Guest Post: How to Make Your Books Both Enjoyable and Educational

This is a guest post by author Fiona Ingram as part of her book blog tour.

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Teachers and parents welcome with open arms books that help kids enjoy reading, immerse them in a wonderful new world and encourage them to want to learn more about the subject or topics covered in the story. The hardest part of writing fiction that involves facts, history, mythology, geography and the details that my middle-grade adventures involve is knowing what to put in and what to leave out.

My first middle-grade book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, is set in Egypt. Although I actually went to Egypt with my mom and my two nephews (who later became the templates for my young heroes), going to a place and writing about it are very different. I think Egypt was even more daunting than I imagined because so much has been written about the country, its history, and its culture that I felt under enormous pressure to check, double check, and check again (just in case) all my facts. There are also conflicting opinions of experts so one must be careful whose opinion one chooses.

I confess I overwrote the rough drafts of the first manuscript. There was so much information that I ended up almost drowning in it. It seems a shame that hours of research goes into looking up facts that will make perhaps only a brief mention in the chapter concerned. However, there is no point in inundating readers with lots of information. After careful thought, I realized that all I should include was what the young heroes needed to know as the plot unfolded. Details should be carefully and subtly woven into the story, always being an integral part of what the heroes need to know to move along in their adventure.

So, after the excitement of Egypt, what came next? The next book in my adventure series The Chronicles of the Stone takes place in Scotland, where the heroes are in search of the Second Stone of Power. The title is The Search for the Stone of Excalibur and that should be enough of a clue for fans to see where the story is heading. I had already spent a few amazing weeks in Scotland, researching old castles. Ask me anything about castles … with or without drawbridges, moats, portcullises, battlements … you name it, I visited it.

Finally, I settled upon the fabulous, fairytale setting of Dunrobin Castle, for me
an exquisite vision, as the setting for Book Two. Interviews with experts are a real boon. Leila, our fantastic guide in Egypt, was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on the country. Contrary to what one might think, travel guides (the official ones) in any country, have a vast amount of knowledge on their subject. It came as no surprise to find that Leila had a university degree!

In Book 3: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, set in Mexico, the young heroes must play an ancient form of a ball game, the Mesoamerican ball game, to survive. I was fortunate enough to find an expert on the subject whose advice and book were invaluable. Again, so much has been written on this topic, as well as the ancient cultures of the Maya and the Aztecs—that feature in the story—that I really had to pare down the details to just what was integral to the plot and to the young heroes’ survival. Dialogue is a great way to include details that are necessary and having characters exchange information makes the detail realistic and interesting. I try to include storytelling by characters to share information. In all my books there are old stories or legends that make an appearance and add to the mystery. Told as a story within the main story makes it interesting for young readers. This could also lead on to further activities—for example, the students might enjoy acting out scenes from the stories, or even undertake their own research to find out if and how the fictional version deviates from the known facts.

Stories within the main story are a must. This gives an added depth and introduces cultural elements that are so unusual for young readers in a modern, media-driven and technologically saturated world. Within each of my books, the young heroes are told old stories, either legends or myths or in the case of Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, the old ghost stories surrounding the castle. What a lovely experience, with delicious shivers going up and down their spines! In Book 3: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, the young heroes hear some important stories about the ancient Aztec and Maya gods, and when their adventures are finally over, they tell the story of their exploits to the villagers seated around the campfire, perhaps creating their own legends in a way.

Another excellent idea for authors whose books contain facts and relevant information is to include an appendix, either a young readers’ guide (which I do) or even just a glossary of unfamiliar words. Parents can then encourage their kids to read this to enhance their enjoyment of the story, achieve a greater understanding of the environment and atmosphere of the events, and teachers can use it to inspire further research. Contrary to popular opinion, kids love to learn, be it new words or new facts and/or details. Books that inspire the desire in kids to learn more deserve a top place on every bookshelf.

You can find Fiona at –
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/secretofthesacredscarab/
Website: www.chroniclesofthestone.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn
Author Site: http://www.FionaIngram.com
Blog: http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2868182.Fiona_Ingram


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Author Interview: Dan Jolley

Hey there bookworms! I took part in another blog tour for Dan Jolley’s trilogy. With aliens and genetic mutations in the series, the Gray Widow Trilogy encompasses science fiction, urban fantasy and superhero fiction. The covers for this series were done by Dark Horse Comics artist John Nadeau.

About the author:   Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.

Dan began writing for video games in 2007 and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest Georgia, and enjoys connecting with readers via his website (www.danjolley.com) and on Twitter (@_DanJolley).

