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Recently Reviewed | The Quantum Realm: Philly the Photon by Mark A. Montgomery

The Quantum Realm: Philly the Photon by Mark A. Montgomery

The Quantum Realm: Philly the Photon by Mark A. Montgomery tells the story of Sebastian, a young man who gets stranded out in the forest with his father during an intense thunderstorm. After being frightened into inaction by the lightning, Sebastian becomes curious about the way light, gravity, and other forces of nature are formed. That night, he is visited by a subatomic particle named Philly the Photon who whisks Sebastian off to the Quantum Realm and offers to answer all of his scientific queries, while posing new questions along the way: What is time, really? Is light from the Sun the same as light from an electrical fixture? Sebastian travels to exotic locales like the Electron Sea and the Lair of Grunk the Great Graviton, meeting a variety of memorable characters who help teach him how to follow his curiosity and find truth.

Philly the Photon is a science-driven journey for young readers in the style of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. The author explains all manner of natural phenomena by using outlandish and amusing scenarios to construct teachable moments. In one scene, for example, Sebastian encounters a negatively charged electron whose mood begins to affect Sebastian himself; he is able to help the electron by radiating positivity and gratitude. These sorts of scientific in-jokes make Philly the Photon a delight, distracting readers from the fact that – gasp! – they are learning. As is often the case with well-written works, this novella can appeal just as well to school-aged students as it can to adult learners. This is the start of what promises to be an enjoyable, educational series tackling science’s big mysteries.

To purchase a copy of Philly the Photonclick here to find it on Amazon.

Author Tips | Why You Should Be Using Social Media

Authors have a reputation for being slow adopters of technology, especially when it comes to their craft. To this day, there are even some well-known writers who refuse to use anything but a typewriter to draft and revise their work. Whatever your work style, building a professional online presence is paramount to an author’s success in today’s competitive, quick-moving climate – and that includes social media. Read through for a list of ways that authors can get the most out of getting online.

 

 

 

 

Free marketing – Are you a self-published author? Chances are you do not have a marketing or publicity budget. That’s where social media comes in. The more active and engaging you are on social media – and the more platforms you choose to incorporate into your online portfolio – the better your opportunity to reach not only readers, but also entertainment outlets and social media influencers who might be interested in learning more about your work.

 

 

 

 

Establishing your brand – What do you want readers to imagine when they think of your work? Your social media profiles are an extension of your personality, and they give you more room to express your interests and your passions with readers. They also give you a space to provide context and additional insight on your writing, and to tease upcoming projects or public appearances.

 

 

 

 

Engaging with the community – No matter which niche your writing appeals to, there is a corner of the Internet devoted to just that genre. Young adult literature, for example, has a robust following on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads, and Tumblr. Whether you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been writing for decades, try to identify some key people to follow on social media platforms. It will keep you better up to date on evolving consumer trends and opinions in your corner of the industry.

 

 

 

 

Connecting with your readers – Some authors avoid the Internet because they don’t want to come across negative reviews or comments about their work, and that’s completely understandable. It certainly isn’t a good feeling to come across negative reviews of your writing on Goodreads or Twitter, but for the most part, social media users are learning to tag authors in positive reviews of their work while not tagging them in negative reviews. Not everyone will like your writing, but using social media makes it easier to connect with the readers who do.

 

 

 

 

Giving you a break from writing! – Okay, this might seem a little counterintuitive but let’s face it – procrastination is inevitable, right? Social media can certainly be a huge distraction, but many authors also find themselves feeling recharged after spending a few minutes on Instagram or Twitter. If you are connected with many writers online, it can help to support and inspire each other to reach your writing goals. Image-heavy platforms like Instagram and Tumblr can often spark something in your imagination that might just help you dig yourself out of that writing rut.

Recently Reviewed | The Silent Contact: A Novel in emails by Genrich Krasko

The Silent Contact: A Novel in emails by Genrich Krasko

Yoram B’Aror (Yori), an alien from Aurelia, is sent to gather information about life on Earth. Anna, an earthling, meets Yori while hiking the Caucasus Mountains in Russia and they fall in love almost instantly. Although it is forbidden for Yori to form attachments with anyone on Earth, he and Anna marry regardless. The couple, along with Anna’s mother, relocate from Russia to the United States where Anna gives birth to a baby girl, Rachel. Almost two blissful decades pass together before Yori’s home planet finds out about his relationship with Anna and he is summoned back to Aurelia to face the consequences. No longer on the same planet, communication through emails becomes the only way that Anna and Rachel can reach their beloved husband and father. 

