Book Review: He Knew a Firefly by Smita Bhattacharya

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He Knew a Firefly by Smita Bhattacharya centers on Akshara who has the ability to see the futures of the people she loves. However her “gift” is more of a curse than a blessing as it seems that every life she touches is thrown into turmoil. Akshara must try to light the dark paths of her loved ones before fear and guilt consume her.

Bhattacharya writes in a graceful, almost lyrical style that I’ve rarely encountered in past novels and this poetic talent is certainly her strong suit. Seriously, her writing is exquisite.

I also really enjoyed having a glimpse into some of the different cultures of India. The author does this with ease, even adding words from her native tongue into the dialogue of the story without losing her English readers.

Where I encountered some problems was in the plot. Bhattacharya has created three loosely connected stories, all tied together by Akshara’s relationship with them which in theory is great however I found the storylines were somewhat difficult to follow. Because of this confusion, it made it hard to connect with some of her characters.

If I were to give a rating on the story alone, He Knew a Firefly would get 3 cups of java. However, because I feel that Bhattacharya’s writing itself is so beautiful, I have given the novel a 4 out 5 cup rating.

NOTE: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Upcoming Events

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Season’s greetings everyone!

I don’t know if it has been this way for you, but December has been absolutely bananas on my end! I’ve been working extra hours to have time off with the kids which means my house is a disaster zone and I haven’t finished my gifts but I’m thankfully starting to see a light at the end of this snowy tunnel.

That being said, I haven’t forgotten you and would like to announce two upcoming events that will be happening soon on the blog. First, an interview with author Nicholas Conley. I recently reviewed his novel Pale Highway and it was absolutely fantastic so I’m very excited to discuss his inspiration for his novel. Secondly, author Jamie Thornton will also be joining us to talk about her upcoming novella Eradication, the fourth installment in her Feast of Weeds series. I reviewed the first book, Germination, which is a kick-ass, non-apologetic zombie thriller. All of this on top of some new reviews coming your way. So yeah, I’m stoked.

In the meantime, I recommend you curl up with a good book, cup of spiked eggnog and enjoy the holiday season!

Cheers!

Book Review: The “She” Stands Alone by Nadine Keels

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The “She” Stands Alone by Nadine Keels is a cute novella about bibliophile Sheridan Jones; a woman who has been scorned by love and decides instead to date herself.

I really liked the message of this story; you need to be cool with who you are before you can fully invest in a relationship with someone else. In short, it’s ok to be single. Its advice so few people follow and yet it makes perfect sense.

Also, the awkward interactions between Sheridan and mailman/neighbor Eugene were funny. He may have been a tad too short for Sheridan’s liking but I was rooting for Eugene!

What didn’t I like? Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the cover art. If I had been scrolling through the Kindle store, I would have likely passed on buying this book and that would have been a shame.

If you like a clean romantic comedy, I recommend giving The “She” Stands Alone a try.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Top 5 Christmas Books That Will Get You Into the Holiday Spirit!

Season’s greetings everyone! Inspired by the new fallen snow in my hometown, I decided to share with you my top 5 Christmas books for the young and old this holiday season.

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

How could anyone not love Dr. Seuss? More importantly, how could this children’s book not be included in everyone’s top 5 Christmas list? The story of this grumpy green creature is a classic in North American homes and let’s just lay it all out there; Dr. Seuss was one badass philosophical dude. If your knowledge of this tale is through film, do yourself a favor and go pick up the print version.

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The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

Yes, it’s more than a little sappy but what would the holidays be without some warm fuzzy feelings around a yule log fire? The message of this book is simple; love and cherish your family while they are still here. It reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. Fair warning – keep of box of tissue handy. You’ll be needing it!

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This has to be one of the best known Christmas tales there is. Everyone knows (or is at least familiar with) the story of the cheap, cold-hearted Scrooge who, when confronted with his memories and the future that awaits him, changes for the better. Albeit the style of writing may be a tad confusing (why so many semicolons, Dickens?) however it remains one of my most beloved classics of the season.

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The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

This is one of those children’s books that has the ability to bring up a large element of nostalgia in its adult readers. And although some critics have said they feel the story appeals more to adults than children, my kids love the book and we read it every holiday season. Additionally, the gorgeous illustrations found in the book were created by the author himself and it’s great to see such multifaceted talent.

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The Little Match Girl – Hans Christian Anderson

Ok, if this book doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you’re a freakin’ robot. Obviously, I’ve only read the English version and not the original Dutch; however I’m convinced the essence of the story has remained intact. Without spoiling the ending, I feel that it’s important to give potential readers a heads up that this tale doesn’t exactly end the way most kids are used to. That being said, it’s a beautiful story which is why I still chose to include it in this list.