And now for the moment you have all been waiting for ….. the interview 😛

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

  1. How did you start writing?

If you mean, when did I start writing in general? That would be, I’d say, eight or ten minutes after I learned to read, honestly. I’ve always made up stories, as far back as I can remember, and as soon as I figured out how to put words on a page, I started writing them down. (Brief aside: I didn’t go to kindergarten, and when I got to first grade, I couldn’t read. At all. I mean, I knew the letters of the alphabet, but I didn’t know how they fit together. So, for the first, I don’t know, two or three months, I was in the slowest “reading group” in my class. Then, one day, kind of in a huge epiphany, all the letters and words just *clicked*, and from one week to the next I got bumped up to the fastest “reading group.” I’ve never looked back.)

If you mean, when did I start writing professionally? That happened when I was nineteen and still in college. I met a girl in a video game arcade, asked her out, and subsequently got introduced to a few of her friends who were professional comic book artists. That connection led to my first writing contract. I didn’t actually get any money for that contract, because the company went under before they could pay me (or publish the story), but not long afterward I landed another comic book job that ended up providing a couple of terms’ tuition. I still write comic books, but over the years I’ve branched out into licensed-property novels, movie novelizations, original novels, and video games. I’m really not picky *what* I’m writing. As long as I’m writing *something*, I’m happy.

  1. Who is your favorite author?

It changes as I get older. I grew up reading Louis L’Amour westerns and Larry Niven hard sci-fi, and for a long time, they tied for my top spot. L’Amour and Niven eventually lost out to Dean Koontz, and later Koontz got thrown over for John Sandford, and I’d say lately my favorite is Jim Butcher. I don’t know. I’m about to start reading James S.A. Corey’s Expanse novels, so we’ll see what happens.

  1. What goes into your writing/planning process?

There are two general schools of thought about writing, especially writing novels, often referred to as “Plotters vs. Pantsers,” as in “people who carefully plot out a story” vs. “people who fly by the seat of their pants and make up the story as they go along.”

I’m the opposite of a pantser. I outline relentlessly. I usually use the twelve-point skeleton advocated by Christopher Vogler in his book The Writer’s Journey, expand that into a fairly beefy outline, and refer to that outline constantly as I’m writing a novel. It gets even more granular when I’m working on a comic book or a video game, since the space constraints on those are sort of draconian, and I’ll actually draw out a diagram in a big sketchbook that lets me visualize the whole story before I ever start in on the script.

A big part of this is that basically when you sign a contract with a publisher to create something for them, with the understanding that they’ll be paying you for this creation, they want to know what it is they’re paying for. So even if I weren’t already naturally inclined to plot everything out before the actual fingers-to-keyboard gets started, I’d have to anyway. No publisher anywhere is going to pay you if they don’t know what your story’s going to be.

  1. What do you like about reading?

When you become a writer, you can’t help but look at entertainment in a different way from what you used to. I can still enjoy a good movie or TV show or game or book, but every second that I’m taking it in, watching or playing or reading, I’m *analyzing* it. “How did the writer achieve that effect?” and “Wow, that’s powerful characterization, I’ll have to remember that technique.” and “Hey, there’s the break between Acts 2 and 3.”

So I never read a hundred percent for pleasure anymore, but at the same time, when I do read something great, it’s like my education as a writer continues. I never want to stop learning or stop trying to get better. Reading these days is part fun, part job research, but I’m fine with that.

  1. Where is your favorite reading spot?

I’ve got a nice comfy recliner in my office, set up across from a TV with my PS4 hooked up to it. That’s where I do all my reading and gaming.

  1. What words of advice do you give to the readers of your book?

Well, since GRAY WIDOW’S WAR is the third book in the Gray Widow Trilogy, I would advise readers to get their hands on the first and second books first. (I realize that comes off as shameless self-promotion, but the fact remains… if you just start with the third book, you’ll be kind of lost.)

GRAY WIDOW’S WAR is Urban Science-Fiction, and if it were a movie, it would definitely be rated R. It’s about a group of humans who, unbeknownst to them, become subjects in an extraterrestrial weapons experiment that alters their DNA and turns them into military combat archetypes—Reconnaissance, Infantry, Interrogator, Medic, etc.

The story concerns how this process affects these people, not just physically, but also mentally and, especially, emotionally. It centers on a young woman named Janey Sinclair, whose life has been marked by tragedy after tragedy, and her decision to use her “Augmentation” to try to prevent other people from experiencing the same kind of pain and anguish that she has. The real question becomes—even as she has to deal with issues such as bloodthirsty shape-shifters, mind-controllers, and huge armored aliens—can Janey ever truly heal herself?