The Silent Contact tells the emotional story of a family torn apart while also touching on larger societal issues. In their email exchanges, Yori, Anna, and Rachel express their love for one another in between discussing the dire problems facing America, particularly the need for education reform. The storyline is not action-packed but rather offers interesting philosophical ideas for those willing to grapple with serious matters plaguing today’s world. Real events cited throughout the family’s emails to each other make the correspondence highly relatable for the reader. For example, Rachel tells her father about the Harry Potter craze and describes what she was doing during the 9/11 terrorist attack. While readers are left with questions about the planet Aurelia and the fate of Yori and his family, that seems intentional; for the future is ours to determine. 

To purchase ‘The Silent Contact,’ click here to find it on Amazon.

Recently Reviewed | Jesus Loves You by Christine Topjian

Jesus Loves You by Christine Topjian

Jesus Loves You is a picture-guided story of Jesus’s presence in one young man’s life. The illustrations accompanying Topjian’s text show the main character during all of life’s most significant sea changes, from birth to high school graduation to beyond. Below each image is a brief line or two describing the moment as the main character experiences it, and telling the reader how Jesus was there to lend his support and encouragement. The story even delves into some truly challenging moments, like handling your first heartbreak, fighting with your mother, and caring for aging parents, though this is done thoughtfully so as not to alarm or confuse young readers.

In the style of Love You Forever, Christine Topjian’s Jesus Loves You takes an extended look at the role of parental figures throughout a child’s life, though the parent in this case is none other than Jesus Christ. Topjian’s text innovatively hones in on this key aspect of Jesus’s relationship with his followers – that throughout life’s victories and low points alike, he is there to either console or congratulate those who would listen to him. This seems like an especially appropriate topic for little ones just starting out on the long road to adulthood. This book would make a great gift for a child who is still figuring out who Jesus is, which can sometimes be a difficult concept for young minds to digest. On the other hand, it would be just as suitable for anyone who is about to embark on a new journey, whether that means heading off to college, starting a first job, or getting married.

To purchase a copy of Jesus Loves You, click here to find it on Amazon.

Recently Reviewed | Aging Out by L. Lee Shaw

Aging Out by L. Lee Shaw

Teenagers Adam, Soosie, and Myron have found themselves thrown together at Pittison House, a government-run youth home whose inhabitants jeeringly call it “the Pitt.” Adam has been there the longest, thrown out of his own home by a mother and a grandmother who could not have cared less about his existence. Myron, Adam’s roommate, is facing family issues of a different sort: he is the son of the biggest crime family in town. Soosie ends up at the Pitt after beating up her older sister, though no one is quite certain what drove her to do it. Though all friendless, the teens find it impossible to connect with one another, their difficult pasts and family trauma throwing up obstacles against genuine friendship. Now, however, they are approaching their eighteenth birthday, which means they will “age out” and be evicted from Pittison House. The teens are given positions at a local long-term care home for the elderly called Soda Spring Care Center, and it is here that they learn more about each other – and about a disgraced journalist named Adah Skelton who has been sniffing around the place and apparently has a vendetta against its inhabitants.

Aging Out is a heady reminder of the value that close family and good friends contribute to our lives. At the novel’s start, one wonders just how far these characters will be able to take themselves, as they all are so deeply damaged by darkness from their pasts that it prevents them from being able to see the happiness in other people. What makes this story so enjoyable, then, is watching its characters work through this pain, while allowing space to acknowledge how our upbringing shapes our lives irreversibly, whether for good or for bad. Though some of the characterization in Aging Out is abrupt – especially in the case of Soosie, whose cold aggression thaws a little too quickly to be entirely believable – this is the type of novel that demonstrates how small stages can tackle big themes, and how stories do not have to be expansive to be powerful.

To purchase a copy of Aging Out, click here to find it on Amazon.

Five Star Friday: Hungry Like the Wolf

Halloween weekend is upon us, so we thought we’d share three highly rated ~spooky~ reads from Red City Review. Today’s titles all feature everyone’s favorite furry menace: werewolves. What’s awesome about werewolves is that authors can use them as either hero or villain – whichever their stories call for. The complexity of pack behavior and “lone wolves” lends itself to any number of narratives, but we often see a common thread of “finding one’s true self” wherever werewolves come into play. The three titles below each give the loup-garou different treatment, so there’s a story here for everyone whether you’re looking for romance, thrilling fantasy, or something a bit more difficult to define.