There you have it, folks! I hope you pick up some of these books and cozy up with them and a cup of hot Irish coffee this holiday season. And please, comment below and share you favorite Christmas/holiday books with me as well!

 

 

Book Review: Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley

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Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley tells the story of Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Schist, a brilliant man whose mind is slowly slipping away due to Alzheimer’s disease. With a new horrific virus hitting the human race, Gabriel knows that he may be the only person capable of finding a cure –as long as his mind remains intact.

Let me say this: Pale Highway is like nothing I’ve ever read before. At once a sci-fi, it remains at its core an intimate look at a man’s struggle with a devastating disease. Conley’s style of writing is solid but his greatest talent lies in his character development. The journey of getting to know Gabriel was absolutely touching. Conley has openly said that his work in a nursing home was a huge inspiration for Pale Highway and his connection to the patients shines through in his writing. It’s personal, it’s heartbreaking, it’s immensely frustrating and at times it’s even funny.

I especially like that for most of the novel I wasn’t 100% sure that Gabriel was a reliable narrator. With the character’s questionable visions (there are talking slugs, people) and the sudden presence of mysterious newcomer Victor, Conley expertly has his readers second guessing everything they were so sure of.

The novel’s vivid depiction of life as a nursing home resident is unapologetic. Seriously, it will make you want to visit whatever loved ones you may have in this type of situation. By reading the book however, the reader will soon realize that Pale Highway itself isn’t nearly as wheelchair ridden as its characters. This is a fast-face, can’t-put-it-down thrilling read as Gabriel races against the clock to find a cure.

I highly recommend Pale Highway to fans of sci-fi, thrillers and to anyone with a soft spot for Alzheimer’s patients (and talking slugs, of course).

Note: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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An Interview With Joy Jennings on Her Experiences With Sexual Violence

Sexual harassment and assault victim Joy Jennings experienced many incidences of assault as a child before becoming a victim of sexual assault as a woman. She is now an author working to bring awareness regarding sexual harassment, abuse and assault. Jennings’ troubling story is a reminder that violence towards women is still ever-present in our society.

Q: Joy, why did you feel it was so important to tell your story?

A: Sexual harassment and assault is still such a large problem in our society and not nearly enough women and girls are coming forward. They are either too frightened to speak up, not taught how to or even that they can. They don’t understand what is considered sexual assault or that such crimes are committed against them. They also fear not being taken seriously and these are all the same problems I faced. Another reason is that girls are becoming more accepting of this rape culture and therefore more males are convinced that it is ok to treat women badly when it isn’t. I needed to tell my story so that other women can learn from my mistakes and to help protect themselves. Ultimately, I am hoping for new male attitudes and behaviors with a shift towards social change.

Q: You had many incidents as a young child that you decided to keep quiet about. Why do you think sexual harassment and assault frequently goes unreported?

A: As a child, if your parents have not had that talk with you, you are left uninformed, unaware and unprepared. It is a difficult job for parents to protect your children and they couldn’t possibly cover all the possibilities that their child might come across, so it is tough job but nevertheless, a crucial one.

Q: Recently, the University of British Colombia went under fire for making a mockery of sexual assault when only 6 of their 273 complaints were formally investigated. What do you make of this?

A: Those figures are disgusting, but not surprising. Sexual assault is never taken seriously enough and reinforces why women and girls are too afraid to come forward. This is the same problem I faced and it needs to change. Women need to be empowered to be courageous by example, and situations like these only set us back and do more damage. It continues to disappoint and infuriate me.

Q: What are some of the lasting effects that have stayed with you after so much abuse?

A: I continue to suffer in all areas of my life. I still experience night terrors, anxiety and stress, especially when around men, and have some relationship issues. I become an unintentional nervous wreck over the simplest of things too. As an example, a man offered me assistance with my groceries last week and he put his hands on my bags. I froze into a petrified terror and felt as if I was being violated all over again. That is not normal functioning but it is who I have become.

Q: In your experience, what are some ways we as a society can prevent sexual harassment and assault?

A: We need to be teaching this subject in schools. Young boys need to be taught what are considered sexual crimes and simply not to commit them. They need to be taught how to respect women and how to behave in public. Girls need to be shown how to handle certain situations, what to do, where to go and who to report to. Parents need to do their part also. This is a major issue and we absolutely have to educate our kids about this.

Q: If you could give victims of sexual abuse one piece of advice, what would it be?

