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!

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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: The Suitcase and The Jar

I had the pleasure of reviewing a book called The Suitcase and The Jar by Becky Livingston. This book was sent to me by a publishing company called Caitlin Press. They are based out of British Columbia and were excited to do this collaboration with me when I approached them back in late October. Sara joined me and read this one as well so we will have 2 reviews below (one from me and one from her).

Synopsis: When a brain tumor takes the life of Becky Livingston’s twenty-three-year-old daughter Rachel, her life takes an unconventional turn. Rachel, an avid traveler, had one wish: to keep exploring the world.

So, for twenty-six months Livingston travels — untethered and alone — to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, India, England, Ireland, and North America, coast to coast. In her suitcase: Rachel’s ashes, heavy but compact. As she gradually merges her daughter’s remains with the elements, Livingston learns how to forge a new sense of belonging in an unfamiliar world.

Is it reckless for a fifty-three-year-old mother to quit her job and set off overseas with no agenda or timeline? Is such a journey squandering a life, or saving it?

Sara’s Review: This book is a memoir of a mother who has lost one of her daughters. She travels the world by house-sitting internationally, and she has brought a jar of her daughter’s ashes with her to leave in the places she finds beautiful. Throughout the book, Livingston reveals, through memories, her daughter’s life and death, as well as how she begins to attempt to piece her life back together after the loss.

This book was a very intriguing read, at first, as the writing is so brilliantly done that it is very easy to understand and empathize the author’s loss. I enjoyed the way we were both observing the loss as well as reading about poignant memories of her daughter before her death. As we learn about and grow with the author as she begins to feel like she can move on, I was particularly intrigued by the realizations and personal growth that was achieved and expressed. The writing in this novel does an excellent job of articulating something as inarticulate as an extreme loss, especially the loss of a child too young.

Through Livingston’s journey of acceptance both before and after her daughter’s death, it is so easy to feel her pain and understand all her feelings and reactions. I really enjoyed being able to experience something like this in such a beautiful and well-composed way, especially as it is a memoir rather than fiction.

Eventually, unfortunately, the book begins to feel like you’ve read it before, in that near the last quarter of the book it seems as though all the feelings have been adequately expressed, and it begins to feel repetitive. Though still beautifully written, you begin to feel like Livingston is just restating what she has already written in slightly changed ways. Although I can’t quite complain about a “character” in a non-fiction book, there were times when I had trouble understanding what comes off as selfishness from the author. Although she suffered the terrible loss of her daughter, she has another daughter whom she completely leaves and loses touch with during her journey, and evidently was too distracted by her sick daughter to ever be close to her second daughter even before the death.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. It was well constructed, I enjoyed the style and the writing, I was able to fully empathize with the author, and the story was beautiful and sad and meaningful. I only wish that it had been about 50 pages more succinct, and then I think that I would be more apt to recommend this book to others.

Sara’s Book Rating: 4/5

My Review: I can honestly say that I have never read a book like this before. It was very unique to see the perspective of the mother throughout her daughter’s slow decline from her brain tumor. Grief can play so many roles in one’s life and Becky had to deal with the loss of her fiance and the loss of her daughter to the same type of tumor. She explains how she dealt with this grief in many different ways and how there is no shelf life for the feeling of loss when someone you spend your life raising dies before you do.

What inspired me was the nomad lifestyle she took on to explore and distribute some of her daughter’s ashes in places all over the world. It helped her in her grieving process and it was a way to fulfill Rachel’s love of traveling in a way she never could. I wish I could go travel the world like Becky did (not under the same circumstances but to be able to see the many amazing places and destinations this world has to offer).

I find at some parts of the book, it gets a bit repetitive but this could be to illustrate the same routine that Becky had to go through while being a mother caring for family members that were terminally ill.

Overall, it was an enlightening book about a mother’s journey to figure out what life has to offer after losing what was most important to her.

My Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can get this book directly from the publisher on Caitlin Press or you can buy it on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

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

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Book Review: Foe by Iain Reid

Wow. Just wow. This book was awesome! Hey bookworms, I have another review to share with you. This one is called Foe by Iain Red. and was sent to me by NetGalley for review.

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Synopsis: In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.

It would be classified as a sci-fi psychological thriller? It’s Iain Reid. His books for lack of a better word f**k with your head but in a good way that keeps you drawn into the story and wanting more.