 

Silenced by Darcie Peck

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silencedLeah was raised in darkness and isolation, removed from society and forcibly stripped of her ability to speak aloud. She has suffered through abuse both mentally and physically, only to escape captivity and then be struck by a Range Rover. Flashes of light speckle Leah’s unconscious mind, opening it to streaks of a world alien to her. Electric vibrations and shocks reverberate through her very core as the driver of the car rushes the two of them to his pack’s doctor. Devin, Alpha of the local werewolf pack, who’s accidental wreck with this girl opens his inner wolf’s eyes to a similar electrifying current which is known to the werewolf kind as finding one’s soul ‘mate.’ The two discover a kindred spirits within each other following the days and weeks of her hospital stay. Leah’s life of abuse and torture has been forgotten by a case of amnesia. Devin now attempts to reintroduce her to “normal” werewolf life, only to find, Leah’s forgotten past, is not so distant after all.

Darcie Peck puts Silenced of the Bound Trilogy – Book One, at the top of personal genre favorites. So often werewolf story lines become muddled, broken, and strung out. Silenced is not that. The point of view shifts used to change perspective is brilliant, opening a new method of reading that can encourage other writers to do so in a similar fashion. Silenced is hands down a great read, five stars does not do it its due justice. With non-stop action, suspenseful drama and a love story that will forever get your inner wolf snuggling, Silenced will touch the inner wolf in all of us.

To purchase a copy of the book, click here to find it on Amazon.

 

Bottomless Dreams by Ryan Power

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Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 10.36.44 AMBottomless Dreams by Ryan Power is a collection of 25 short stories that, quite frankly, can’t be summarized in one paragraph. Not only are there 25 plot lines, 25 settings, and 25 casts of characters, but there are also scores of psychological themes and dozens of metaphysical quandaries set across several, often concurrent, genres. In other words, there’s a lot going on in this collection, and it’s pretty awesome. Bottomless Dreams tells very real tales alongside the fantastic, carrying readers around the globe and across the universe, through the past, present, and future, to explore the inward and outward bounds of the human condition. As per the stories themselves, they speak of surfers, old men, and coming-of-age children, as well as of beasts, werewolves, witches, and others. But what the stories speak of is not nearly as remarkable as what they speak to, which makes Bottomless Dreams, at the bottom line, a prime example of literary fiction. Isolation. Fear. Pride. Conviction. That’s what these stories are about, and then some. Power presents a buffet of themes and topics, dishing on everything from parenthood, masculinity, and absurd rites of passage, to the sanctity of life, enlightenment, and familiar questions about life, death, and religion. Plus, there’s a little sex, drugs, and jazz tossed into the mix, and the pages are scattered with original artwork—25 title pages for each of the 25 stories, as illustrated by interior artist Court Dheensaw.

All told, Bottomless Dreams by Ryan Power is a one-of-a-kind, somewhat strange experience. Many of the stories deal with “messed up” things, but do so in a way that’s insightful and illuminating. Power’s writing is also rather exceptional, full of powerful words, phrases, and devices that effectively communicate his messages and fuel further thinking. That said, however, be aware, Bottomless Dreams is not, by any means, a poolside novel. It’s neither a quick read nor a light read—but, it’s definitely a good read, and it comes highly recommended.

To purchase a copy of the book, click here to find it on Amazon.

 

Storm Wolf by Stephen Morris

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storm“‘I remember the celebrations when we were given our freedom in 1816, a year after I killed the great wolf and skinned it,’ Edvin told his grandson. ‘Don’t let the wolf skin make you a serf again, bound to it rather than the land. It should serve you, not you serve it.’” Remembering his dream, Alexei knows that he disobeyed his grandfather’s warnings about how to use the wolf skin he passed onto Alexei before his death. The pelt’s transformative powers are intended to help protect Alexei’s Estonian villages. Alexei’s selfish choice results in enough destruction that he has to leave his beloved land in search of anyone who knows the old practices from his grandfather’s generation, which can be used to heal Alexei. But en route to find that certain someone, Alexei is unaware of the many challenges he will have to face before he can be healed, if that’s possible.

