Derailed

Derailed (Clayton Falls, #1)4 StarsThe Clayton Falls series by Alyssa Rose Ivy is a collection of three romantic books: Derailed, Veer, and Wrecked. All three books are set in the town of Clayton Falls, North Carolina, rooted in the lives of 20-something adults, most of whom grew up together. The first book, Derailed, introduces Molly Sander, a first-year law student who is struggling with the recent death of her fiancée, Adam. She leaves school to return to Clayton Falls for the summer, hoping to give herself time to heal. Her ex-boyfriend, Ben, is thrilled to see her, but her best friend Kelly is determined to set her up with Gavin, a police officer who works with Kelly’s husband. Molly wants to confront her fears and heal, but does she need the comfort of an old love or the excitement of someone new?

Veer focuses on Becca, Molly’s best friend from college. When Becca doesn’t get the summer internship at the Boston DA’s office, Molly helps her get a job with a local lawyer, and Becca comes to Clayton Falls for the summer. Molly is eager to introduce her to everyone and the single men begin to circle like sharks. Becca has more potential suitors than she wants, but one of the men from Clayton Falls turns out to be more than she expected, and they set out to pursue their dreams and lives together.

Wrecked picks up with Jake, Ben’s brother, drunk and fighting at a party. A DUI accident lands him in the hospital, and Emily, an ICU nurse, is attracted to him. He gets her number and asks her out, but when he discovers that she has a son, the date falls apart. Emily doesn’t want to see him again. While visiting her parents, her brother’s best friend Austen admits his longtime crush on her. Jake’s past and his drinking problem make her wary. Dating with a toddler in tow is going to be difficult, and Emily has a lot of choices to make.

Having all three of these novels in one volume is a great chance to immerse yourself in the lives of the characters. The Clayton Falls series is driven by the personalities and relationships of these lifelong friends, so following them through several years of their lives is a real treat. I’m sure you’ve heard of “cozy mysteries” but is “cozy romance” a thing? It should be, and this is a great example of that. Part of the appeal here is the small-town feel where almost everyone knows each other, and while they may move away, no one loses touch. This is both a safe harbor for some and a launching pad for others, and you’ll enjoy your visit there.

The author doesn’t shy away from real-life situations that everyone faces. The characters deal with tragic deaths, grief, and real-world situations like assault, addiction, and single motherhood. Since most of the main characters are just starting out in life, high-school crushes, loyalties, and disputes are still fresh, sometimes violently so. Since people are all up in everyone else’s business, keeping secrets is almost impossible, which can cause conflicts of its own. The author gives us a cast of unique, fully-realized characters with their own fears, hopes, and goals. She has a talent for dialogue, and by the end of the series, you’ll feel like you’ve known these people for years.

 Though I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, my one criticism of the series is that it’s far too easy to see how these young romantics are going to pair off. The love triangle doesn’t quite connect on all three points, and sometimes feels forced. There are plenty of obstacles, though, with jealousy, behavior that seems stalker-ish, borderline sexual harassment, or actively trying to sabotage a relationship. The characters learn and grow throughout the books, using their high school and college experiences to emerge as adults ready to start lives, careers, and families of their own.

If you’re a fan of romantic stories with characters who feel so real that you’ll see yourself and your friends in them, you’ll enjoy the Clayton Falls series. Don’t miss the bonus chapter of an upcoming book at the end.

Pages: 260 | ISBN: 1479209139

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Mervyn vs. Dennis

Mervyn vs. Dennis4 StarsMervyn vs. Dennis tells the story of Mervyn Kirby dealing with his crisis of a life. The story begins with Mervyn going into an interview to be a video game tester. A job that Mervyn is not interested in nor good at, but he desperately needs. When he finds out his boss is racist he pretends to be as well so that he will get hired. Dennis finds Mervyn to be a kindred spirit so he hires Mervyn. Dennis is disliked by many of the employees and doesn’t have many friends, but he doesn’t care. All he cares about is Mervyn. Things get out of hand when Mervyn tries to keep his distance and Dennis keeps pushing their friendship further. Dennis shows up everywhere Mervyn is, invites him for dinners and to his house. Mervyn realizes that Dennis has a secret. Determined to find out what it is, Mervyn discovers something horrifying and unbelievable.