I figured out the twist pretty quickly but read the entire story to get the satisfaction that I was right. It was like unpeeling an onion layer by layer and unveiling each new part to the story that gave you just a little bit more.

The character development was wonderful. The main characters become so engrossed in their lives together yet are so far apart from each other at the same time. They get set in routine but don’t actually realize what the other is feeling.

If you don’t want to know any more, go buy this book! But below I will reveal a spoiler so don’t read it if you don’t want to know the end.

SPOILER BEGINNING

SPOILER HERE - READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

So I knew right from the beginning that Junior wasn’t human due to the fact that when he spoke, there were no parentheses around his words. None the less, I was still engrossed in his character development and loved learning about the Installation and where the real Junior has been all along.

I also love that Henrietta actually left the real Junior at the end to make a life for herself that was her own and where she wasn’t expected to be at Junior’s beck and call. The fact that Junior couldn’t tell the difference between real Hen and a fake shows a lot about his personality and his connection or lack thereof with the real Hen.

SPOILER END

This book is a must-read recommendation from me! I want to talk about it with others and hear their opinions. If you have read the book, leave a comment below about what you thought.

Book Rating: 5/5

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

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

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Christmas Season

It has been a flurry over here at Breakeven Books. We are getting prepared for the holiday season and are busy buying Christmas gifts, baking goodies and finishing up all the projects of the year.

And the best part about the holidays?! More time to read 🙂 I already have a list of 3 books I want to try and finish over the holidays. But I will still be saving time to do the regular Christmas traditions with the family such as driving around looking at Christmas lights with a thermos of cider, listening to Christmas music, and watching Christmas movies (especially It’s A Wonderful Life on December 24th).

via GIPHY

I also get a week off of my full-time job so that is nice. Nothing like a little R&R over the holidays.

Does your family have any holiday traditions that you partake in each year? What are they? Tell me in the comments below 🙂

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays bookworms.

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Book Review: Provider​ Prime

More fantastic reviews from our external reviewer Chris Connors! This one was called Provider Prime: Alien Legacy by John Vassar.

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Synopsis: Earth has endured world wars, global famine and the near-collapse of civilization. It has always survived. But it has never seen anything like this…

After a century of peace, world security is under attack from an entity with incredible power and intelligence. Something that has remained hidden within the Populus for decades. Something malevolent.

Facing impossible odds, one man is caught in a race against time to find and eliminate the threat. Earth’s all-powerful AIs, the SenANNs, offer hope but have their own agenda for the future of mankind. As an alien starship appears on the outskirts of the solar system, the loyalty of the most advanced machine minds the world has ever known will be tested.

In the final reckoning, with the future of humanity at stake, the SenANNs themselves will hold the balance of power.

Will they stand with the human race or assist in its subjugation?

An expletive might be appropriate here, but I’ll settle for, “oh boy, this book was good!” I admire anyone who has taken the time to write a book, even if it isn’t all that good, because, by gum, they sat down and wrote a friggin’ book! How awesome is that?! Then you get an author who not only has written a book but has done it so well you wouldn’t know that there was no professional publishing house behind him.

For the most part, this book was difficult to put down at bedtime. It wasn’t just good in terms of the storyline, but good in terms of writing, both creative and technical. If there were any spelling errors or major grammar mistakes I missed them. I thought I spotted an incorrect comma placement right near the beginning, but that’s probably po-ta-toe vs po-taw-toe scenario; and I was so involved in the story right from page one I didn’t even slow down to check. The attention to detail needed for this level of technical writing is something you expect from a professional editor—my reviews have more grammatical errors in them than this entire book (I’m pretty good at spotting errors in my own work but only after they’ve gone online or been sent out to a client).

Set about 2 centuries in the future, Earth’s scientific knowledge has leaped forward since the time of the Great Famine when several billion people died and humanity was in danger of extinction. Space flight, orbital living quarters, AI, Moon and Mars colonies are thriving, and crime rates are at a manageable level. People are beginning to exhibit signs of telepathy or empathic connections, something that is viewed with a bit of suspicion, but doesn’t stray into us vs them X-men territory; instead, it plays a background part that adds to the storyline rather than be the storyline.

Part of the story blurb from Amazon states, “After a century of peace, world security is under attack from an entity with incredible power and intelligence. Something that has remained hidden within the Populus for decades. Something malevolent.

