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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Cops Lie! by Leonard Love Matlick

★★★  Detective Tony Philadelphia has seen a lot of terrible things during his time as a protector of New York City, but it seems to him that the situation has gotten a lot worse in recent years. After a car accident involving several police officers reveals the cops’ connection to local mobsters, Tony becomes embroiled in a case of corruption that stretches across the city and has the potential to bring the entire police department crumbling to the ground. With the help of his partner, Ed Longo, Tony sets out to find where the trail of dishonesty leads, though if he is not careful, he just might end up falling victim to the same criminal sources.

Cops Lie! is driven by the author’s strong, authoritative voice, which brings clarity to the plot’s looser narrative cul-de-sacs. The main character, Tony, is modeled after a few of crime fiction’s best male leads, and he serves as a logical and relatable lodestone for the novel. It hardly seems a coincidence that a book so heavily engaged with the topic of police brutality should be published at a time like this, especially in the wake of bestsellers like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give receiving well-deserved attention this year. But while novels like Thomas’s build tension on the back of a single scenario, Cops Lie! makes the mistake of too passionately trying to illustrate the faults of the modern American police force. Whereas one or two scenes of wrongful altercations in a novel might be considered powerful, the author includes these scenes in nearly every chapter, the cumulative effect of which is to reduce each subsequent scene’s ability to render emotion in the reader. Perhaps that is the author’s very intent: to mirror what is happening in today’s media, and to show how quickly a person becomes desensitized to violence when it is presented as a daily occurrence. If that is the case, then Cops Lie! is a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of turning a blind eye to injustice, and of ascribing too much power to any group of people.

To purchase a copy of Cops Lie!, click here to find it on Amazon.