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The Winners of The 2014 Red City Review Book Awards:

winners covers together

 

Recent Five Star Reviews

Merry Christmas in the Sea by Lucy Herman

5redstars

merryA beautifully illustrated story that is perfect to read to children before bedtime, especially during the holiday season, Merry Christmas in the Sea, written by Lucy Herman and illustrated by David Anderson is a delightful and colorful book. The story starts off with a frog leading some children into the realm underwater, a place he calls the land of melted snow. Under the sea we are taken on a journey where we quickly realize that the fish, sea turtles, dophins, octopi, and many other sea creatures also celebrate Christmas in a festive way. There are coral Christmas trees that the fish adorn with seashells and starfish shining bright like the stars in the sky. The little fish are anxious for Santa to arrive, just as young children are, but instead of his sled being pulled by reindeer, underwater his sleigh is driven by a band of seahorses. This tale reminds us that so many different people (and perhaps even animals) take joy in celebrating the festive time that is Christmas.

The rhyming narrative of this story is easy enough for children to read on their own, or for a parent to read aloud to them. The illustrations are very well done and fit in perfectly with the text on each page. Every aspect of this book fits together perfectly. We commend Lucy Herman for coming up with an original Christmas story that hasn’t been seen before, and for David Anderson’s wonderful illustrations that add such vibrancy. If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for a young child you know that loves sea life, Merry Christmas in the Sea would a great option, as it is a book they’re sure to love.

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

 

Henry First by Basil Lawrence

5redstars

While Henry First, is, at its core, a story about a culinary chef who is desperate to win a cooking competition, the multiple layers that author Basil Lawrence has added to his narrative make it something special. Offering a realistic and unapologetic view of the restaurant industry and those who work within it, this novel displays a world in which no one really seems to understand why things are the way they are. A tale of excess, whether it be through the ingredients Henry uses, or through the capitalism, corruption, and greed that is present throughout the world that seems to keep degenerating, this novel is satire at its best. Not only that, the author brings about a great deal of humorous anecdotes and plot points in his writing, that keep the reader laughing from page to page. Although the title character is arguably the most fascinating, there are plenty of supporting characters who add to the mix, where the fast paced storyline shows just how unforgiving people can be towards one another in order to get what they want.

Basil Lawrence has a unique writing style, and a comedic flair that works wonders throughout this novel. One is never bored while reading his narrative, as the story has few dull moments with all of the intriguing and inventive plot points that Lawrence has littered throughout. By using references to real life history and also to literature, the author has created the kind of book that makes the reader feel as if they are perhaps smarter than they actually are. A joy to read, a book that brings about plenty of laughs, and a well constructed story from beginning to end, Henry First is the kind of book that we’d like to discover more often.

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

 

Vanishing Twin by Tanja Kobasic

5redstars

A riveting novel that focuses heavily on the themes of good vs. evil and what it means to be sisters, author Tanja Kobasic has created an engrossing read with the first of her Untapped Series: Vanishing Twin. Telling the story of conjoined twins Scarlett and Jade Jennings, sisters who are fused at the pelvis, the narrative is rich from the very beginning. Even though the sisters had a troublesome start to their lives, not only because of their physical state, but due to being born to a Bulgarian teen with a drug addiction, only to be raised in a shoddy orphanage, eventually the sisters find good fortune after being adopted by an American couple. Nowadays they have written a bestselling novel and travel as motivational speakers. It is because of their semi-level of fame that they meet Sebastian Cole at one of their events. Scarlett finds herself extremely drawn to this dark and mysterious man, who works as a grand illusionist in Las Vegas. Supposedly possessing demonic powers, Sebastian may not be all he seems, but that doesn’t deter Scarlett from trying her best to follow her heart after him. The only problem is, she has a sister that she can’t get rid of, and Jade is not pleased with her sister’s wishes.

What’s so great about this novel is that Kobasic has created a world in which everything appears to be real. Conjoined twins of course are a natural occurrence, but the way in which the Jennings sisters live their lives is unmatched in our society, since we really have no famous conjoined sisters writing bestselling books in today’s marketplace. Comparisons to the Tattler sisters who are currently main characters on this season of American Horror Story: Freak Show are bound to come up by any reader who also watches the show, and this is a good connection to make, as both sets of sisters are conjoined, and both wish to be rid of their respective sister for their own personal gains, whether it be for love, money, power, or all of the above. Although the Jennings sisters share one body, they certainly do not share the same mind, as Kobasic has developed each of the characters fully, in a way that makes it easy for the reader to distinguish the two. With a strong cast of supporting characters, the only thing upsetting about this book is that it ended too soon. However, with a planned series in the works, we’re sure that Kobasic has a lot more thrilling stories to share about Scarlett and Jade.

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

 

Control Switch by Leana Delle

5redstarsS51LOOde11DL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ince high school, Candace Bradford has been offering advice to anyone who would listen: stop procrastinating, start exercising, remain calm in tense situations.  Now that she has a just-released book on the market and a radio show airing weekly out of Chicago, people are definitely listening.  It seems that thirty-something Candace has achieved her single greatest dream in less time than she could have imagined.  But despite her bright future, Candace’s success comes with a price – at the very moment when her career is poised to take off, she comes under the hold of a strange illness, the ramifications of which could tear her carefully constructed world apart.  Candace makes a quick decision that could save her life while simultaneously ruining her marriage to Ross Simpson, a hunky, hot shot lawyer with a severe competitive streak and a burgeoning workload of his own.  In an effort to protect Ross, Candace lies about her health, preventing him from having any influence in her decision-making process.  Ross becomes irate when she finally fills him in on the situation, walking out on their already-troubled marriage.  Even so, Candace can sense that there is more to Ross’s reaction than he is letting on.  The real question is, can Candace keep her crumbling career together long enough to figure out what he is hiding?

Control Switch is an unerringly enthralling read that rolls out a well-written narrative and addresses key social themes at the same time.  First, there is the issue of being a successful female in a male-dominated work environment.  Delle’s protagonist is adamant that she have control over her own life, but sometimes that right is unfairly hoarded from hardworking women.  Second, Delle writes about a convincingly troubled marriage that ails because a couple feels the need to fight over things like finances and the relative success of either person’s career.  With a unique premise and engaging conflict, Control Switch asks tough questions that deserve answers.

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

 

Coriander Jones Saves the World by Kim English

5redstars

41xerUds+kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Thirteen-year-old Coriander is headed to camp again this summer – but this year may very well be her last.  Raised in a lower income neighborhood in Florida, Coriander has lots of things on her mind – annoying younger siblings, her friend Sam’s increasingly bizarre behavior, figuring out her archenemy Olivia’s next devious scheme – and none of them include a supernatural plot to end humankind once and for all.  But that is exactly the sort of situation Coriander and her friends find themselves thrown into when a tranquil bus ride becomes a battle royale.  The kids are awakened to the looming threat posed by “the Old Ones,” a group of ancient deities that seeks to return to our world and make humans pay for forgetting about them.  The only obstacle standing in their way is a mystical barrier known as “the sieve” that serves as a deterrent against rogue spiritual beings.  Whether or not she believes in them, the Old Ones threaten to end not just Coriander’s quiet life, but the lives of everyone she loves around her.  In order to stop them, she’ll need to harness her newfound ability to communicate with otherworldly beings and call a truce with an old enemy.  If Coriander wants a relaxing summer vacation, she’ll have to deal with a few things first.

Young readers will go wild over this new middle-grade fiction series.  Though Coriander Jones deals with similar themes and characters as other series like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, English has managed to create a singularly entertaining cast of heroes and foes.  Coriander is perhaps the pluckiest heroine to grace middle-grade fiction since Lucy and Susan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  The book also handles, with particular aplomb, the situation of lower income families across the country, which can be difficult for parents to discuss with their children, but the understanding and empathy of which is vital to the proper growth of our youth into responsible, kind-hearted adults.  Overall, this proves to be the start to a promising new series.

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

 

Stealing a Summer’s Afternoon by AJ Sidransky

5redstars

If you read one book this year purely for pleasure and the enjoyment of reading, choose AJ Sidransky’s, Stealing a Summer’s Afternoon. Sidransky’s novel is the perfect combination of humor, mystery, and good-natured law breaking. In Stealing a Summer’s Afternoon, Elliott Serlin finds himself questioning his place in his family, as well as in life in general, after losing all of his money in the most ridiculous Ponzi scheme ever. When Elliot then discovers that he may also be losing his comfortable, if boring, bank job, he knows that something has got to give and that he needs to get fast money from somewhere and by any means possible. Through a series of coincidental events and a partnership with his best friend and lifting partner, Elliot begins to plan a heist that could potentially save his bank account, his marriage, and the financial situations of many of his friends. Breaking the law has never seemed so practical and so sexy.

Sidransky’s novel is fast-paced, well-written, and downright enjoyable, while still boldly and frankly emphasizing how depressingly important money is in today’s society. Maybe money cannot truly buy happiness, but without money it is next to impossible to be happy. Elliott’s journey into lawlessness also highlights the importance of relationships and friendships in life, after all, what is money without friends to help you steal it and then spend it? Elliott’s antics and adventures will leave you laughing, cringing, and perhaps even considering your own spur-of-the-moment million dollar art heist.

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

 

The Legacy Rule by J. Nathan, Ph.D.

5redstars

legacyJ. Nathan, Ph.D. really lays down a powerful and strong case for making dramatic changes in how we live our lives in his non-fiction book, The Legacy Rule. His view is that if we do not make a number of huge shifts in how we treat our planet and how we think, the world as we know it will drastically come to an end by the end of this century. In fact, he suggests that the world will return to far more basic ways of living. He makes a powerful point about over-population of Earth. This is the core theme of the book. The planet’s resources are severely being diminished and they are not infinite. Nathan states that people are oblivious to what will happen due to exponential growth. They do not realize there is a tipping point at which time things will take a devastating downturn. He really dives into the results of having less people on Earth, and promotes the concept of implementing The Legacy Rule: “Love all the children you can, but create no more than one or two if you as yet have none.”

With a long background in psychology and scientific studies, author, J. Nathan, Ph.D., offers the reader a great deal of insightful information to support his point of view. At the same time, he makes it quite clear in the beginning that he realizes not everyone will read the entire book; therefore, he tells the reader where the best stopping places are within the book if one is not opting to read it in its entirety. The Legacy Rule is not a book to be viewed as academic or scholarly writing. However, it is very well written and jam-packed with information. If one wants future generations to live healthy, happy lives, then taking the time to read, ponder and perhaps, take action on the concepts and information shared in this book is well worth it.

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