Facing impossible odds, ex-FedStat agent Lee Mitchell is caught in a race against time to find and eliminate the threat. Earth’s all-powerful AIs, the SenANNs, offer hope but have their own agenda for the future of mankind. They also have plans for Mitchell which will make him question what it is to be human.”

It won’t come as a spoiler, given the sub-title of the book, that aliens are involved, but at first, you don’t know why they’re here—to aid or to subjugate?

One thing, of many, that I liked is the author doesn’t explain all the terms— he doesn’t spoon-feed you like some authors (you know who you are) who seem to have a low opinion of their readers’ intelligence.

In real life we don’t explain all our acronyms or terms or how things work to people we talk to, but use them with the understanding that they also know these shortcut terms or how things work: MTO, OPP, coppers, 9-1-1, tweakers, NFL, change the spark plugs, electoral processes, and on it goes. Vassar’s technique feels much more “realistic” than having characters explain things for the sake of the reading audience that should be obvious to the other characters in the book.

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Did your pilot just explain pilot acronyms to another pilot?

With Vassar, the reading audience can pick up what is meant within a few pages of seeing the terms used in context. His well-done technique kept me turning pages; I wasn’t pulled out of the story, which happens when some character explains what should be obvious to those around him. I feel this type of writing technique is under-appreciated by many readers because the story flows so smoothly they don’t recognize why it flows that way.

He also manages not to veer into William Gibson territory who has taken “aggravatingly obtuse” to a whole new level; Gibson is brilliant, but avoid going on Gibson reading binge if you want to maintain your love of reading.

The pacing of the Vassar’s story also kept me turning pages. Things did slow down a bit near the end, strangely enough, when the alien spaceship finally shows up—it was still interesting though. As well, there were a couple of items that didn’t seem to fit into the story—it wasn’t fully explained why an agent’s communication node failure was integral to the story nor why it had to malfunction; far as I could tell it wasn’t necessary as that storyline could have been fulfilled using devices that are already in place.

There is also a couple of near Deus ex Machina used to extricate characters out of tight situations near the end (one technological, one convenient telepathic intervention); it felt like cheating to me. If you don’t know what Deus ex Machina is, don’t look it up—it’ll ruin Star Trek for you forever.

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“Don’t look, you’ll be ok, this will be the last Deus ex Machina device for this week, ahhh.. I mean season”.

And, I thought the love interest wasn’t developed well at all—Mitchell just meets this person yet they’re deeply in love. Yes, they both are latent telepaths, but the story didn’t explore how this brought them towards deep love. The love interest felt tacked on to give Mitchell more motivation for continuing on against some good-sized odds.

But those are minor quibbles. The line “We are the same. But we are different” (see front piece picture) is a recurring theme in the book, which ties things together. It is especially put to good use at the end of the story where the words “We are the same” take on new meaning, which gave me a happy chill. The universe Vassar has created felt realistic, creatively done, and was clever, which is fitting considering his writing was the same way.

The ending does leave room for further books in this universe. It also could end right there, as it was fairly satisfying and leaves it to the reader to imagine what might happen next. If Vassar does continue with this universe I’ll buy those books. Personally, I want to know how Mitchell’s life continues as all he knows now will completely change how he sees life. Vassar has demonstrated that his writing is comparable with some well-known authors, and I thought it was better writing than some big names (you still listening, Dean?).

For just the technical prowess alone I’d give 6/5 stars if there were such a thing. For storyline, creative writing, imagination, well-developed universe, definitely a 5/5 star book, and then some!

Book Rating: 5/5

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

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

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Book Review: The Ambassador Of What

Bookworms! I am super excited to share this review of The Ambassador Of What by Adrian Michael Kelly. This book was sent to me by an amazing publishing company called ECW Press as part of a blog collaboration I reached out to them about doing.

Publishers Weekly recognizes ECW Press as one of the most diversified independent publishers in North America. ECW Press has published close to 1,000 books that are distributed throughout the English-speaking world and translated into dozens of languages.

Synopsis: Slogging through the miles of a city marathon, an eleven-year-old boy encounters small miracles; about to marry one of her patients in a home for the elderly, a nurse asks her estranged son to come to the wedding and give her away; home from university, a young man has Christmas dinner with his hard-up dad in a bistro behind a rural gas bar. Men and boys and maleness, money and its lack, the long haunt of childhood, marriage and divorce — these lie at the heart of The Ambassador of What. Driven by an ear for how we talk, how we feel, how we fail, and how we love, these are tough and tender stories that take hold, and linger.