A: Don’t be afraid and speak up. Screw them! This is your life, your body and you have the right not be assaulted. These predators are banking on you not saying anything and are afraid of being punished, so don’t let them get away with it. Report them! Speak to your kids, educate them about potential dangers and how to handle situations. Stay safe and please, whatever you do, don’t remain silent any longer.

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For further information about Joy Jennings, please visit her  website.

 

Book Review: I’m Not Your “Baby” by Joy Jennings

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I’m Not Your “Baby” by Joy Jennings is a poignant look at one woman’s personal experiences with sexual harassment, assault and rape.

Telling this story must have taken a great deal of courage on the part of the author. Victims of sexual violence are so often silenced by their fear and I commend Jennings for putting it all out there. And trust me, there are tons of terrible encounters to tell. Many instances in the book were very uncomfortable to read and I can’t imagine how it must have felt to actually live them.

What I found most distressing throughout the book was how Jennings’ experiences with sexual harassment and assault were so often downplayed by those around her. Being told to “just ignore it” or the ever popular “boys will be boys” excuse is unfortunately so reflective of our society. All too often, it seems as though the victims are pegged as the problem and that they should be the ones to change their behavior or appearance as to not entice abusers.

Another aspect that struck me was the degree of frequency Jennings was harassed and assaulted. I feel as though this woman has to be the unluckiest person in regards to the men. It’s so disturbing that there are women out there who repeatedly have to endure sexual violence. I feel blessed to have a fair amount of male friends – none of which would ever behave remotely close to the way hers did.

Normally, I feel uneasy about reviewing a memoir. There are so many useless memoirs out these days (I’m sorry, but having parents and a childhood doesn’t of itself qualify you to write a memoir). When I agreed to review Jennings’ story it was because I felt that there was something to be learned by the horrifying events that happened in her life. I respect the author immensely for her bravery and for sharing her story with her readers.

Note: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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To My Fellow Indie Authors…

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To my fellow indie authors,

I see you. I see you sipping your third coffee, trying desperately to pick out the typos from your novel. I see you Googling how to format for Kindle on your laptop. I see you begging the one friend you know who is Photoshop-friendly to please, please, please create a book cover for you. I see you. I am you.

Sure, self-publishing has its perks. We get full say over every decision made concerning our work (a double edged sword, I assure you). We have no contract signing our creative masterpiece away. And if we’re lucky to sell even a quarter of the amount self-published author Amanda Hockings has, the profits mostly remain in our own wallet. But the obstacles we unavoidably face without an agent and publishing house are a bitch, to say the least. You would think that in an age so axed on technology that tweeting about your book would be enough but it simply isn’t. There are blog tours, book trailers, Goodread giveaways, and the list goes on and on.

I see you and I know how difficult this literary game is – I’ve been there myself – which is why I have put so much emphasis on indie writers here on the blog. 90% of what I review comes from self-published authors. This isn’t a random occurrence. There are loads of great undiscovered authors out there and I hope to have the opportunity to share some of them with my followers.

If you are an indie writer looking for a review, check out my review policy page for more information.

Book Review: Where Death is a Hunter by Christopher Stookey

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Where Death is a Hunter is a fast-paced medical thriller by author Christopher Stookey and an absolute gripping read. The book kicks off right at the moment where all goes wrong and doesn’t let up until the very end. It tells the story of Hannah Fâtier, an anesthesiologist who is accused of malpractice when a patient dies under her care in the OR. The more Hannah goes over the details of the event however, the less they make sense. As the pieces of the puzzle come together it becomes increasingly obvious that someone has framed her.

Medical thrillers are a tricky genre to write without them becoming a lexicon of medical mumbo-jumbo. This could especially have been the case considering the author, Christopher Stookey, also happens to be an MD. Thankfully, he succeeds in creating a very comprehensible novel with just enough hospital terms to make it believable but not enough to loose his readers.

Where Death is a Hunter is the type of book that refuses to let you put it down and I credit Stookey’s pacing skills for that (seriously, I read it in one day). He has written a novel mostly devoid of “fluff” which is incredibly refreshing . There’s little that is capable of losing my attention faster than reading paragraph after paragraph of unnecessary text (fillers, as I call them) and it’s great to see an author that keeps it to the point.

The characters are also very solid. I like how we get to know Hannah’s background bit by bit and I especially like her own personal growth throughout the story. I won’t lie – I had a pretty good idea who had “done it” so to speak, but wasn’t sure about the “why” until it was revealed.

Where Death is a Hunter is a fantastic novel and I recommend it to fans of the thriller/mystery genre. I look forward to reading more novels by Stookey in the future.

Note: I received this novel by the author in exchange with an honest review.

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