Bright Side by Kim Holden ~ Book Review

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RATING OVERVIEW 4.75 STARS

Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Secrets.
Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.

They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.

And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

WOW… I ate this book up, binge reading it in just a couple of days. It is a super-fast read with so much amazing detail.

WRITING (★★★★★): Kim Holden draws you right in with her playful dialogue between life long friends Kate and Gus. Immediately we feel their connection and realize that these two friends have just been separated as Kate left for college and Gus is still home in southern California following his dream of being a Rockstar.

The way Kim tells the story, each chapter from one character’s perspective, really pulled me into the book. It makes you, as a reader, feel more involved and it gives the story an overarching personal feeling that telling it from third person just wouldn’t have accomplished.

STORY (★★★★): This story takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get pissed… but, if you’re like me, you’ll love every minute of it.

A little warning though, this one is for mature audiences. Topics covered in Bright Side include loss, disease, eating disorders, homosexuality, sex, drinking, and SO MUCH MORE!!!

CHARACTERS (★★★★★): As an author, Kim Holden understands character development. She has to be one of my top 5 authors for character development. She had me emotionally connected, not only to the main character Kate but also with Gus, Keller, and everyone else. Seriously, even Kate’s college roommate, who is kind of a jerk, is written in a way that makes her misunderstood… I found myself wanting to know more about her. Who knows, maybe Kim will write a book for her at some point too.

Kate, also known as Bright Side, is a beautiful person inside and out. She is optimistic in every sense of the word and sadly, life has just not been kind to her. She has been dealt a terrible hand, but she doesn’t let it get her down. With every line… even when she is saying Dude every other word, we get a sense of who she is. That is the magic of good character development.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): Simple… Intriguing… and totally Bright Side! The cover made me smile even before I opened the pages to meet Bright Side!  

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Today, my life is awesome. I don’t want to think about tomorrow. Or the day after that. So I repeat to myself: Today, my life is awesome.”

“Don’t judge each other. We all have our own shit. Keep your eyes on yours and your nose out of everyone else’s unless you’re invited in. And when you get the invitation, help, don’t judge.”

“Imagine for a moment that you were free of all the expectations in your life. What would you do? How would you live your life with no one watching? What would your future look like?”

“Do Epic.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kim lives in what she calls the greatest city in the world: Denver, Colorado. Some of her favorite things: reading, writing, her husband and her son, her bicycle, Facebook, iced coffee, and music. She also loves dreaming. Her advice to anyone reading this, or any of her books… follow your dreams. It’s never too late. Get started today … heck get started RIGHT NOW! Make your dreams reality.
She loves to hear from fellow readers. So, if you want to reach out, find her on Goodreads at author/show/7445352.Kim_Holden

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Kim Holden

GUS (Bright Side Book 2)

This is the story of Gus.
Losing himself.
Finding himself.
And healing along the way.

“ … but the honest-to-God truth is I don’t even know how to function anymore. Bright Side wasn’t only my best friend; she was like my other half … the other half of my brain, the other half of my conscience, the other half of my sense of humor, the other half of my creativity, the other half of my heart. How do you go back to doing what you did before, when half of you is gone forever?”

Note from the author: Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is recommended for mature audiences.

FRANCO (Bright Side Book 3)

Franco Genovese is the drummer for world renowned American rock band, Rook. He’s got it all. A killer smile. Tattoos. Talent. Razor sharp wit and humor. And a heart as big, and generous, as they come.
Life is good. Steady. Uncomplicated. Just the way he likes things.
Until one night at an unassuming L.A. bar changes everything.
Enter Gemma Hendricks.
She’s a successful young architect from Northern England with an adorable smile, sarcasm for days, and an unparalleled trusting heart.
The attraction is instant.
So is their friendship.
It’s also temporary because they’ll both be heading home, thousands of miles apart from each other, in a few days.
Or is it?
There’s something Gemma wants more than anything else.
And when Franco propositions her to provide what she’s looking for, everything changes.
Will it transform friendship into love, or will it be their ruin?

THE OTHER SIDE

There are two sides to every story.
The surface reality that’s presented to the world…
And then there’s the other side.
The real one.
The one that matters.
Seventeen-year-old, self-proclaimed asshole, Toby Page, is alone.
No friends.
No family.
He trades maintenance work in exchange for room and board.
Every day he fights demons no one else can see.
Every day he wants to give up.
But he can’t.
Not yet.
When Alice Eliot moves in downstairs, she offers Toby some light in his dark world.
At a crossroads and barely hanging on, it’s hard to have perspective.
It’s difficult to see your own worth when you’re the villain in your story.
Luckily for Toby, Alice brings things out in him that no one else ever has.
As the two sides of Toby’s story are revealed, and the full reality comes into view, truth is gained, unlikely heroes emerge, and improbable alliances prove that kindness is fundamentally human.
The question is, Will it all be enough to save him?

