in the North Bay area if anyone is interested.

Synopsis: What would you do if you found a mysterious book written in a secret language?

Thirteen-year-old Denny’s life is far from easy. He’s at the bottom of the food chain at school, he works a mind-numbingly boring student job at his uncle’s shredding store, and, on top it all, he has to try out for the school basketball team—and let’s just say basketball’s not his strong point.

But one day, he finds an ancient book in an indecipherable language. Could it be a secret code? Or maybe even… magic?
As Denny starts spinning a fantasy tale around the book, the real world begins to fade from view. It won’t be long before his problems catch up with him, crashing down one by one…

When Denny, a young lad trapped in the mundane rut of his middle school life, happens upon an old mysterious book in his uncle’s paper shredding shop, he is compelled to give the unreadable tome meaning. Inspired by the cover and beautiful, foreign script, Denny escapes his day to day problems by writing a history for the Bird Queen’s Book. His new obsession quickly starts to take over, and affect his relationships with the people closest to him. Is Denny able to keep his loved ones close, or will he risk everything that’s real for a fantasy?

Although the language and imagery were rather basic, I enjoyed the concept and the personality of a few main characters. Although this book is meant for children, I still found this story to be too simple. The story would have been better for me if the plot had more substance. There are so many intriguing areas in this story that could have been expanded upon. For instance:

  • A thirteen-year-old boy with an imaginary friend
  • The history or reasoning behind the outlawing of magic
  • The love and acceptance of Denny by his friend Max, despite Denny’s behavior

I feel that if the plot had more substance on a sociological level, the story would be more enjoyable and less flat.

I was captivated by the plot twist of the imaginary friend. I found this character to be one of
the most developed, and when I realized they were not real, I was truly surprised and I loved it! I really wanted to know and understand more about this character once this twist was revealed.

“Don’t be an idiot”, I scold myself. “It’s just a book.”

I love this quote because as any good reader can tell you, there’s no such thing as “just a book”. I really feel that this story needs some fleshing out. But once that is done, I would definitely recommend it to any young reader.

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format to read and give an honest review.

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