The Gray Widow Trilogy involves some superhero tropes, but it dives pretty quickly into science-fiction and horror, and doesn’t shy away from sexuality. So, I would say, if you’re looking for a stupendously badass female protagonist, some emotional roller-coaster rides, and a heaping helping of horrifying violence, you’ve come to the right place. If, on the other hand, you normally watch Merchant-Ivory films and think the “Drama in Real Life” segments of Reader’s Digest are too stimulating… proceed with caution? I guess?


That wraps up another author interview! Make sure to check Dan Jolley out on Twitter and go see his website. And read his trilogy people! It’s pretty freakin sweet 🙂


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Book Review: Hollow Fissure

Hey there bookworms! We have a new reviewer that has joined the ranks to help out with some of the ebooks I have piled up over here. His name is Joseph Harrison and he is a writer. I am thankful for his help. For his first review, he took on Hollow Fissure by Max E. Stone.

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Review:

The story opens with Melissa recovering from wounds suffered when she killed her father, a sex ring trafficker. She was hiding out in Trieste, Italy until the authorities found her and now want to bring her to justice in America, specifically, Rhode Island, however, she is not without guilt as we learn that she had taken a knife to her sister-in-law’s stomach and kidnapped her own daughter under what we learn
are hallucinations. Leeann feels Jon, Melissa’s brother is hiding something from her. I won’t spoil it so you’ll have to read it.

Overall, the story was easy to read and the writing was good. The dialog was especially good, but I felt like there was something missing. There was barely any description of any place the story took place in. For example; it said Kyle and Melissa’s flat. I would have liked a little more description here, also it didn’t explain to my satisfaction why they were in Trieste, Italy. Did they have relatives there? Did they know someone there? It could have described the city. I think readers would like to know what the city looked
like and felt like. At times, I felt like I was just listening in on people’s conversations as opposed to feeling like I was actually there.

CONS
The story could have been better with more description of the places. I know this was the 4th book in the series so I understand some of the events probably happened in earlier “books” but if you are going to market this as a separate book, it should bring the reader up to date as to what happened earlier. For example, if I watch Seinfeld or the Big Bang Theory I don’t need to know what happened in previous episodes, each episode has its own story. The last sex scene in the book bordered on light porn and I didn’t think it was necessary.

PROS
The dialog and editing were excellent. I could not find any glaring errors. I liked the writing, it made me want to find out more about the characters and the plot.

Book Rating: 3/5

You can find the book on Amazon.

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


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Book Review: Taken with a Dark Desire by Dennis Scheel

Another book review from yours truly! This one was called Taken With A Dark Desire by Dennis Scheel. It is a story involving angels and demons so naturally I was intrigued.

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Synopsis: Never trust a deal with the Devil. Lucifer wants Denida’s ring though he promised not to interfere in Denida’s world. He sends Claus to kidnap Daniel to force Denida to trade. Daniel tells the story of his Dad’s secret past to unsettle them. Nina, Denida and the Colonel use all the resources of the Underworlds to find Daniel. Neither they nor the Devil knows there is another person interested in Daniel for their own reasons.

I had many things I liked about this book and many things I didn’t. I will start with the pros. It was about angels and demons so PRO right there. Fantasy books are the best. They always have so much potential and can go in any direction which makes for an exciting read.

I really bonded with the character of Michelle. She was a badass and very powerful in ways the other characters couldn’t even imagine. I tend to like the evil characters more so that is probably why I like her. Lucifer was pretty fun too. Of course I am drawn to Lucifer’s character 😛 *insert evil laugh*

It was pretty cool how Daniel was a side part of the novel where he is telling a story about how his father came to power. This made it split the plot into two storylines, one in the present and one in the past.

And now the cons. First off, the character names. They were all so similar that it was hard to distinguish who was who at times. Some examples are Denida, Nina, Dan, Daniel, Danyel…. they all sounded similar and a lot of the time I had to really concentrate to know who was speaking. I feel like it would be much better if the names were a little more diversified.

There were some grammatical errors which bugged me a bit. The worst thing is when you are deep into an exciting adventure and then all of a sudden you are ripped out of the fantasy due to person “petting a house” instead of “petting a horse” (this is not one of them, just an example). There were only a few so it wasn’t too bad but still brought me out of the fantasy every once and awhile.

*SPOILER ALERT* – skip this part if you plan to read the book

The ending was very anticlimactic for me. The entire time you are expecting this big fight between Denida and Medusa and don’t get me wrong, there is a fight but it lasted 2 and a half pages. This book is 400 pages and the final fight was a mere 2 and a half pages. I was hoping for destruction and mayhem. At least a whole chapter of it. But nope, just like that, it was over. And if Denida had all this power, why didn’t he use it earlier.