ALL OF IT

Seventeen-year-old VERONICA SMITH has it all: a loving family, a funky car named Jezebel, and a plan to go to college after graduation. On the first day of senior year, she meets DIMITRI GLENN–a mysterious transfer student with gray eyes and a mischievous smile who seems determined to win her heart. But there’s something odd about Dimitri, leading Veronica to wonder if there’s more to him than meets the eye. Before long she finds herself in a whirlwind romance that seems too good to be true–until a series of devastating events leaves her questioning everything. It’s not until she chooses to think with her heart instead of her mind that she can rise from the ashes to learn the truth of their connection.

SO MUCH MORE

This is a glimpse into divorce: the lead-up, the aftermath, and the redemption that follows.
Love is strange. It comes out of nowhere. There’s no logic to it. It’s not methodical. It’s not scientific. It’s pure emotion and passion. And emotion and passion can be dangerous because they fuel love…and hate.
I’m now a reluctant connoisseur of both—an expert through immersion. I know them intimately.

When I fell in love with Miranda, it was swift and blind. She was the person I’d elevated to mythical status in my head, in my dreams.
Here’s the thing about dreams, they’re smoke.
They’re spun as thoughts until they become something we think we want. Something we think we need.

That was Miranda. She was smoke.

I thought I wanted her. I thought I needed her.

Over time reality crept in and slowly dissected and disemboweled my dreams like a predator, leaving behind a rotting carcass.

Reality can be a fierce bitch.
So can Miranda.

And I can be a fool…
who believes in dreams.

And people.


Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco ~ Book Review

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  • Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper
  • Author: Kerri Maniscalco

RATING OVERVIEW: 4.25 STARS
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

I’ve always been fascinated with the minds of serial killers. Not in a creepy way, but in a ‘how could anyone possible do that’ sort of way. My mind tries to understand that which cannot be understood… With that said, I’ve read a number of books about Jack the Ripper and I’ve even played his final victim in the play, The Belles of Whitechapel by Wayne Miller. So, when someone asked me to read and review this book, I jumped at the opportunity.

WRITING (★★★★): Maniscalco’s writing style is detailed and fluid. I love how easily I was swept away to the late 1800’s while Jack the Ripper was roaming the streets. Although, at times, the story seemed to drag, bogged down by unnecessary scenes, it didn’t distract me from the over all story. I loved Maniscalco’s style and am eager to read more.

STORY (★★★★): Audrey Rose, our heroine, is a member of high society expected to attend tea, brunch with the ladies, and accept her place in society as an uneducated woman. However, Audrey Rose doesn’t accept that. She has a passion for knowledge and a curiosity for forensic science. Sneaking behind her father’s back, she studies under the tutelage of her uncle, spending many days elbow deep in the viscera of the latest cadaver.

The author leads us down a few paths, making the reader question who the killer, Jack the Ripper, really is. I’ll admit, I made a couple wrong guesses, but I got it right on my third try about half way through the book. If you pay attention, the clues are there.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): The book has a small cast of primary characters, the two main characters being Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. We’re also introduced to Audrey’s Uncle Jonathan, her brother Nathaniel, her father Lord Edmund Wadsworth, her Aunt Amelia, and her cousin Liza with a few other thrown in throughout the story.

Audrey Rose isn’t your typical 1800’s lady, but I found her to be fun, feisty, and all around relatable. Like many teenagers, she often acts without thinking, she jumps to conclusions, and she puts herself in dangerous positions. She is strong willed and brave. It’s that bravery and courage that I enjoyed the most about her character. The way she didn’t care about blending in… fitting in… she was who she was and she didn’t care what other people thought about her.

Thomas Cresswell, who fancies Audrey Rose from just about the moment he spots her is the devilishly handsome, smooth talking, bad boy. Or at least that’s what he wants you to believe. I loved the way that he and Audrey play off each other. There is chemistry between them from the start, but back in the 1800’s it wasn’t proper to act on emotions so there is also a lot of restraint. That push and pull of emotions is fun to read.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover is beautiful. We have a clear image of what Audrey Rose looks like, although, I’ll admit she isn’t the girl I was picturing as I read the book. We also get a visual of her world, the dark streets of Victorian-era London. I think the cover artist did a beautiful job.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”

“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows.”

“In my spare time I flay open bodies of the deceased. Two of whom were victims of leather Apron. The scent that hung in the room would drop a man to his knees, and I aided my uncle during the postmortems while standing in gelled blood. Whatever you have to show us won’t be too much for my stomach to handle, I assure you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by Kerri Maniscalco

Becoming the Dark Prince

In this irresistibly-priced short story, catch a glimpse of the inner struggles and triumphs that drive Stalking Jack the Ripper‘s endearing but troubled hero.
Enigmatic, brooding, and darkly handsome, Thomas Cresswell has always been the one mystery Audrey Rose has never been able to fully solve. As brilliant partners in crime investigation, they understand each other perfectly…

but as young lovers, their passionate natures have led to both euphoria and heartbreak throughout the Stalking Jack the Ripper series.
This novella features a collection of scenes that takes place during and after the pair’s horrifying Atlantic voyage in Escaping From Houdini. Experience new and familiar scenes from Thomas’s unique point of view, including an intensely personal look into his plea for Audrey Rose’s hand in marriage.
With a romance for the ages, Audrey Rose and Thomas reach the conclusion to their epic, irresistible partnership in their final adventure, Capturing the Devil.