Honestly, this book was brilliant. It was so real and showed the sides of a family in all their great times and all their struggles. No family is ever perfect and it was refreshing to see that portrayed in these storylines.

The book was completely set in Canada (primarily Ontario) which I loved because this is where I live. I am in North Bay but the book referenced Toronto, Kingston, Sudbury and then other small towns in Ontario. Books that are set in my home country always resonate with me. It’s amazing to have attention being drawn to your home; the place where you have grown and created stories and memories in your lifetime.

It isn’t too long either so it keeps you interested from start to finish. The last part was about a father and son going fishing and it was so similar to how I used to go fishing with my dad. They had the same mannerisms in their preparation for the daily catch and what bait they used (frogs on a hook). I was not a fan of the impaling of frogs on a hook as I was a kid and felt bad for the frogs so I tended to use other styles of bait or the old classic worm and a bobble lure. I felt like I was reading my memory straight out of my brain. Then I had a dream about fishing that night that was so vivid, I felt very nostalgic the next day. A book that can bring out this feeling and emotion in me is one you don’t forget so quickly.

Overall, I would suggest picking up this book for a quick, entertaining read that will bring you back to your roots.

Book Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy this book on ECW Press and find it on Amazon and Goodreads!

Sidenote: I am running a fundraiser for our local Food Bank in North Bay to raise money and make sure that families will have something to eat over the holidays. You can donate at this link:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/2243695192532823/?fundraiser_source=external_url

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by ECW Press in physical format to read and give an honest review. 

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Blogger Interview: Ana Milosavic

I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with a fellow blogger! You may remember her. We did a post with her last week on the Jodi Picoult interview. Her name is Ana Milosavic and she is a blogger and marketing expert. Check out her answers below:

Blogger Interview


  1. What is your top read of 2018 so far? 

There are so many good ones! Even though this wasn’t published in 2018, I read it this year. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was fantastic! I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, but the emotions were so real and raw, that once I was finished, I couldn’t seem to stop talking about it!

The Girl with All The Gifts by M.R. Carey is a close second, that I also read this year. I have a slight obsession with anything sci-fi or dystopian, so this book very easily filled my need for sci-fi at the time.

  1. What is your favorite book friendship? 

Without a doubt, my favorite book friendship is that of Jude, JB, Willem and Malcolm in A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s not often that you get to witness characters age, grow and change together, and see how that affects the dynamics of their friendships. I find that this relationship most closely matches that of real life, long-term friends, and I like a little reality in my fiction!

  1. Most anticipated book release of 2018? 

Can I say my most anticipated book release of 2019? I’m most looking forward to The Butterfly Museum by Rene Denfeld. I’ve been waiting a while for her to release a new novel, so I’m counting down! I highly suggest reading The Enchanted, her debut novel, I promise you won’t regret it.

  1. How many books are in your TBR Pile? 

Too many to count. I have an ongoing list on my phone that just keeps growing. I’m hoping to one day get through all of them, but every year so many amazing books get released, and my list just keeps getting longer.

Audible has been great with helping me get through some of the longer books on my list. This way, I can listen while I’m driving, doing chores, working out, and any other time that I would usually be listening to music. I don’t know what I did without it.

  1. Who is your favorite author? 

Currently, I’m really loving Rene Denfeld. She only has two fiction novels released (with a third coming in 2019), but I really like her style. Her books always grasp me and fully immerse me in the story. She has a fresh perspective and comes from a background in law enforcement, so she’s a breath of fresh air!

And I can never say no to a Stephen King novel. The Stand was the first book of King’s that I couldn’t put down, and from there, I just can’t seem to get enough.

  1. How did you start blogging? 

I work in marketing, so I’ve always been a writer. However, the copy that I create would be specific for each brand I worked with, and the voice I used was always the voice of the brand and not my own. The reason I started blogging was that I felt like I needed a creative outlet for my own thoughts and for my own projects, and honestly, I just wanted to write material in my own voice.

I also found that there was a void missing. I typically blog about careers, particularly career journeys. Before I started blogging, I kept looking for material, blogs or events, where others spoke up about their own journeys, but all that I was able to find were speakers who had achieved a level of greatness and were toward the end of their career. I wanted to create something for all of us in between looking for advice to get to the next step and just seeking encouragement. I guess you can say I started blogging as a necessity to myself, to find the information I was looking for, learn from it, and extend my knowledge to others.