Mervyn Kirby is smart, determined, and willing to take risks. He has no experience in his job but he takes it anyway. Dennis Lane is weird, funny, and understanding. The story reveals that not everyone is as they seem. Everyone fights their own devils and just because you think you know someone doesn’t mean you know what’s going on in their head. Dennis has a dark side that he hides from people very well.

I enjoyed the setting of this contemporary story. It was easy to immerse myself in the world because it’s delivered effortlessly. The humor is sharp and unexpected, even making me literally laugh out loud at times. The interactions between Dennis and Mervyn are something I always looked forward to when I picked the novel up to continue reading. And really it’s Mervyn’s interactions with everyone in the story that is entertaining; like with the CEO, with his first date, with his brother and his friend, and his colleagues. The reason why I liked this story so much was because it was believable. The struggles that Mervyn faced is much like the struggles we all face; a job he dislikes, trying to make ends meet, first date crisis, fussy boss, and family problems. The story is easy to connect to; however, I found that there was an overabundance of description rather than dialogue. Nonetheless, the mystery and the suspense of who the actual Dennis Lane is kept me going. I love a good mystery and this book has it all. The ending was spot on and will someone please tell me why everyone is carrying a pineapple.

Pages: 253 | ASIN: B01I1TAID0

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The Dream Walker

The Dream Walker (Land of Mystica Series #1)Michelle Murray’s The Dream Walker is a short, interesting tale that is full of potential. In a world of two suns where magic has waned from it’s once overwhelming power we get an introduction to the different lands and the powers and responsibilities of a Dream Walker.

Miranda is having vivid dreams of a world she’s never been to. A world full of castles, Forests, Ice Caves, and Dragons. She goes to a bookstore to see about these dreams, and discovers she is a Dream Walker. She has been called to save this mystical, magical world. On Mystica, the evil wizard Midnight has been released. Midnight is gathering an army, and preparing for war. Miranda needs to find and release the white wizard Lightning from his stone prison to save Mystica. Follow Miranda as she travels through Mystica. Can she find and release Lightning and save Mystica?

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I wanted to See a Change

James Eaton Author Interview

Bodybuilding for Weight Loss seeks to help people not only lose weight but sculpt their body as well. What has been your experience with bodybuilding and weight loss that lead you to writing a book?

I have been an avid weightlifter for over two years now which has allowed me to lose over 100 pounds of fat.

In this book you seek to change the way people look at food. What is one common misconception that people have about food while on a diet?

People normally think that they can’t enjoy all their favorite foods while on a diet but they can as long as the foods are organic. For example in the mornings I would recommend eating organic fruits, vegetables, and meats to jump-start the metabolism.

What is your daily workout routine like?

I usually wake up at 6:00 am, eat an organic breakfast, and then off I go to the gym. When I get to the gym I start by spending 30 minutes on the treadmill, and a variety of weightlifting exercises.

I felt like you brought a lot of your passion and experience into this book. How did you first get started in bodybuilding?

I first started bodybuilding with my brother. He was always into fitness so I finally went to the gym with him one day because I wanted to see a change in my physique.

James Eaton is a passionate Self-Help, Fitness, & Education Author who resides in Hinesville, Georgia. He is also a seasoned Affiliate Marketer, Entrepreneur, and Private Protection Officer. Hailing from Selma, Alabama, James’ love of helping people and all-things fitness began early on and it has stayed with him ever since.

Why do you think that weight loss with body building is the best way to lose weight?

You really can’t have one without the other once someone begins a bodybuilding regimen they will shed unwanted fat and build muscle mass especially when they apply what I teach in my book Bodybuilding for Weight Loss.