Hunting Prince Dracula

In this New York Times bestselling thriller, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life? FEATURES BONUS CONTENT EXCLUSIVE TO THIS PAPERBACK EDITION!

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.


Escaping From Houdini

Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell find themselves aboard a luxurious ocean liner that becomes a floating prison of horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer.

The #1 bestselling series that started with Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula continues its streak in this third bloody installment…. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, Audrey Rose

Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow more and more bizarre. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation before more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?


Capturing the Devil

In the shocking finale to the bestselling series that began with Stalking Jack the Ripper, Audrey Rose and Thomas are on the hunt for the depraved, elusive killer known as the White City Devil. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse has them fighting to stay one step ahead of the brilliant serial killer—or see their fateful romance cut short by unspeakable tragedy.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London.

But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve encountered before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end—together and in love—or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?


The Friar’s Lantern by Greg Hickey (Book Review)

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Title: The Friar's Lantern
Author: Greg Hickey
ISBN-13: 978-1733093705
ISBN-10: 1733093702
Paperback: 224 pages
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars

RATING OVERVIEW ~ (Overall: ★★★ (3.33)
Writing: ★★★ Story: ★★★ Characters: ★★★


AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

You will judge a man of murder.

Choose-your-own-adventure makes a comeback in The Friar’s Lantern.

An eccentric scientist tells you he can read your mind and offers to prove it in a high-stakes wager. A respected college professor exacts impassioned, heat-of-the-moment revenge on his wife’s killer – a week after her death – and you’re on the jury.

Take a Turing test with a twist, discover how your future choices might influence the past, and try your luck at Three Card Monte. And while you weigh chance, superstition, destiny, intuition and logic in making your decisions, ask yourself: are you responsible for your actions at all?

So choose wisely – if you can.


MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

Let me start by saying that I received a free copy of this book for my honest impartial review… That is what I mean to give here.

WRITING (★★★): Lets first address the fact that Hickey has chosen the very difficult task of writing a “choose your own adventure” style novel. This concept allows the reader to make decisions throughout the story which then determine the path the characters take. I grew up reading choose your own adventure stories as a kid and have loved them ever since. In fact, my current work in progress is also an interactive adventure novel. If I’m being honest, the main reason I agreed to read and review The Friar’s Lantern is because I wanted to see how he tackled the meticulous mapping of his story threads. His method, I believe, was very different from my own. This is an ambitious novel structure for any author and the fact that he successfully completed his story is impressive.

As for the quality of Hickey’s writing, although it is clear that he is extraordinarily articulate, I felt that some of his descriptives felt forced. Many of his sentences were so long that by the time I reached the end of the stringed together adjectives, I forget what it was he was originally explaining.

“…The stadium, Ozymandian on the bitumen shore, is beset to the north by woodlands, and here the hard blacktop, the steel girders and thick slabs of concrete devolve into dirt and dead yellow leaves and broken branches overhung by untrimmed trees and dotted with tangled bushes. The little laboratory remains as a mere afterthought, its wearied face shrouded by the sallow, emaciated branches of a willow tree, devoid of leaves even now in mid-May, the tree dead or dying as its limbs sag down on despair to scratch the top of the building.”  

Unfortunately, because of the wordy writing style, I think I enjoyed the idea of this novel more than the actually story itself.

STORY (★★★★): The concept of the story is intriguing… How do our choices effect our outcomes and do we really have free-will? The main problem I had with this story, aside from the wordiness of the sentences, was the ending. It felt rushed… or rather pre-determined as if he wrote the book knowing the concept and the ending. With the “choose your own adventure” style, I felt that there should have been something more. I didn’t feel as if my choices were really leading the story, it was more that the story was leading my choices.

CHARACTERS (★★★): Honestly, as the reader, you are the main character. With that said, I imagine trying to include any sort of arc or character development had to be hard for the author. The character doesn’t really seem to grow or change throughout the story. However, it does provide for the wonderful opportunity, when reading the story for the second time, to make different choices based on the previous outcome.


AUTHOR BIO

Greg Hickey is the author of the INDIES Book of the Year-nominated novel Our Dried Voices and an award-winning screenwriter. He is also a former international professional baseball player and coach and current forensic scientist and endurance athlete. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Lindsay.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.


Also by Greg Hickey

Our Dried Voices

In 2153, cancer was cured.
In 2189, AIDS.


And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a distant planet to begin the next chapter of humanity.

Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence.

With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a bright young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his determined friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue humanity.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Review)

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TITLE:          The Alchemist

AUTHOR:     Paulo Coelho

RATING OVERVIEW (OVERALL: 3.75)
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

Buy the book HERE!

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

WRITING (★★★★): Paulo Coelho is a wonderfully talented author who’s storytelling ability draws you in and keeps you reading. His writing style is intriguing and yet simple. With that said, The Alchemist is a very fast read. It took me all of maybe five or six hours to get through.