Morris puts a new spin on Baltic folklore in his latest novel. A unique coming of age story set in the latter part of the nineteenth century, Morris’ plot features Alexei, a young man whose lack of understanding in old-world traditions gets him in Lycanthropic trouble. Basically, Alexei has the ability to transform into a werewolf. Morris surrounds his unseasoned character with an interesting cast made up of thunder dragons, wind hags, and storm goblins, to name a few, as his journey takes him through Latvia, Lithuania, Silesia (Poland), and Bohemia (the Czech Republic). Morris even includes the legendary Frau Bertha (or from the German, Perchta). Sprinkled with Estonian language, Morris’ narrative follows typical folktale storytelling. Replete with all the whimsical trappings, readers can expect a flurry of surprises amid anticipated scenes. A fantastical read that appeals to young and old alike.

To purchase a copy of the book, click here to find it on Amazon.

Books about dealing with cancer and loss.

Stories can fulfill a great many human needs, but perhaps their greatest purpose is to bring us comfort during times of uncertainty and loss. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we’d like to give particular attention to two fantastic works we’ve reviewed recently that are notable for the care and insight they bring to the topic of battling cancer. The first, Shaken Not Stirred: A Chemo Cocktail by Joules Evans, is one woman’s detailed account of the obstacles that cancer placed in her path – and her journey to overcome them. The second, The Change Agent: From 30,000 Feet by Bruce Barcomb, offers advice for working through grief, life lessons, and personal anecdotes from the author, who lost his mother to cancer in 2012.

 

Shaken Not Stirred: A Chemo Cocktail by Joules Evans

     Fewer sentences can deliver such horror as this one: “You have cancer.”  After waking up one morning and feeling a lump on her chest, Joules Evans makes an appointment for a mammogram (at forty-two, it was her first – she strongly advises all women to make them part of your annual routine now!).  What follows is Joules’ story of what happens when cancer enters a person’s life – in an instant, everything is turned on its head.  As prevalent as cancer is in today’s world, we live our lives believing that it won’t ever happen to us.  And then your diagnosis comes, and it just doesn’t make sense.  Perhaps you had assumed that you would always be there to provide for your children, but cancer has a way of reminding us how fleeting life can be.  In the face of such a terrifying foe, many would be tempted to turn tail and hide, or cower in the closet until the end comes for them.  But Joules’ responses was something else entirely: she chose to greet cancer with humor and strength, cracking jokes and keeping her family positive throughout all the surgery and chemotherapy.  In the end, Shaken Not Stirred proves that there’s no cure like optimism.

     This is a book you’ll want to buy in bulk.  Maybe you know someone who is currently battling cancer.  Or, maybe you’re facing down the enemy yourself.  Shaken Not Stirred shows how a family is affected by cancer, with quotes and thoughts from Joules’ friends and family members.  The only way to win is if you have allies fighting alongside you; this isn’t a war you can win alone.  Despite the subject material – or, more likely, in spite of – this book is laugh-out-loud funny.  Joules talks about her many chemotherapy treatments, and how it’s no coincidence that superheroes also have a tendency to drink radioactive cocktails.  Cancer doesn’t change who you are – it only makes you stronger.

To purchase a copy of Shaken Not Stirredclick here to find it on Amazon.

 

The Change Agent: From 30,000 Feet by Bruce Barcomb

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change     The Change Agent: From 30,000 Feet by Bruce Barcomb is about the journey of self-discovery and actualization that comes from adapting negative thinking to more positive outlooks. With many examples from his own life experiences of loss, such as his sister’s brutal murder and his mom’s death after battling cancer, Barcomb describes helpful methods for dealing with the grief and anger that come from loss and trauma. Peppered throughout with spiritual and historical quotes along with parallels to popular movies, the book remains compelling, relatable, and moving throughout its entirety.

     Though at many times somewhat repetitive, large portions of the book are unique accounts of the author’s personal struggles and insights into the ways he was able to overcome and move past them. When a serial killer murdered his sister while he was still a teenager, Barcomb’s life was greatly affected with sadness and nightmares for many years after. The riveting story of events surrounding this horrible tragedy that involves several young women’s deaths leads finally to closure for the families of the victims, and to the author’s ability to move forward in his life. The book also discusses universal life experiences such as the different forms of love, the trials of adolescence, the value of positive thinking, and even the author’s take on the meaning of life. Spirituality is often mentioned, mostly from a Christian perspective, but also encompassing a wide range of religious and spiritual viewpoints. Delving into psychology and the usefulness of group therapy, the book is a well-rounded account of positive change in the human mind and the need to do what one can to constantly be improving their thoughts and their lives.

To purchase a copy of the book, click here to find it on Amazon.