Bodybuilding for Weight Loss: "Facts" About Weight Loss Through Body Building That You Did Not Know About by [EATON, JAMES]Are You Ready to Uncover the Secrets to Getting the Body You’ve Always Dreamed of? This guide will show you how to lose weight and sculpt your body into the toned shape you have always wanted. If you have tried and failed fad diets before, this is the book for you. Once you apply the principles in this book you will begin to lose weight and keep it off. Bodybuilding works to help you lose fat and gain muscle. The problem with most diets is that they are not designed to make permanent changes to your body. When you do bodybuilding properly, you change the chemistry of your body. You turn into a fat burning machine. You convert calories into toned muscles.

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Author Links: Facebook | GoodReads | Amazon

His Methods of Madness

Author Interview Dave Matthes

Author Interview Dave Matthes

Bar Nights is a chronicle of the life of Arlo Smith who walks away from his life after finding his wife in bed with another man. Arlo’s finds his life in a troublesome spot in the beginning of the novel. What was your inspiration for his family situation and how he removes himself from it?

The inspiration never really came from anything first hand. One day I just started writing the book because I had nothing else to do, and I had already scrapped several ideas for other books, some of which became short stories. I think mostly though, that feeling of desperation that comes with having had enough of a certain situation that’s been going on for far too long, was something I’ve been through before. How Arlo feels, that sense of apathy, but also pleasure, with starting over, was my biggest takeaway from my own personal life that applied to the birth of the character “Arlo Smith”.

The plot to Bar Nights seems simple, a man tries to bury his pain with alcohol, but there’s complexity in Arlo’s pain and the people he meets. What was your writing strategy in terms of plot design when writing this story?

Thoughts and thought processes. A lot of the time we don’t actually think about the process of “thinking”, and sometimes the point in which we change direction in our thoughts is lost completely. The way I employed the use of “chapters” in Bar Nights and the rest of The Mire Man Trilogy reflects that. The plot design really had no design, at least while writing Bar Nights. I just started writing it one day and kept going with it. There wasn’t really a story, in a literal sense, I was aiming for. Bar Nights was originally intended to be just a short book about a guy living in a bar and all of the people he met there, nothing more.

Arlo is locked in a vicious cycle of self-hate, addiction, and depression that is reflected in the people he meets. Did we get to meet everyone you planned to write or did you take out any characters?

I did take out a few, but at the time that they would have existed in the story of Bar Nights, they were very minuscule. Once I decided to make Bar Nights the first book in a trilogy, I placed those characters in the following books in the trilogy as supporting characters that would hopefully help Arlo more on his journey.

I feel like Bar Nights is an examination of addiction and desperation. How do you feel Arlo deals with these things that’s different from other people?

Different? I think that his methods of madness are only different because at first, he really doesn’t have much to lose. Once he finds his way to the bar “Purgatory”, that’s it for him. He really doesn’t have anyone who cares enough to tell him to stop. And if he never met Constance, for all we know, he would have died there. So in a sense, all he really uses to deal with his addictions, is apathy. Complete, pure, remorseless apathy. He knows he has problems, and he reflects upon them constantly, but he really doesn’t care enough to examine them on a level that may or may not lead to his redemption. Not yet anyway.

Bar Nights is the first book in the Mire Man Trilogy with Madlands being the third book. How do you feel Arlo has developed over the series?

Well, in Bar Nights, even though it’s the first book, we sort of meet Arlo at his middle. In the second book, Paradise City, we’re taken back to “where it all began”, so he’s still a child in those days, and definitely hasn’t reached that purified level of “sheer apathetic asshole”. By the third book, Return to the Madlands, Arlo is pushed passed his “breaking point” in the first book, and beyond to a point in which he is literally faced with the choice of “live your life like this and die like this” or “live your life like THIS, but still… die like this”. The difference being in the choice of the latter, he’d be taking a chance, forsaking what he “set out for” from the very beginning altogether. His story arc definitely reaches a point he never expected (and I never expected while writing it).

Bar Nights (The Mire Man Trilogy, #1)“Bar Nights”, the first volume of the “The Mire Man Trilogy”, is a story revolving around Arlo, a man who’s just turned 39. Fed up with the way his life has turned out thus far, he leaves his cheating wife, out of control preteen slut daughter and her “fiance”, his unbearably demeaning job, and hits the highway.

