Entry for the 2019 Red City Review Book Awards is officially open! Submissions close December 27. Winners will be announced in January 2020. Click here to enter: http://redcityreview.com/book-awards/
It’s that time of year—again! Even the most hardhearted can agree that there is something timeless and instantly relatable about a good romance novel. Everyone wants to feel loved, and many of us also enjoy reading about it. Whether you’re a hardcore romance aficionado, or just a sucker for the occasional love story, the five books below are sure to get your heart racing. There’s something for everyone in this list, so read through to learn more. You can also click on the book’s cover to read our full review!
For the foodie:
★★★★ Olivia Dumont, a young and beautiful pastry chef, moves from New Orleans to Galveston, Texas, where she quickly lands a job at Vita e Spezie (Life and Spice), a popular family-run Italian restaurant nestled in a charming historical building. Salvatore (Sal) Angeloni, Olivia’s new boss, is grateful for the extra help in the kitchen, which he sorely needs in light of his siblings’ declining physical and mental health. Upon starting work, a string of sudden, dire events causes Olivia to grow close to the Angeloni family. She becomes especially tight with Luca, Sal’s only son, who shows up unannounced to reunite with his father after many years of separation. The connection between Olivia and Luca is undeniable, and their feelings for each other develop amidst immense family drama, as well as Olivia’s own personal hardship, which she tries very hard to conceal.
For the short-story lover:
★★★★★ In this engrossing collection of eleven short stories, author and journalist Peter Sichrovsky gives readers a handful of love stories to ponder over. His newest work, Verklempt, explores the identity of many Jewish characters, most of who are caught up in the throes of passion, attraction, disappointment, uncertainty, danger, or bewilderment. The stories are connected in a way that the same kind of overwhelming emotion is ever present throughout the stories’ pages. While the narratives all offer something different, the author’s background and heritage is a noticeable influence on his character’s identities. Issues like The Holocaust and anti-Semitism are tackled, as are current and recent political issues. In the story “Prague” a young Jewish boy’s new romance is threatened by chaos in the city, while in “The Sirens” a family is faced with the terror of staying together during an attack on their homeland. A husband tries to figure out what to do with his failing marriage in “The Love Schnorrer,” while in “The Holiday” three different families try to have an enjoyable time together on a vacation to Greece.
For the non-traditionalist:
★★★★ Stalker, My Love by Zack Scott follows the untraditional love story of Rosalyn Ray and Rhett Calloway. In their early twenties and still living in their hometown, the motley gang—self-named REM, for Rosalyn, Elliot, and Mimi—attempt to navigate life in a stiflingly small town: Pine Bridge. Unlike most traditional love stories, this one begins with the would-be knight-in-shining-armor perched in a tree with a pair of binoculars, creepily observing his maiden fair. Clumsily, fumbling, and bumbling, Rhett is caught red-handed by Rosalyn, who promptly threatens to call the authorities on him. Meanwhile, her best friend, Elliot Venice, a newly minted deputy, and the supposed love of her life, Earl Wick, a washed up ex-high-school-baseball player, slept together, completely confounding everything the moment Rosalyn winds up a missing person. Of course, the minute she learns of her best friend’s disappearance, Elliot jumps right into action, despite the fact that her superiors caution her to wait the full 24 hours before launching an official investigation. Spurred by equal measures of love and guilt, she enlists the help of an unlikely gang of fellow officers. Through twists and turns and topsy-turvy unrealities, the truth of Rosalyn’s disappearance proves to be stranger than fiction—as does the romance that burgeons in the midst of it all.
For the nostalgic:
★★★★ An intriguing tale that twists together the paranormal with a witty rom-com, Seven For a Secret is both a ghost story and a romantic escapade. We follow twenty-four-year-old Kate as she moves into a new apartment, celebrating the freedom she feels as the year 2000 ushers in a new millennium. She decides to take a break from her boyfriend Dexter so that she can explore more of her spontaneous side, quickly developing a crush on her attractive next-door neighbor. However, it’s not long before her plan for romance goes awry, as she learns that her building, Camden Court, was once a hotel in the roaring twenties. Now, eighty years later, Kate is confronted with the reality that many of the hotel’s past guests haunt the halls. One of these supernatural beings happens to be ninety-year-old Olive, whose life ended in Kate’s very apartment. As the narrative unfolds, we learn that Olive holds a deadly secret she’s eager to share, one that links her to a scandalous affair involving a young man named Lon, who brings a whole bout of tragedy to the situation that Kate is forced to deal with, whether she likes it or not.
For the thrill-seeker:
Part thrilling court drama, part enthralling romance, Forever Bound by J.B. Millhollin follows the complicated story of determined defense attorney, Rosa Norway, as she attempts to juggle the murder trial of Angelo Bonaventura and her messy love life. The story begins before Angelo and Rosa cross paths, with the backstory of the murder that’s led Angelo to be tried by the Nashville District Attorney’s office. Chuck Harris, Angelo’s son-in-law, just so happens to also be his employee at Webber’s Furniture Store. Chuck has figured out a way to grift money from innocent, unsuspecting old ladies, and he’s certain that his menacing father-in-law will remain none the wiser. His assumptions prove fatal, as Angelo has him “taken care of” shortly thereafter. Fast-forward five months to when Rosa’s story begins. Rosa, in a fog post-drunken-night-out, edges her way out of an awkward situation with an ex. From that moment her feet touch the ground, she never quits running around trying to defend indefensible actions and manage multiple dalliances with lovers current and past. Among the key characters in her fascinating trials and tribulations are David, her prickly ex; Stoney, a handsome former lover and current business partner whose misdeeds land him in the worst sort of trouble; John Winstrom, another complicated lover with piercing blue eyes and a magnetic quality that keeps drawing Rosa back for more; and, of course, Angelo Bonaventura, a dangerous felon with a propensity for having bodies mysteriously pile up around him. It takes everything in Rosa’s power to maintain her composure and navigate her way through these murky waters.
Happy New Year, everyone! We’re so thankful to be heading into our fifth year of working with independent writers. Last year, we reviewed over 250 titles, all of them self-published, and we’re truly excited for everything coming up in 2018. (Including the Red City Review Book Awards! More info on that coming soon.)
Being part of a community of readers, we figured that a good number of you might have received a new Kindle over the holidays. Did you know that all Kindle devices come with a free month of Kindle Unlimited? That means you can read every single one of the books below for free, just by signing up. Click on the title to read our review, and click on the cover to head over to the Amazon e-book page!
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!
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!
Halloween weekend is upon us, so we thought we’d share some 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. Each of the books below gives 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
Leah 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
Bottomless 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
“‘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.
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 Stirred, click here to find it on Amazon.
The Change Agent: From 30,000 Feet by Bruce Barcomb
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.