STORY (★★★★): On the surface, The Alchemist is a simple story of a sheep farmer who sells his sheep to set out on a journey to follow his dream… his calling… his Personal Legend as it is called in the book. Yet, in reality, there are deeper messages weaved throughout the story. Lessons we are all meant to learn, but maybe in each our own way.

Paulo Coelho is a philosopher. The over-arching theme I believe he is trying to get across is that everyone and all things are connected. The past, the present, and the future are all intertwined.  

One could read this story and take away that you must live in the moment… be mindful of the life here in the present because the past and future can not be changed.

Another reader may take away that the author is telling you to stop working to live and just start living. Follow your dreams and give 100% of yourself to the journey to reach your Personal Legend. If you’ve ever heard Arnold Schwarzenegger talk about his life – this is similar to the message he tries to get across; that you must be all in – with no backup plan.

I’m sure there are a dozen other life lessons that one could read in the passages of The Alchemist and I would argue that each and every one is right, for the reader that interprets them.

If you’ve read The Alchemist, I’d love to know what lesson or message you took away from it. Comment below and tell me what you thought of the story and what your major take away was.

I highly recommend this story for teens and young adults. They are still trying to find themselves and figure out exactly what they want out of life. I would argue that this story is a great source of encouragement to never give up and always strive to achieve what you are truly passionate about.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): I enjoyed all of the characters, for what they were. However, the lead character, the young sheep farmer named Santiago, was written extremely well. His backstory was laid out beautifully and I felt a connection to him and an investment in his journey.

The character development and connection from chapter to chapter flowed wonderfully. It was nice, for once, to read a book where the author didn’t introduce a thousand new characters in every chapter.

APPEARANCE (★★★): The cover is simple and yet aged. I don’t think I would have picked this book up if I had passed it in the book store. However, because it was given to me by someone I trust, I ignored the cover and jumped right in.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’”

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

“Don’t give in to your fears, if you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”

AUTHOR:

The Brazilian author PAULO COELHO is considered one of the most influential authors of our times. His books have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide, have been released in 170 countries and been translated into 80 languages.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, he soon discovered his vocation for writing. He worked as a director, theater actor, songwriter and journalist. His collaboration with Brazilian composer and singer Raúl Seixas gave some of the greatest classic rock songs in Brazil. In 1986, a special meeting led him to make the pilgrimage to Saint James Compostela (in Spain). The Road to Santiago was not only a common pilgrimage but a turning point in his existence. A year later, he wrote ‘The Pilgrimage’, an autobiographical novel that is considered the beginning of his career.

In the following year, COELHO published ‘The Alchemist’. Slow initial sales convinced his first publisher to drop the novel, but it went on to become one of the best selling Brazilian books of all time.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

ALSO BY PAULO COELHO:

Brida (1990)

Brida, a young Irish girl, has long been interested in various aspects of magic but is searching for something more. Her search leads her to people of great wisdom. She meets a wise man who dwells in a forest, who teaches her to trust in the goodness of the world, and a woman who teaches her how to dance to the music of the world. As Brida seeks her destiny, she struggles to find a balance between her relationships and her desire to become a witch.

This enthralling novel incorporates themes that fans of Paulo Coelho will recognize and treasure. It is a tale of love, passion, mystery, and spirituality from the master storyteller.

The Valkyries (1992)

A Magical Tale About Forgiving Our Past and Believing in Our Future

The enchanting true story of The Valkyries begins in Rio de Janeiro when author Paulo Coelho gives his mysterious master the only manuscript for his book The Alchemist. Haunted by a devastating curse; Coelho confesses to have seen my dreams fall apart just when I seemed about to achieve them. In response he gives Coelho a daunting task: He must find and speak with his guardian angel. The curse can be broken; he replies; if you complete the task.

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994)

Rarely does adolescent love reach its full potential, but what happens when two young lovers reunite after eleven years? Time has transformed Pilar into a strong and independent woman, while her devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings . . . and he has turned to religion as a refuge from his raging inner conflicts.

Now they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties, as long-buried demons of blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade. But in a small village in the French Pyrenees, by the waters of the River Piedra, a most special relationship will be reexamined in the dazzling light of some of life’s biggest questions.

The Fifth Mountain (1996)

In the ninth century b.c., the Phoenician princess Jezebel orders the execution of all the prophets who refuse to worship the pagan god Baal. Commanded by an angel of God to flee Israel, Elijah seeks safety in the land of Zarephath, where he unexpectedly finds true love with a young widow. But this newfound rapture is to be cut short, and Elijah sees all of his hopes and dreams irrevocably erased as he is swept into a whirlwind of events that threatens his very existence.

Written with the same masterful prose and clarity of vision that made The Alchemist an international phenomenon, The Fifth Mountain is a quietly moving account of a man touched by the hand of God who must triumph over his frustrations in a soul-shattering trial of faith.

Manual of a Warrior of Light (1997)

Warrior of the Light: A Manual is an inspirational companion to The Alchemist, an international bestseller that has beguiled millions of readers around the world. Every short passage invites us to live out our dreams, to embrace the uncertainty of life, and to rise to our own unique destiny. In his inimitable style, Paulo Coelho helps bring out the Warrior of the Light within each of us. He also shows readers how to embark upon the way of the Warrior: the one who appreciates the miracle of being alive, the one who accepts failure, and the one whose quest leads him to become the person he wants to be.