  1. Where is your favorite reading spot? 

I’m from Vancouver, Canada, and we’re known for our rain. My favorite reading spot is in my sofa chair, facing my window, while it pours down outside.

I always envy those that can head to a cozy coffee shop with a novel, or to the park or the beach, but I need silence when I read. Distractions pull me out of the story, and I tend to get distracted too easily in a public setting.

  1. How long have you been a blogger? 

I’ve only recently started blogging, about a month ago, but have already had the opportunity to interview some women I truly admire! I’m looking forward to what 2019 will bring and how I will adapt with experience and knowledge gained.

  1. What do you like about reading? 

I’m always on the go, and I find that sitting down and watching a movie never gave me the relaxation and pleasure that it does for others. Reading lets me completely enter a new world using my own imagination, and helps me get away from the stresses that can occur in daily life.
I like reading because each book is such a different and unique experience for everyone and encourages the reader to use their creativity to fill in blanks or highlight specific parts. Depending on what you’re going through in life, I find that each story is adapted by the reader to suit their specific needs at that specific moment.

  1. If you had to describe yourself in a book title, what would it be?

The Girl Who Doesn’t Stop Moving! I’ve noticed recently that I’m not calm unless I have multiple projects going on. I enjoy a full plate, and lots to be going on in my life, otherwise, I feel like I’m missing out. I like to say it’s because I have too many ideas and don’t want to sit on them, but it could also be that I’m a bit of a workaholic. I’ve dedicated 2019 as the year I learn to relax and learn how to take breaks, so hopefully, when you ask me this same question at the end of 2019 my answer will be, The Girl Who Learned to Relax!


That wraps up our interview with Ana! You can find her on Instagram!

Stay tuned this week for more book reviews coming your way and make sure to leave a comment below if you would like to participate in an interview with us and be highlighted on our blog!

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Book Review: Push On – My Walk to Recovery on the Appalachian Trail

Chris Connors has hit us up with another review for the blog! This one is called Push On: My Walk to Recovery on the Appalachian Trail by Niki Rellon.

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[note: this is a review of the first edition. After I submitted this review, I was forwarded an updated copy of the book in which the new formatting makes for a better reading experience; see notes at the end]

This is a 285-page book about extreme athlete Niki Rellon’s struggle to recover from a horrific accident in Montezuma Canyon, Utah that left her with a missing leg and daily pain. It chronicles her struggle to overcome the doctors’ pessimistic prognosis (she should learn to get used to a wheelchair), her injuries, her pain medication dependency, and her own despair (how was a restless nomadic athlete supposed to adapt to a desk job? Spoiler alert: she didn’t, but you’ll have to read it to find out where her adventures took her—aside from the trail, that is).

“A diamond in the rough” probably sums up this book—and perhaps the author—which has some rough edges that hides its value. A rough diamond can look quite unremarkable, but shows its true value when much of it has been cut away and polished.

The book starts well, but it seems the editor did not see much of the book. There are some mild editing problems in the beginning: three foreshadowing sentences in two pages, a few awkward sentences “I’d never even heard of Paradox Sports, but they’d heard my story from a base jumper who’d been at the same time in that Hospital in Grand Junction I’d been there”, and sentences that belaboured the obvious. One humorous spelling mistake about her brother’s wedding produced a great euphemism I’ll be using now. “Every time I posted something on Facebook about a breakdown, they [her parents]got more and more nervous about me making it to Germany in time for my brothers weeding.

By the middle it was similar to a high-school diary with stream of conscious from present day to past with no coherent narrative, what parties she attended, books and movies read and seen, restaurants visited, and interjections about who was a jerk, who was a creep, who was an angel (angels outnumber creeps and jerks, which itself is uplifting).

The Appalachian Trail part of the book starts on page 122, then there are numerous detours back in time to earlier events, as well as numerous social forays at stopping points along the trail or while she was waiting for infections in her leg to heal or prosthetic repairs. We are treated to what life as an active athlete is like before and after the accident. The detours, though, do not seem to relate to the main narrative, but are more random connections—she sees a dog, she remembers her own childhood’s dog.

One’s heart goes out to Rellon. For example, Rellon gave the nurse her height and weight in metric. The nurse hadn’t even heard of metric. Rellon felt like she’d walked into a Third-World hospital. One can only imagine how she felt upon discovering she was at the mercy of a nurse who had managed to graduate without even being aware of the metric system. What else doesn’t she know? This level of incompetence is stunning—even nurses in Third World hospitals know the metric system as only the US, along with Liberia and Myanamar, still use the antiquated imperial system.