*SPOILER ENDED*

All in all, it was a decent book. This book is for the fantasy lovers out there. I had very mixed feelings on it but I would still say to give it a read so I could hear others thoughts on it.

Book Rating: 3/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: We were sent this book by the author in physical format to read and give an honest review.


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Book Review: Kingdom Come by Justin Coogle

Hola bookworms. Guess what!?

I made it to 400 followers on Twitter 🙂 This has been one of my goals for awhile and I am super pumped to have surpassed it. Also, Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! I doubt they read the blog but hey if they do, this will make their day. Anyways enough about the socials and down to the knitty gritty as Scott would say from HQ Trivia.

Another review by our external reviewer @saramact !! This one is called Kingdom Come by Justin Coogle. It is a Christian fantasy. Pretty cool as I am reading a book about angels and demons too right now. Read on to see what Sara had to say!

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Synopsis: In this book, our protagonist Jason Collins is a Demon Hunter, as a part of an organization sanctioned and funded by the modern Catholic Church, headed up by the new Pope, who initiated the organization. Their tasks range from defending the Vatican against demon invasions to hunting down and eliminating demons around the world. Jason, as the newest member of his team, struggles between earning his place in this life he wants so badly, and feeling like he belongs in his faith as well.

Because of his heroic antics, Jason is on thin ice with the DH, and must prove himself in the upcoming mission: a mysterious graveyard that appears out of nowhere, with several missing crews of DH agents within. What comes back with the team from this mission will forever alter the way that the world sees the DH, as they are soon confronted with an evil they never expected, that attacks where they least expected.

I found this book very enjoyable. It did a good job of developing characters in a very natural way, and the book itself progressed very fluidly, without being predictable at all. I also found that Coogle did a very good job of blending the Christian with the Fantasy. I am not very religious and was a bit worried about how the faith aspects of the book would impact the story for someone who isn’t interested in that bit, but it came off much more like just a regular trait that the characters have rather than a central focus of the book. Even the religious aspects of the demon-fighting were very minimal, and so as a non-believer I still found it very enjoyable. I imagine if the reader was religious this would be an even better read, as you could relate to the characters on a deeper, spiritual level.

My only complaints would be that my copy had a few minor spelling errors, though sometimes that happens as a result of conversion to e-book format. I also might have liked to see a bit more detail in a few places, just to flesh out what I was visualizing a little more, like character descriptions, or even more setting etc., but this is mostly just preference. Overall I really enjoyed the book, and I was slightly surprised by this, because of the genre. It was a good fantasy/supernatural read, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can find the book on Amazon and Goodreads.

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


Book Review: The Road Ahead

One more book review to post before I depart for Iceland today! This one is called The Road Ahead by Hali Broncucia and I finished it last night after packing.

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Synopsis: A viral epidemic has wiped out 99% of the world’s population leaving scientist Heather Morgan to fight off thieves and scrounge for food and shelter near Denver, Colorado. When Heather befriends the young, naïve Jodi, she learns that a biotech company in San Francisco is rumored to have created a vaccine. Together, the women trek by foot to find the lab.

After suffering a near-fatal attack, Heather and Jodi find a safe haven on a farm with two young men, Cam and Elliot. Their security is short-lived, however, when irrevocable consequences threaten Heather’s mission. Will Heather be able to overcome loss and tragedy to find the vaccine or will she let sorrow overtake her and turn back? How many lives are worth the risk for a hope that rests in only a rumor?

I liked this book. I have been enjoying the books I have been reading quite a lot lately. This one followed Heather’s travels as she journeys from Colorado to California to find a cure for this horrible disease that has wiped out most of the population. She meets a young adult woman named Jodi who ends up joining her on her journey and they become good friends. They have some intense encounters and meet others along the way which keeps the book interesting.

There is one thing I would have added if I had the choice though. Can anybody guess what that would be? 😛 Yup its zombies. I love a good virus/infection that spreads and turns people into zombies because it adds in the extra factor of suspense where you are no longer just trying to survive a disease but also a horde of zombies.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes an intense YA survival story. It has the adventure for those explorers and a little bit of romance for you love junkies out there.

The finale of this book is very open-ended and leaves you with an impression that there will be a sequel. Some characters are no more and some are coming together in a way you wouldn’t expect. I look forward to continuing the series when it is out 🙂

Book Rating: 4/5

Go follow the author on her Instagram to keep up to date on the book.

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


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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: 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: 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