Paulo Coelho is one of the most beloved storytellers of our time. Now, in the long-awaited companion to his first novel, Coelho presents a collection of philosophical stories that will delight and guide seekers everywhere.

Eleven Minutes (2003)

Eleven Minutes is the story of Maria, a young girl from a Brazilian village, whose first innocent brushes with love leave her heartbroken. At a tender age, she becomes convinced that she will never find true love, instead believing that “love is a terrible thing that will make you suffer. . . .” A chance meeting in Rio takes her to Geneva, where she dreams of finding fame and fortune. Maria’s despairing view of love is put to the test when she meets a handsome young painter. In this odyssey of self-discovery, Maria has to choose between pursuing a path of darkness – sexual pleasure for its own sake – or risking everything to find her own “inner light” and the possibility of sacred sex, sex in the context of love.

The Zahir (2005)

The narrator of The Zahir is a bestselling novelist who lives in Paris and enjoys all the privileges money and celebrity bring. His wife of ten years, Esther, is a war correspondent who has disappeared along with a friend, Mikhail, who may or may not be her lover.

Was Esther kidnapped, murdered, or did she simply escape a marriage that left her unfulfilled? The narrator doesn’t have any answers, but he has plenty of questions of his own. Then one day Mikhail finds the narrator and promises to reunite him with his wife. In his attempt to recapture a lost love, the narrator discovers something unexpected about himself.

The Witch of Portobello (2006)

How do we find the courage to always be true to ourselves—even if we are unsure of who we are?

Aleph (2010)

In his most personal novel to date, internationally bestselling author Paulo Coelho returns with a remarkable journey of self-discovery. Like the main character in his much-beloved The Alchemist, Paulo is facing a grave crisis of faith. As he seeks a path of spiritual renewal and growth, his only real option is to begin again—to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the landscapes around him.

Setting off to Africa, and then to Europe and Asia via the Trans-Siberian railroad, he initiates a journey to revitalize his energy and passion. Even so, he never expects to meet Hilal. A gifted young violinist, she is the woman Paulo loved five hundred years before—and the woman he betrayed in an act of cowardice so far-reaching that it prevents him from finding real happiness in this life. Together they will initiate a mystical voyage through time and space, traveling a path that teaches love, forgiveness, and the courage to overcome life’s inevitable challenges. Beautiful and inspiring, Aleph invites us to consider the meaning of our own personal journeys.

Adultery (2014)

I want to change. I need to change. I’m gradually losing touch with myself. 

Adultery, the provocative new novel by Paulo Coelho, best-selling author of The Alchemist and Eleven Minutes, explores the question of what it means to live life fully and happily, finding the balance between life’s routine and the desire for something new. 

Scourge of the Fallen by W.M. Martin

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Fallen

TITLE: Scourge of the Fallen
AUTHOR: W.M. Martin

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★
Overall: ★★★★ (4)

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:
Following the events of Shadow of Okeaous, the Fallen have been scattered. Whispers of the Hordes searching for something, around many of the Havens on Earth, has reached the ears of the Guardians. Meanwhile, the students of the Kindred Academy have been striving to further their knowledge of the incredible power lying dormant within themselves. With the aid of their Clan Leaders and an odd, new instructor, the dubious young Guardians-in-training will learn to harness exciting and dangerous new abilities. The worlds of the Kindred, no longer separated by the Veil, are equally unaware of an ancient darkness which has been steadily rising to drown out the light of the living; both Guardian and Fallen, alike.

Buy the book HERE!

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:
WRITING (★★★★): Scourge of the Fallen is a self-published fantasy novel. I’ve said it before; fantasy isn’t my favorite genre and probably isn’t even in my top three favorite genres’. However, I read the first book in this series, Shadow of Okeaous and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I really enjoyed it. That meant I was destined to read book two.

Martin has a very energetic writing style. His books are filled with action, adventure, and leave you almost longing for a few peaceful quiet moments. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this book, I did. It is a page turner with a lot going on and a lot of character arcs to follow.

One thing I really like about Martin’s writing is that he isn’t afraid to kill off his characters. Yes, some of the main characters die. I won’t tell you who, I think you need to read the book to find out, but prepare yourself.

I’m not sure how this book is marketing, but after reading it I would say it is good for Middle Grade – Young Adult readers. However, there are a number of times when Martin uses words in very obscure ways. Once example would be the word ‘purchase’ in the example below:

“Maggie could not get her swards out in front of herself enough to slice or to stab the large and imposing Fallen, so she kicked at him as hard as she could, but like her sward strike, her attack failed to find purchase.”

There were a number of references like that that I think some of the younger readers may not understand. The meanings are evident in the context of the story, but not always clear just by the typical meaning of the words being used.

STORY (★★★★): Scourge of the Fallen is the second book in Martin’s series and follows pretty closely behind where the first book left off. In book one, our main characters were 1st year students in the academy. In book two, they are second year student. They have already gone through a lot and have many battles and trials to face throughout book 2.