The book is littered with inspirational quotes (I view inspirational quotes the same way Rellon views shrinks—her term, not mine) that are randomly salted throughout chapters without obvious relevance to the topic at hand. They were written in 14-point Algerian font with reddish letters, which jarred me out of the flow that was present in the early chapters. I started skipping over quotes the same way I skip over ads on webpages. Perhaps they’d work better at the top of each new chapter, or if they were placed in an inset box where they fit the topic under discussion.

Another big item that distracted from the narrative were the pictures. They’d been resized without regard for proportions (holding the Shift key down while dragging at the corner of the picture will keep the original proportion while you change the size). As well, faces were marred with bad photoshopping. It is good to value someone’s privacy, but permission to use their faces could be obtained from good friends or Facebook friends; the rest could be gently blurred or pixelated.

matt

Eventually, I had to start skipping over the pictures as I found them cumulatively disturbing. I did not find the pictures of her infected stump disturbing though, just missing faces—other readers’ mileage may vary.

faces

Missing faces are always creepy.

This book is more like a biography as only about half of the book takes place on the trail. An editor would have her change the title to reflect this. Or, an editor would keep the title but have her use the trail as a skeleton for the rest of the story. For example, the book begins with the accident. Later, there is a trail story where she almost dies from hypothermia and gale force winds that knocked her off her feet. This story is told beginning to end which leads to no real suspense. Now, suppose the book opens with that story, talks about how she tries to huddle into a wet sleeping bag thinking, “How did I get here, in the middle of a storm on a mountain, far from help, just months after I was told I’d have to use a wheelchair for most of my life?”—then cut away to the accident, leaving us wondering how she got out of the trail predicament. It’d keep people reading to find out what happened next.

The flawed delivery should not take away from Rellon’s message though. The accident was horrible—rocks always seemed more unforgiving in eastern Utah—and her determination to push on, to recover, to prove the naysayers wrong is motivational.

rocks

Unforgiving rocks. Photo by CC

There is so much potential in this book to be far better. It is an inspirational story, and with some cutting, some polishing, it could easily become the diamond that is already there.

Addendum to the newer edition—now with some polishing.

The new edition’s interior layout looks great. They’ve changed from Cambria font to MinionPro, altered the information and look of the headers, gone from blocky-looking paragraphs to smoother paragraph transitions that let the eye flow naturally along without jumping across white spaces between paragraphs. This appears to be the work of NZGraphics and Nick Zelinger, according to the front piece.

The pictures are higher resolution, and some of the distortion has been corrected too. Compare the two editions below—the one on the left is the updated version.

fixes

Night-and-day difference. Kudos to whoever did this (Nick of NZGraphics.com, and Niki and Jeremy?)

The quotes are also formatted with DancingScript (I think) and delineated with lines above and below the quote. I wouldn’t have thought that technique would be effective, but as I read through parts of the book again the quotes no longer jarred me out of my reading rhythm. In both pictures note the changes in paragraph layout to the more eye-pleasing updated version.

fixes2

Quote formatting made a world of difference in presentation and reading

I didn’t see any editing of the words or sentences themselves—I was happy to see her brother was still going to be weeded—but I only compared small sections. Still, even without grammar and typo corrections, the book is greatly improved just by these changes alone; they also added a shark photograph at the end—you can never go wrong with a shark photograph (says the completely unbiased biologist)—well done, folks. A vast improvement, quite reader-friendly, and shows more of the diamond that was hidden.

Book Rating: 3.5/5 stars

You can buy this 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.

Kobo Canada

Guest Post: Exercise the brain and jog your inspiration

We joined up with another group of amazing bloggers to be a part of their blog tour. The tour is for All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine.

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Book summary

 In All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it’s time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel’s Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited but her family is worried. Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?

Based on the true story of Israel’s annual crane migration.

Print Length: 32 Pages

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub

ISBN-10: 1512444391

ISBN-13: 978-1512444391

All Eyes on Alexandra is available to purchase on AmazonBarnes and NobleTarget and Thrift Books.

About the Author

Author photo

Anna Levine is an award-winning children’s book author. Like Alexandra Crane, the character in her latest picture book, she loves to explore new worlds. Born in Canada, Anna has lived in the US and Europe.  She now lives in Israel, where she writes and teaches.