It isn’t long before his car dies on him, and he’s forced to take shelter in the only place available at the time: the for-rent room above a dive bar, named “Purgatory”, positioned seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Convincing the owner to let him work off his rent, he spends his days drinking and care-taking the bar, running odd jobs for his boss, and spends his nights tucked away in his room drunkenly passing out to the sounds of whoever is playing the music downstairs…until one night he ventures out into the storm eternally encapsulating his world. And their paths unexpectedly converge.

The meeting sets in motion a relentless and remorseless onslaught of emotions, bringing Arlo to the absolute breaking point of insanity and introducing him to a realization that redefines why he ended up at “Purgatory” to begin with.

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Thing Bailiwick: A Collection of Horror

Thing Bailiwick: A Collection of Horror4 StarsInsensately macabre.

Thing Bailiwick is a collection of short horror stories by the ever-talented Fawn Bonning who pulled no punches in the gathering of these works. Stretching from the horribly, “pus-filled” scenes of stomach-wrenching gore to the much lighter, yet psychologically damming sets and characters, Ms. Bonning did not hesitate to irrevocably leave the reader checking corners and under beds. Her mix of both psychological fear and physical torment coincide within these pages as a ghoul may live at peace within a swamp; the epitome of bliss.

Within this particular swamp, a word I have chosen to use affectionately, there can be found many ghouls and shadows. Containing 12 individual stories, some longer, some shorter, each and every one leaves the reader wondering what would happen next, and what in the world happened throughout! The sense of mystery one feels at the conclusion of each story is enough to drive one insane, not to mention the insanity gained from reading just one or two of these tales. From hell hounds to the trials and tribulations of a young boy, this collection of horror stories has some form of terror for everyone!

I would have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Thing Bailiwick; each story had its own bit of charm and personality to it. The various styles and settings used within the collection make it seem as if there were multiple authors involved, instead of just reading the works of one single artist. As minuscule a feature as that may seem, it was almost unhinging for me personally when multiple stories were read in one sitting or within a short amount of time. The reader was initially in one location learning about the personality of this character and their problems when suddenly you start another story and it is something completely different. Now, this wouldn’t be so unhinging if it wasn’t for the different types of language the author is able to use. It was definitely the changes in dialect and characters ways of speaking that provided me with the feeling of being lost within the book; a feeling I have found to be most fun to deal with within the confines of horror fiction.

While I had a lot of love for this collection and for the authors writing styles, I must admit that the previous mention of mystery at the end of these stories is done much more gracefully in some stories than others. I did find myself wondering what the author meant to imply after finishing two or three of the tales. It is obvious that the beginning of some of the stories foreshadow the endings, but I could not get a handle on some. It appeared that the author attempted to make some endings very deep and pensive in order to allow the reader to continue thinking about the story long after they’ve finished it. I love that angle, it works, and I respect it.

Ms. Bonning has an affinity for pulling the monsters, kicking and screaming, right out of the closet and forcing them into the light. She has taken the seemingly innocent and innocuous and made them into devils, and sorcerers, and anything else one may fear. This collection is phenomenal and I recommend it highly to those who have a taste for horror fiction and psychological trauma! A sure cure for hypersomnia, this collection will prevent you from ever sleeping again!

Pages: 452 | ASIN: B015EQAM02

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Asana of Malevolence

Asana of Malevolence4 Stars

Burke’s Garden, a historic community in the mountains of Virginia, is an isolated place. For centuries, it’s been a haven of peace. Until evil arrives. Close friends Phoebe and Moises are hiking near the Garden when they encounter several participants of a yoga retreat, who are struggling to flee the grip of their megalomaniac leader. Phoebe and Moises plot an escape route out of their loveand empathyfor these strangers. Along the way, they reach for the helping hands of the Garden’s longtime residents and the subtle hand of the supernatural.

Asana of Malevolence by Kate Abbott is about something that, I think, we will always find kinda scary, our ability to be conned into falling for evil and allowing it to corrupt us, and those few heroes who see through it and save us, or at least try. I want to start off by saying that I absolutely love the sound of this book. I was excited and as soon as I got it I started reading!