Martin gives us battle after battle and just when the reader is given a little hope that something good might happen, he throws another wrench in the story line.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): The reader is given numerous characters to follow in Scourge of the Fallen, maybe too many. There are so many storylines to follow and different characters to keep up with that I found myself loosing track at times. Not to mention the fact that many of the character (and location) names are difficult to pronounce, which makes it a bit harder to relate to and remember. I have the same issue when reading large epics like lord of the rings and Game of Thrones.

I only had two character-related issues with this story. The first was with Henry (human) who is introduced in Chapter 9. There was a lack of character development and nothing that really allowed the reader to connect with him much less care for him. Thus, when he died, we were left with an uneasy feeling of not really caring. It didn’t seem, to me, that Henry served much of a purpose or propelled the story along in any way. I think he could have been edited out of the story without a negative impact on the final storyline.

The second was Martin’s need to weaken our lead character, Maggie. Instead of Maggie being the hero at the end, which is what the series seems to be guiding us toward, another character (one we love to hate and love all at the same time) steps up and ends up being the hero. I like Lucy, I do, but it didn’t feel natural that she would be in the position she was in at the end, instead of Maggie. Just my opinion – I’d love to know yours after you read it. So, make sure you click on that link above to get your copy and then come back and tell me what you thought after you read it.

APPEARANCE (★★★★): The cover is great. Very eye catchy and inviting. It was designed by Anca Gabriela at BROSEDESIGNZ who I believe did a beautiful job of creating a cover that would inspire fantasy lovers to pick up the book.

FAVORITE QUOTES:
“That’s it! We’re all going to die. I knew it, we’re going to die. Thank you, Kylie, for delivering me to my death. Would anyone else like to say thanks to Kylie before we die?” ~ Klause

AUTHOR BIO: 

familyW. M. Martin is a writer of fantasy novels and a lover of his black lab, Willow. He’s also quite fond of his wife, Stephanie, and their four daughters. The stories he writes are inspired by his children. They are the first and last line of defense in regards to ensuring that his readers are certain to enjoy his works. He enjoys writing about female heroes, because his daughters are his.

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ALSO BY W.M. Martin:

Shadow

Shadow of Okeaous
hen a teenage runaway named Maggie Bennett is drawn to the small but odd town of Thieves, she is unaware of what adventure awaits her. Maggie must journey to a world beyond the one she knows to undertake the trials and train to became a Guardian, all while an ancient and malefic presence is secretly haunting her every step, and it desires, more than anything, that which it once held. Journey along with Maggie as she learns about the world of the Veil, her place within it, and the Fallen hordes who want to watch it burn.

Look For Her by Emily Winslow

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Look for herTITLE: Look For Her
AUTHOR: Emily Winslow

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★
Overall: ★★★★ (4)

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:
Everyone loves a beautiful missing girl…

Look For Her ratchets up the tension while also offering moments of sheer grace.”-Riley Sager, bestselling author of Final Girls

“Beautifully written with an expertly twisty, surprising story, this is a must-read!”
— Chevy Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of Never Let You Go

Lilling might seem like an idyllic English village, but it’s home to a dark history. In 1976, a teenage girl named Annalise Wood disappeared, and though her body was later discovered, the culprit was never found. Decades later, Annalise maintains a perverse kind of celebrity, and is still the focus of grief, speculation, and for one young woman, a disturbing, escalating jealousy.

When DNA linked to the Annalise murder unexpectedly surfaces, cold case detective Morris Keene and his former partner, Chloe Frohmann, hope to finally bring closure to this traumatized community. But the new evidence instead undoes the case’s only certainty: the buried body that had long ago been confidently identified as Annalise may be someone else entirely, and instead of answers, the investigators face only new puzzles.

Whose body was unearthed all those years ago, and what happened to the real Annalise? Is someone interfering with the investigation? And is there a link to a present-day drowning with eerie connections? With piercing insight and shocking twists, Emily Winslow explores the dark side of sensationalized crime in this haunting psychological thriller.

Buy the book HERE

MY 2 CENTS:
WRITING (★★★★): I’m not going to lie, when I started this book the writing style threw me off. The first chapter starts with a therapy session transcript. It’s all dialogue, but instead of reading both sides of the conversation you only read one; Annalise Williams, the patients. It makes for a very strange, jarring read. It didn’t flow.

With that said, it does grow on you.

With each chapter, you meet new characters and hear (or rather read) the story through their perspective. When all is said and done, we get to learn about what is happening through the words of four different characters; Annalise Williams, Dr. Laurie Ambrose, Morris Keene, and Chloe Frohmann.

Once I got into the flow of Winslow’s writing style, this was a fast paced, exciting read. I loved the twist at the end, no I won’t give it away, but definitely worth the read to find out.

STORY (★★★★): Look for Her is the 4th book in the Keene and Frohmann series… which would have been nice to know when I started reading it, but I had no idea and I hadn’t read any of the Keene and Frohmann series before picking up Look For Her (Solely based on the cover) and reading it.