You can find Anna Levine online at —

Author website: http://www.annalevine.org/

Twitter: @LevineAnna 

Instagram: @booksfromanna 

About the Illustrator

artist

 Chiara Pasqualotto was born in Padua, in northern Italy, currently teaches illustration and drawing classes to children and adults, in particular in Padua during the summer at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics and in Rome. Since 2008 she’s been living in Rome and working with illustration professionally: her first picture book, Mine, All Mine! was published in 2009 by Boxer Books (UK), since then she published with Oxford University Press, Giunti, Terranuova and some American publishers (Paraclete Press, Tyndale, LearningAZ, Kar-Ben Publisher).

You can find Chiara Pasqualotto online at –

Artist website: https://romeartweek.com/en/artists/?id=1495&ida=1004

Blog: http://chiarapasqualotto.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clairepaspage/

And now a guest post that Anna wrote for us!

Exercise the brain and jog your inspiration.

Like Alexandra, the character in my book, I move around a lot. I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada grew up in Montreal, Quebec, lived in California for four years, Verona, Italy for one year and now live in Israel. When it comes to being inspired, for me there’s no better way than seeing new countries, living as a local (in Verona, where they don’t buy vegetables in bulk, I learned to buy lettuce by the leaf) tasting, listening and soaking up the atmosphere of new places.

But what happens when life interferes and you can’t just take off? That’s when I always come back to my favorite quote by Marcel Proust (author of Swann’s Way also known as Remembrance of Things Past) “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” At times we become so blinded to the familiar that we don’t see the beauty and uniqueness in the world we live. Here are some tricks I use to jog my imagination when I need inspiration.

#1. Leave the car at home. Take the bus, the train, the subway or metro. When you’re out and about take note of faces, fashions and unusual gestures. Listen to the mix of languages and dialects.

#2. Enjoy coffee from your favorite café, but from time to time try a new one. I love my neighborhood coffee shop, (which borders on a cemetery and is a very quiet space to work), but spicing up my cappuccino at a different cafe is sometimes exactly what I need to get a new perspective on a character or chapter of my manuscript.

#3. Walk. Bike. Ski. Skate. Jog. If it worked for the philosopher Henry Thoreau, who said that ‘the moment my legs began to move, the thoughts came,’ it’s worth a try. When I’m stuck on a plot development or annoyed with a character who isn’t listening to me, I get out of my chair and either take a long walk around the neighborhood or get on my bike. Writers spend a lot of time in their heads (and in our seats), we need to get up, move around and interact in order to be inspired and see our world (and our manuscripts) from a new perspective.

Blog Tour Dates


December 3rd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Make sure you visit WOW’s blog today and read an interview with the author and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book All Eyes on Alexandra.

muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com


December 5th @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Visit Cassandra’s blog where she shares her thoughts about Anna Levine’s picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

December 5th @ Break Even Books

Visit Erik’s blog where you can read Anna Levine’s guest post about how to jog your inspiration.

https://breakevenbooks.com/

December 7th @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and visit Lacey’s blog where you can read her review of Anna Levine’s picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://coffeewithlacey.wordpress.com


December 8th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony Avina’s blog today where he joins in the fun of celebrating and shares information about Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 8th @ Christy’s Cozy Corners

Visit Christy’s blog and cozy up while you read her review of Anna Levine’s picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

https://christyscozycorners.com/

December 9th @ Coffee with Lacey

Visit Lacey’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s guest post about designing your ideal writing spot.

http://coffeewithlacey.wordpress.com

December 9th @ Christy’s Cozy Corner

Visit Christy’s blog where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post about how she decided to use crane’s in her story.

https://christyscozycorners.com/
December 10th @ Thoughts in Progress

Visit Pamela’s blog where you can read Anna Levine’s guest post about how authors use anthropomorphic animals.

http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/

December 11th @ Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee.

Make sure you visit Jeanie’s blog today and read her thoughts about Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://www.readwritesparklecoffee.com/
December 12th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog

Visit Anthony Avina’s blog where he interviews Anna Levine, author of All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 13th @ Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee.

Make sure you visit Jeanie’s blog today and read Anna Levine’s guest post about building a theme day around a picture book.

http://www.readwritesparklecoffee.com/

December 13th @ Oh for the Hook of a Book

Visit Erin’s blog where she shares her thoughts on Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

www.hookofabook.wordpress.com

December 15th @ A Storybook World

Visit Deirdra’s blog where she features Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra in a spotlight post.