This book starts off with about a page and a half of info drop, which to me, doesn’t get me invested. Some publishers and editors say info drops are bad, some say they are not so bad, but when it comes down to it, it is a matter of taste. There were a lot of characters in this story that made it difficult to keep track of them all. Also, I feel like this book had a lot of telling, rather than showing.

But I kept at it, because these were must minor annoyances in an otherwise fascinating story that kept me on the edge of my seat from chapter to chapter. Honestly, this was such a compelling tale, although I wish some characters and scenes were delved into deeper. But I find this gripe to be the mark of a good story teller because it just shows that the story was fascinating and I wanted more of it. More of Phoebe and Moises, more of their interactions and dialogue, but less exposition and info dumps. But by the time I got to chapter 7, I was hooked. I needed to know what was going to happen next. I read it faster than I read most other books because I refused to put it down.

This was a wonderful story, with some spiritual and supernatural aspects that are very well thought out. I loved the story line. Also, can we just talk about how gorgeous the cover is?  This is a nice light read with a happy ending that I absolutely loved.

Pages: 288 | ISBN: 163177509X

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Behind the Gem

Behind The Gem3 StarsWhen entire buildings begin disappearing around earth, former Army Ranger Raymond knows that the end cannot be too far away for him and his fellow humans. A normal day at the office takes an unexpected turn, causing Raymond to make use of his training as everything around him begins to suddenly change. However, no amount of training could’ve prepared him for the Drassens—a species of aliens with a matriarchal society. After being saved from certain destruction, Raymond forms a bond with the High One, unleashing a series of events that will challenge everything he knows about the universe and himself.

Ken Hart’s Behind the Gem delves deep into a future where earth’s existence begins to unravel as entire buildings begin to disappear on by one. At the center of this story is Raymond, a former Army Ranger who lives with his wife, rides a motorcycle, and works a regular office job. Normalcy for him, as well as the reader, is forever changed with the introduction of the species of aliens called the Drassens.

Hart’s creation of an alien, matriarchal society comes naturally throughout the book. Where some writers rely on heavy descriptions to convey that the new world is vastly different from earth, Hart allows his characters, mannerisms, and short descriptive phrases to usher the reader into a world that is vastly different from earth. Though some parts of the book could use more exposition as to why certain things are happening or to help separate the travel from one location from a different one (such as the Most High One’s palace and the landing), there remains little to complain about when it comes to world building.

The electronic devices and healing mechanisms are very unique to this story and to this world that Hart created. It has a familiarity, but comes with variances that make it new and exciting without being overwhelming. Additionally, the alien species seems to round out the total uniqueness of the story. Hart’s description of the new aliens leaves nothing to be questioned, allowing the familiarity of the mammal-like species to ease Raymond’s trust in the creature while also showing the difference of the alien from humans.

Behind the Gem is well conceived but I felt that there were elements that could of been handled with greater care. The relationship between Raymond and Amber—though well-written and thought out—could be viewed as Stockholm Syndrome. Every element of their unconventional relationship, I felt, should have been handled with greater detail to give readers a better understanding of their connection.

As Raymond’s trust with the aliens develops, so does the writing style of the book. What begins as a journal written almost completely in stream of consciousness with strange introduction of characters develops into a more matured and skilled version of his story as he begins to become more and more educated like the Drassens who surround him. It is a nice touch that assists in capturing Raymond’s transformation. If you enjoy a good alien invasion story, then this book should be next on your list.

Pages: 286 | ISBN: 1629894206

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Accidental Killer

Accidental Killer (The Sarah White Mysteries #1)4 StarsA good mystery novel is one that will challenge the reader, misdirect suspicion, and keep the reader turning the page to find the next twist to see if they were right.  Accidental Killer by Tong Zhang meets all these requirements, as well as throws in some Chinese Mob style twists. The main character, Sarah, is a bright mid twenties writer that also has a degree in programing and seams to draw out the good in people. The book is filled with technology references and science information but this does not impact the reader’s ability to grasp what is going on even if they don’t understand the technology being discussed.  There is a small amount of romance in the book that adds to character development rather than being the center of the plot.

This is a contemporary story that takes place in California’s Silicon Valley area, with some outskirt resorts and the mountains of Tahoe. One of the key plot points is on nanotechnology, but the author does not go so in-depth into the science that the average reader will be lost. The same goes for the genetics discussion that some of the characters have. What is nice about this novel is the strong female protagonist. Sarah is not a fluff character, and she is very relatable. She talks about finding balance between traveling the path that was expected of her, computer science/programing, and her passion, writing. She over comes personal tragedies of being left by her mother and later her aunt that raised. We learn a lot about many of the characters through their interaction with Sarah, she is able to bring out their best sides and show the readers passion rather than just flat characters that move the plot forward. Hardly any character brought into the novel is fluff. This is important because it means that Zhang is writing with a purpose and not just trying to fill the book up with pages on pages of meaningless content.

Accidental Killer starts as if you’re stepping into someone’s life as a spectator. There is no preposition so (without spoiling things) the beginning of the story is confusing, but becomes clear a chapter in and the realization of what is really going on is magnificent. Several other characters are mentioned as well with no clue as to who they are or where they fit in, Scotty, Ramsey and Mr. Bash being a few. You will eventually learn who they are and how they fit into Sarah’s life but it takes times. While confusing, it does add to the mystery aspect of the novel; who are these people and what are their stories. If you can stick with the writing through the first two chapters you will be engrossed and unable to put the book down. There are definitely some memorable characters that I can see making a repeat appearance if Zhang continues the series, namely Jake and Madam Wu. Both are left with the impression they have more stories to tell. Overall a good mystery novel, quick read, and entertaining characters.

Pages: 189 | ASIN: B01527IF84

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Death Leaders

Death Leaders5 StarsIt’s 2031. Crime and violence plague the city of Chicago. The government constantly tracks its people with small hardware implanted into each citizen’s neck. At the same time, another organization, possibly even more powerful than the US government, is working in the shadows – completing their own macabre agenda. Chris, once a homeless orphan, is rising quickly through the ranks of this organization. Having been adopted by a very old man who is well-known throughout the organization, many are jealous of Chris and his high pedigree, making it even harder for him to perform his grave responsibilities.

In this way Kendra Hadnott sets up what happens next in her delightful new novel Death Leaders, a tight, well-written yarn. Death Leaders is Hadnott’s 6th novel, and is a work from a writer with experience, insight, and imagination. The writing and dialogue is fluid, allowing you to simply become engrossed in the story. Her characters’ emotions and actions are believable and empathetic, you find yourself rooting for Chris and then questioning if you should be. And lastly, the dystopian setting and story keeps you enthralled throughout.

After receiving a confusing new assignment related to a young local woman, Chris begins to take careful first steps, knowing his reputation and future in the organization depend on it. As he becomes more acquainted with this girl, he begins to sympathize with her, wondering about her past and becoming smitten by her good looks. But as he continues moving forward, he realizes that someone else, possibly from his very own organization, is stepping in and complicating the situation. He doesn’t know why someone is interfering or even how far up the organization’s ladder this conspiracy goes. Is it just jealousy of his father, or is it something else? After turning to his friends for help, he realizes that even they are keeping secrets from him.

In the same vein as Hunger Games and Divergent, Hadnott creates a not-so-average teen who is trying to make sense of his personal life, as well as how he fits into a larger system. Death Leaders is well-written and gripping. The characters’ backgrounds, feelings, and motives are well fleshed-out, and the setting is appropriately creepy, tinged with a dark side that is just enough. This definitely has crossover appeal – enjoyable for both young adults and parents alike. This isn’t just a novel that revels in the dystopian worlds that are so popular right now. Sure, the setting is exciting and fascinating – a dismal future, where the population has little freedom and where certain random ‘life’ events aren’t quite random. But, like the Hunger Games trilogy, the real appeal is the focus on characters’ emotions, actions, and motives. It’s all just set in an incredibly detailed and rich backdrop that keeps us wondering what will happen next.

Pages: 131 | B01C1WUTVO

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