Honestly, the story stands on its own. I’m not sure what the first three books were about, but I think this one is easily enjoyable as a stand-alone book. That doesn’t mean I don’t intend to pick up the first three books in the series, because I most certainly do. If this one was this good, why should I expect the others to be any less entertaining?

Look For Her is a murder mystery/thriller… not horror, like the cover and title might make it sound. It takes the reader on a journey to solving a cold case when new DNA evidence is discovered. I love reading stories where the criminals think they’ve gotten away with something only to find that new evidence, years later, links them to the crime… I’m not going to say that’s what happened in this novel, but the idea of a cold case being reopened is very intriguing and Winslow delivered a great story.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): This story takes the reader on twists and turns, not only in plot but also in the character development and how Winslow weaves the characters lives together in unsuspecting ways.

Although I didn’t have the benefit of reading the first 3 books in the series, I didn’t feel like I was at a disadvantage when it came to understanding the characters. Winslow does a beautiful job of feeding the reader bits of backstory throughout the book without it sounding preachy or overdone.

I’m excited that there are more books in the Keene and Frohmann series so I can get to know the characters even more.

APPEARANCE (★★★★): The cover is beautiful, simple, and draws you in with an almost mysterious nature. You can make out woods and the reflection of a lake, but not much more. It doesn’t give away anything about the story, but does make you wonder where the “HER” in the title ‘Look For Her’ may have gone or where she may be.

EmilyAUTHOR:
Emily Winslow is an American writer living in Cambridge, England. She’s the author of the novels The Whole World, The Start of Everything, and The Red House, and the memoir Jane Doe January (HarperCollins, May 2016).

FAVORITE QUOTES:
“You can’t control what other people do, Morris. You can only control whether you deserve respect, not whether he gives it to you.” Chloe Frohmann to Morris Keene.

“She only became the important ‘Annalise’ in the eyes of others, once she was gone. She became a kind of symbol, a kind of idol, to strangers, and to me, but she didn’t get to experience being that herself. I don’t think anyone ever gets to experience being that, even if they’re alive and award that it’s happening in other people’s minds. That’s something you can think about others, but you can’t ever be inside of it. When you’re inside yourself, you know better.” Anna Williams during her last therapy session.

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Bonus Features at the end of the book:

  • About the Author
    • Meet Emily Winslow
    • Neighbours in Crime: A Conversation with Sophie Hannah
  • About the Book
    • Questions for Discussion
  • Read on…
    • Have You Read? (More from Emily Winslow)

OTHER BOOKS BY EMILY WINSLOW:

The Red HouseThe Red House: A Keene and Frohmann Mystery
Maxwell’s fiancée, Imogen, is obsessed with her idyllic childhood in Cambridge, England, which was cut short by her parents’ deaths at a young age, causing her and her siblings to be adopted by different families. With plans to move back there, the young couple travel to the city together, where Imogen’s excitement is offset by Max’s deeply unsettling déjà vu: despite having no history there, something about Cambridge is all too familiar. As the wedding planning begins and Imogen’s preoccupation with her lost younger brother intensifies, Maxwell is forced to consider that he may actually be Imogen’s missing brother. Worse, he fears that she may already know that he is, and be marrying him anyway.

Meanwhile, Detective Chief Inspector Morris Keene languishes at home, struggling with a debilitating injury and post-traumatic stress, and his former partner, Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann, investigates a suicide case in which Morris’ daughter is suspected of having a hand. When buried skeletons are discovered next to an old barn, the suicide is linked back to Imogen’s childhood, revealing horrors of the past and triggering new dangers in the present.

The third book by talented author Emily Winslow and featuring Cambridgeshire detectives Morris Keene and Chloe Frohmann, The Red House is a suspenseful and skillfully written mystery, twisting and unraveling in deft and unusual ways as the simultaneous investigations raise the question: for how long can you call your findings pure coincidence?

The Whole WorldThe Whole World: A Keene and Frohmann Mystery
Set in the richly evoked pathways and environs of Cambridge, England, The Whole World unearths the desperate secrets kept by its many complex characters—students, professors, detectives, husbands, and mothers—that lead to deadly consequences.
Two Americans studying at Cambridge University, Polly and Liv, who are both strangers to their new home and both running away from painful memories, become quick friends. They find a common interest in Nick, a handsome, charming, seemingly guileless graduate student. For a time, the three engage in harmless flirtation, growing closer while doing research for Professor Gretchen Paul, the blind and devoted daughter of a semi-famous novelist. But a betrayal, followed by Nick’s inexplicable disappearance, brings long-buried histories to the surface.

The investigation, helmed by Detective Chief Inspector Morris Keene and his partner, Detective Sergeant Chloe Frohmann, raises countless questions—from the crime that scars Polly’s past to the searing truths concealed in family photographs which Gretchen cannot see. Soon the three young lovers will discover how little they know about one another, and how devastating the ripples of long-ago actions can be.

At once a sensual and irresistible mystery and a haunting work of penetrating insight and emotional depth, The Whole World marks the beginning of Emily Winslow’s series of psychological suspense.

The StartThe Start of Everything: A Keene and Frohmann Mystery
Outside the city of Cambridge, England, the badly decomposed body of a young woman has washed up in the flooded fens. Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Detective Chief Inspector Morris Keene, must identify the victim and uncover what malice hid her there.

