Book Review: Captain Arnold and Other Tales of the Abnormal by Arthur M. Doweyko

Join Dr. Arthur Doweyko in a mind-boggling excursion into alternate realities with stories designed to stretch your view of our Universe. Robots, angels and ghosts will be your companions as you travel through a life that could have been and struggle to change a life that should not have been. PLUS Enjoy a bonus. His award-winning essay FIVE REASONS TO WONDER An exploration of the meaning of existence through several very curious observations of the world around us. 

Amazon

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

I enjoyed all of these short stories. I read this book while I was out of town, and I knew it would be a couple of weeks before I posted my review, so I made a few quick notes as I read it. While glancing through my notes, there were quite a few that I wrote “odd ending” or “weird ending.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t like them but that the endings were not what one would expect.

I was beginning to think that none of the stories would have a happy ending, but there ended up being a couple that did. Although I liked all of the stories, I had my favorites of course. The last two stories, “Guardian Angel” (yes, about a guardian angel) and “Lost and Found” (about Arthur who lost his father when he was a kid), were my absolute favorites.

Several of the stories such as “Retirement,” “What Goes Around” and “Son” were really out there but I also liked them a lot. The title story, “Captain Arnold,” is about a sick boy and it’s interesting, exciting, and sad all in one. “Edge” and “FLib734” are science fiction and weird but very good.

If you like short stories and don’t mind reading things that are a little different, then you definitely should get this book!

About the Author

As a scientist, Arthur has authored 100+ publications, and shares the 2008 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for the discovery of Sprycel, a new anti-cancer drug. He writes hard science fiction, fantasy and horror. His debut novel, Algorithm, which is a story about DNA and the purpose of humanity, garnered a 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award (RPLA) and was published by E-Lit Books, NY in October, 2014. His second novel, Angela’s Apple, now called As Wings Unfurl, won 1st Place Best Science Fiction Novel at the 2014 RPLA and has been published by Red Adept (July, 2016). He has published a number of award-winning short stories, including several with Honorable Mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future competitions. He is currently working on a novel about the last creature with a human brain. He lives in Florida with his wife Lidia, teaching and wandering the beaches.

Website: http://www.ArthurMDoweyko.com
Twitter: aweyken

New Release

A young epileptic pirate Guardian is born with visionary powers and possesses the stone of truth

About the Book:

In Colony Island, in the west of the western isles, where colonists and pirates live side by side, Josh Flagsmith is the young pirate Guardian, a role reserved for epileptics born with visionary powers. He only learns the importance of his role when a colonist, called Reginald Machin, wins the election with the aid of the colonist flat earth church, and starts throwing pirates in gaol. When his parents are arrested, Josh discovers that his life is in danger. He must learn how to use the power of his stone of truth, not just to control his epilepsy, but as a tool enabling him to read his enemy’s intentions. With the help of his stone, and the support of his friends, including Machin’s stepdaughter, Lavinia, he has to escape to the island of Amaryllis and seek help from the pirate council. If he gets to Amaryllis, and the council comes to his aid, can he rescue his parents and save his island from a mad dictator bent on genocide?

Excerpt from the book:

“The cavern swarmed with rebel soldiers, talking in hushed tones, checking their equipment or standing around staring into their memories and waiting for their next orders. Josh heard groans from the emergency ward somewhere in a tunnel to his left. The deputy sat at the long trestle table, his scarred face sagging with worry and lack of sleep.

“Have you heard anything on your radio?” the general asked. “How many this time?”

“Is no many, my general;” he replied, “a diversion. More is coming very nextly.”

“Good. Then we’re safe here for the moment.”

A breathless orderly raced into the cavern, skidding to a halt when he saw the general. “They are approaching in numbers, sir,” he panted.

“How far away?” asked the general.

“Maybe a mile. They’ve got more helicopters.”

The general nodded. “That’s all we needed to know. We’d better abandon our defence of the wall soon and lure the enemy into the tunnels. That gives us more points to defend but we should be able to hold them off for a while.”

Amid the noise of pirates shouting to one another and soldiers racing in and out of the crowded cavern, it took Josh some time to notice that the firing had stopped. The realisation spread round the chamber and strident voices sank to a questioning whisper. Eyes turned towards the trestle table where the general stood talking with his deputy. Josh noticed gloom in the eyes of some pirates who thought the silence meant surrender.

Bertie wiped dust and sweat from his round face as he emerged from the tunnel. A cheer went up as Sandy’s dad followed him into the room. Because of his size and the fact that he was a colonist fighting on the pirate side, the men in that room regarded him as a hero.

“What’s happening now?” Josh asked Bertie.

Bertie looked vaguely pleased with himself. “We gave a good account of ourselves,” he said, “but they’re regrouping.” He glanced at the general. “I hope there’s a plan B,” he added, “because we can’t hold them off for much longer.”

“The House at the Edge of the World” by Donald Brown is available in paperback from Amazon UK.

The gripping fantasy pirate adventure tale is also available from Amazon USA.

Press/Media Contact Details:

New Generation Publishing
Tel. 01234 711 956
E-mail: info@newgeneration-publishing.com

Book Review: The Shadow of Her by Aspen Bassett

Book Title: The Shadow of Her by Aspen Bassett
Category: YA Fiction
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Content Rating: PG

Book Description

Penny Grace successfully traveled through time, outsmarted a paradox, and survived countless historical tragedies. Now, she must face her biggest challenge yet: stopping The Shadow once and for all. After terrorizing the dark world for eons, The Shadow now wants control over Earth. Unless Penny surrenders her past heroics, all life on Earth will die of thirst while the dark world drowns. But giving up would mean turning her back on everything Penny’s fought to protect, and she’s more determined than ever to save both worlds from The Shadow’s tyranny.


Penny and her nemesis Kyle team up to unravel The Shadow’s rage toward humans in hope that understanding the past can help them protect the future. As Penny and Kyle work together, Kyle opens up about his past and Penny starts to see the mysterious man less like an enemy and more like a brother. But does that mean Kyle has changed? Is he trustworthy? Or is his new vulnerability a tactic to manipulate Penny even more?


When Penny realizes the only way to stop The Shadow is to trap them both in a paradox, she needs the help of those she left behind to pull it off. But returning home to Cheyenne means facing the consequences of her choices. If Penny wants to save multiple worlds, she needs to convince the family that forgot her and the ex-boyfriend she still loves to help her make the ultimate sacrifice.

Amazon

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

I read the first two books in this series and I was looking forward to reading The Shadow of Her, which was released in early 2021. I enjoyed all three books but this last one was my favorite. Everything was resolved in one way or another, but it took trust, bravery, and tears (on my part) before everything was said and done.

Penny Grace ends up working with Kyle after she left Luke and her sister behind. It would not be her choice, but as they get to know each other, she begins to trust him and perhaps understand him. But is he manipulating her again? Can she really trust him? Only time will tell.

The characters are well developed and complicated. Their wants/needs are simple but their emotions are anything but simple. The author did a great job at making me care about the characters.

I definitely recommend The Shadow of Her for anyone who likes young adult and/or time travel novels. I do suggest reading the first two books, though.

Meet the Author

Aspen Bassett works at a library, telling stories and suggesting books. When she’s not working, she’s usually sipping hot cocoa and wondering what would happen if she had superpowers. She’s been published in multiple anthologies including Oomph: A Little Super Goes a Long Way and Inaccurate Realities.

Aspen grew up learning about chakras and auras and the true power of imagination which slips into her writing whether she intends it to or not. In college, when she wasn’t busy working on her degree in Creative Writing, Aspen also got her certificate in Women’s Meditation (basically general energy work). