Recently Reviewed | Coattails and Cocktails by Rumer Haven

Coattails and Cocktails by Rumer Haven   

Friends, family, and flirts alike gather for a routine dinner party at the Belleau estate, but something isn’t quite right this time. There’s newspaper tycoon Colonel Ransom Warne and his tart-tongued wife, Edith; Lottie Landry, a silent film starlet and the Warnes’ one-time ward; Noble Howard, Lottie’s volatile co-star and soon-to-be fiancé; Helen Conroy, a columnist for Warne’s newspaper; and Rex Rainger, a man with too many merits to list. Isolated at the estate, this dinner party is forced to face death head-on when one of its members turns up murdered. The question is: who’s the culprit? Dark motives will come to light as each of the characters quests after the murderer’s true identity.

Coattails and Cocktails is a delightful whodunnit that combines elements of classic Jazz Age tales like The Great Gatsby with more contemporary crime capers like the 1985 film Clue. As in any ensemble, a piece like this only works if all its parts pull their own weight – and in that regard, we are happy to say that Haven has crafted a well-oiled machine with this new book. The characters and the dialogue play especially well to Haven’s strengths as an author, and their pleasures only increase as the plot’s true fuel begins to burn. We love murder mysteries where past missteps and misdemeanors are trotted out to bring a deeper dimension to their characters – something Coattails and Cocktails demonstrates with particular aplomb.

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

Recently Reviewed | Smoke Screen by Nicholas P Clark

Smoke Screen by Nicholas P Clark

At the start of this romantic thriller, Pam is sipping a tequila sunrise at a bar in Cancun – but she’s not here for a vacation. Pam is an undercover agent with the CIA who has been tasked with bringing down one of the largest drug cartels in Mexico. Short after arriving, she meets the man of her dreams, an international consultant named Brandon who woos her with his frank and open overtures. But Pam knows that she is in Mexico on assignment; there isn’t time for true love, and what’s worse, Brandon could get hurt by the fallout from Pam’s meddling in Mexico. While struggling between love and country, Pam comes across information that reveals things about Brandon he hasn’t told her – it turns out that the man of her dreams might not be exactly who he says he is.

Smoke Screen by Nicholas P Clark is a highly enjoyable hybrid of a book combining the best elements of crime capers and getaway romances. Clark’s main character, Pam, is a kind-hearted, passionate woman, and the reader truly becomes invested in her pursuit of true love and professional prestige. That being said, one downside of hanging so much of the novel’s material on one character is that the reader sometimes wonders why Pam acts the way she does. If, for example, Pam has devoted all of her life toward joining the CIA, why would she allow herself to be caught up in such an impromptu love affair while on assignment? In the end, one supposes that Clark is trying to illustrate not just the positive qualities of love and devotion, but also their very real drawbacks: obsession, jealousy, sacrificing one’s own well being. These are all themes that strike to the heart of Smoke Screen and imbue it with a sense of emotional acuity. Caught up in the intrigue, you’ll be reaching for that imaginary tequila sunrise by your bedside table before you know it.

To purchase a copy of this novel, click here to find it on Amazon.

Like This? Try That!

Sometimes finding a book to read can seem especially daunting. After all, there’s so much great stuff out there noawadays – how do you decide which route to take? In the interest of making our readers’ lives a little easier, we’re recommending five great books that are perfect for fans of the movies you see below. This batch features middle grade and young adult titles, but we’ll be doing similar posts with different genres in the future, so stay tuned!

 

Moana fans will love The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles, which has a similar island atmosphere as the movie. The two main characters are Nahoa and Ailani, two princes in line for the throne of Oceana!

 

 

Coriander Jones Saves the World by Kim English is perfect for readers who devoured the Percy Jackson series. Summer camp? Check. Adolescent angst? Check. Immortal creatures of untold evil? Check.

 

 

Much of the appeal of How to Train Your Dragon comes from the different varieties of dragons you encounter during the film. The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading casts a similar spell, introducing readers to zany dragons of all types. 

 

 

Sure, both The Fifth Wave and The Fourth Piece have numbers in their titles, but beyond that, these stories are riveting near-future tales in which aliens wreak havoc on our species. There’s also telepathy and a Gothic-style war.

 

 

Envenom might not be the battle royale bloodbath that is The Hunger Games, but it definitely has its own edginess. Set in a similar dystopian America, this novel follows a character named Kelvin who finds himself falling for a forbidden love.

 

 

BONUS: It’s our turn to suggest a movie! If you liked That Truthful Place by Patty Lesser, then we think you will want to see Chaos Walking, based on the series of books by Patrick Ness. While the film doesn’t come out until 2019, we are genuinely pumped to see how the book looks once it hits the big screen!

 

 

Recently Reviewed | Miseries, Illusions and Hope by Almas Akhtar

Miseries, Illusions and Hope by Almas Akhtar

Miseries, Illusions and Hope by Almas Akhtar is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories that largely take place in Pakistan, which detail the lives of people with professions as disparate as doctors and personal drivers. The stories follow a loose narrative, beginning with a broader look at the problems facing Pakistan, like income inequality, from the perspectives of characters whose fortunes represent opposite ends of the spectrum. Later stories examine the many minute ways in which a family can either fall apart or remain connected when it encounters difficulties like divorce, unsuccessful or barren marriages, and having a family member move across the country for work. Written mostly in first person, Akhtar’s accounts feel immediately accessible and relatable, even to readers who have never experienced anything like what is described by the author.

At the risk of sounding insincere, this short story collection could not have appeared at a better time. Under the Trump administration, immigration has come under fire in the face of terrorist attacks and growing global fear. Powerful – and, more importantly, personal – accounts like the ones Akhtar includes here are an essential step toward restoring the humanity of people who are often reduced to simple labels like “alien” or “foreigner.” It is possible to forget that these very people are seeking many of the same things we are, like safety, financial security, and better lives for their children. We propose a simple challenge: regardless of your background, read these stories and see if you cannot find common ground with at least one of the characters included here; it is a challenge you will likely fail.

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

Recently Reviewed | Goddess of the Wild Thing by Paul DeBlassie III

Goddess of the Wild Thing by Paul DeBlassie III

Thirty-eight-year-old Eve is a professor of esoteric studies at the University of Aztlan, part of the Aztecs’ mythic homeland that exists somewhere in the Southwestern United States. Her past relationships with men have left her grappling with difficult questions about love, but that all changes when she meets Sam Shear. Sam is a hotshot criminal lawyer who possesses an emotional and psychic intensity that startles even jaded Eve out of her romantic ennui. The couple shares an undeniable chemistry that transcends both Eve’s failed relationships and Sam’s one-night stands. Yet there is a powerful presence in Aztlan del Sur that wishes ill will on this match – a presence whose dark ties to Sam threaten to spell destruction not only for the couple’s happiness, but for the entire city.

Goddess of the Wild Thing by Paul DeBlassie III is a female-driven fantasy characterized by an unpredictable plot and a richly brooding atmosphere. From the novel’s very start, readers are welcomed into a mystical world brimming with spirits, angels, witches, and goddesses. This premise might suggest just another urban fantasy, but the story is further elevated by the fine-tuned specificity of its lore and by the author’s emphasis on the connection between psychic energy, unearthly power, and raw human emotion. The writing here is almost dreamlike, a general mood that is then strengthened by the novel’s focus and flavor. DeBlassie has beautifully constructed something of a social experiment, where readers are invited to view the very nature of womanhood, whether it be mother, lover, or sister.

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

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.