Across the hallowed paths and storied squares of Cambridge University, the detectives follow scant clues toward the identity of the dead girl. Eventually, their search leads them to Deeping House, an imposing country manor where, over the course of one Christmas holiday, three families, two nannies, and one young writer were snowed in together. Chloe begins to unravel a tangled web of passions and secrets, of long-buried crimes and freshly committed horrors. But in order to reveal the truth—about mysterious letters, devastating liaisons, and murder—she may have to betray her partner.

In this stunning psychological thriller, Emily Winslow has crafted a literary prism. With uncommon perceptiveness, she tells her story through the eyes of many intricately drawn characters: a troubled young woman in the University’s dead-letter office, an astronomy professor full of regret, an anxious man willing to kill to keep his past hidden. As their beautifully rendered stories coalesce, a piercing and haunting truth emerges. Masterful and memorizing, The Start of Everything will captivate to the very last page.

Jane DoeJane Doe January
On the morning of September 12, 2013, a fugitive task force arrested Arthur Fryar at his apartment in Brooklyn. His DNA, entered in the FBI’s criminal database after a drug conviction, had been matched to evidence from a rape in Pennsylvania years earlier. Over the next year, Fryar and his lawyer fought his extradition and prosecution for the rape—and another like it—which occurred in 1992. The victims—one from January of that year, the other from November—were kept anonymous in the media. This is the story of Jane Doe January.

Emily Winslow was a young drama student at Carnegie Mellon University’s elite conservatory in Pittsburgh when a man brutally attacked and raped her in January 1992. While the police’s search for her rapist proved futile, Emily reclaimed her life. Over the course of the next two decades, she fell in love, married, had two children, and began writing mystery novels set in her new hometown of Cambridge, England. Then, in fall 2013, she received shocking news—the police had found her rapist.

This is her intimate memoir—the story of a woman’s traumatic past catching up with her, in a country far from home, surrounded by people who have no idea what she’s endured. Caught between past and present, and between two very different cultures, the inquisitive and restless crime novelist searches for clarity. Beginning her own investigation, she delves into Fryar’s family and past, reconnects with the detectives of her case, and works with prosecutors in the months leading to trial.

As she recounts her long-term quest for closure, Winslow offers a heartbreakingly honest look at a vicious crime—and offers invaluable insights into the mind and heart of a victim.

Auggie and Me by R.J. Palacio

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Auggie and meTITLE: Auggie & Me
AUTHOR: R.J. Palacio

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★ (4.5)

GOODREADS DESCRIPTION:
Auggie & Me gives readers a special look at Auggie’s world through three new points of view. These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school. Together, these three stories are a treasure for readers who don’t want to leave Auggie behind when they finish Wonder.

Buy the book HERE

MY 2 CENTS:

WRITING (★★★★★): Palacio is a wonderfully talented author. She is an artist in the way she created the world around Auggie in Wonder, and the three short stories in Auggie & me are no different.

STORY (★★★★): Auggie and me contains three different short stories; The Julian Chapter, Pluto, and Shingaling.

The Julian Chapter is all Julian – the boy who is Wonder is portrayed as the bully. In this short story we really get a glimpse of who Julian really is, what drives him to behave the way he does, and even the remorse he feels when he realizes what he has done wrong.

Pluto is about Chris – Auggie’s oldest friend. Because of their mothers’ friendship, Auggie and Chris had been friends since birth. It wasn’t until Chris’ family moved away that he started to see Auggie as different… he started to pull away… It was interesting to see, through Chris’ eyes, how a friendship with Auggie might be difficult at times. However, when friendship wins… and kindness prevails… it is a beautiful thing.

Shingaling was about Charlotte. This story, although I enjoyed it, was the least about Auggie then the other two. It centered around Charlotte and the ‘girl drama’ that was happing around her. Honestly, it is the same as the girl drama happening in every elementary and middle school around the world. Probably every High School too. I have to admit, I’m glad to have my school days behind me. I enjoyed learning about Charlotte, and Summer who was a pivotal character in this story. The lesson of Choose Kindness was very strong in this story.

CHARACTERS (★★★★): I loved learning more about Julian, Chris, and Charlotte. These three short stories not only showed us their relationships with Auggie, they also showed us how the interact with other kids, what they are like inside and outside of school, and what is going on in their minds throughout the things that happened in Wonder. The character development in Auggie and Me built upon what we learned in Wonder and succeeded at enhancing the connection the reader has with each character.

APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover of Auggie & Me is the perfect fit with the original Wonder cover. The simple blue background with the minimalist character illustrations is eye catchy and inspiring.

FAVORITE QUOTES:
“Good friendships are worth a little extra effort.”

“Sometimes it’s good to start over.”

“One mistake does not define you, Julian. Do you understand me? You must simply act better next time.”

“If you want to be a star, you have to be willing to work harder than everyone else to achieve your goals and dreams! The way I see it, a dream is like a drawing in your head that comes to life. You have to imagine it first. Then you have to work extremely hard to make it come true.”

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