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

December 17th @ World of My Imagination

Stop by Nicole’s blog today where you can read her review of Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com

December 19th @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Visit Cassandra’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post about naming your characters.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com

December 19th @ Linda’s Blog

Make sure you visit Linda’s blog today where you can read her thoughts about Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

https://www.lindaleekane.com/blog

December 20th @ Word Magic: All About Books 

Visit Fiona’s blog where you can read her review of Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

December 21st @ Bring on Lemons

Make sure you grab some lemonade and stop by Crystal’s blog today where she reviews Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 27th @ Linda’s Blog

Visit Linda’s blog again where you can read her interview with author Anna Levine.

https://www.lindaleekane.com/blog


December 28th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Beverley’s blog today you can read her review of Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/
December 31st @ Strength 4 Spouses

Visit Wendi’s blog and read Anna Levine’s guest post on learning about families and different cultures.

https://strength4spouses.blog/
January 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit author Anthony Avina’s blog where he shares his thoughts about Anna Levine’s picture book All Eyes on Alexandra. 

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

January 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Beverley’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post about getting into the head of your middle-grade characters.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

January 4th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit author Anthony Avina’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post about using fiction to write non-fiction.

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

January 7th @ Strength 4 Spouses Blog

Visit Wendi’s blog again where you can read her thoughts about the book All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine.

https://strength4spouses.blog/

Kobo Canada

Guest Post: Jodi Picoult Interview

Hey bookworms! So I have been connecting with a lot of different bloggers lately and one had reached out to me about the interview she had with Jodi Picoult. I decided I would share her post because it was a good interview and I am sure that many of you know who Jodi Picoult is and would be interested.

But first, a little blurb about Ana!

Ana Milosavic works in marketing in the tech space, and on the side runs a blog that is focused on career growth and journeys and helping others achieve their own version of success. Ana hopes that her interviews with women in all stages of their career will help others reach goals they thought were unachievable, and will give them a realistic expectation of what it takes to get to their dream job – while breaking many glass ceilings along the way! As a huge bookworm (and leader of two book clubs in Vancouver, Canada), she was very excited to get the chance to interview author Jodi Picoult. Ana and Jodi discuss career, including Jodi’s inspirations, best and worst career advice, mentors and much more.

Website: anamilosavic.com

Instagram: @amilosavic


Interview with Jodi Picoult

jodi-picoult-c-nina-subin-750

Occupation:
Writer

Why do you do what you do?
I can’t not write.

What’s your current dream job?
To be a writer… and a Broadway librettist.

Tell us what your average day looks like.
I get up and run for a few miles, then go up to my computer and edit my way through whatever I was writing yesterday, and when I get to a blank spot I keep writing. I continue until about 4 pm.

It’s great to see that you are living your dream job! Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully still writing novels, and perhaps winning a Tony.

Amazing, I have zero doubt! Have you had any big career struggles so far?
It was very hard, at the beginning, to write what I wanted to write – fiction that asked moral questions. There were not many writers doing such and finding an audience was a slow climb. Also, being categorized as commercial fiction or women’s fiction has prevented people from taking my work seriously.

And what has been your biggest career win so far?
11 consecutive #1 NYT bestsellers.

Now that’s a career win! Is there any career advice you’ve received that you still hold on to?
Don’t write about the dinosaurs ’til they become oil – in other words, don’t write about what happens to you until you have time to process your emotions and regard the incident from an objective POV.

What about bad career advice?
Write that sells.

You have achieved so much already! What is the one thing you are most proud of?
My three children, who are all changing the world in various ways.

Is there one person that has inspired you in your career?
My editor, Jennifer Hershey – who is extraordinary at her craft – and my publicist, Susan Corcoran, who makes my life so much easier.

I think mentors are so important to a successful career. Do you have any mentors?
My former professor, Mary Morris, who taught me everything I know.

When do you feel the most confident?
When I’m standing in front of an audience talking about one of my books.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Currently coveting: Chocolate.

Favorite way to sweat: Hiking.

Favorite book: Too many to name.

Morning person or night owl? Morning person.

Favorite food: Chocolate ice cream.

Favorite city: London.

You can see Ana’s full interview here!

*Disclaimer: This content was sent to me by Ana Milosavic to post on my blog.*


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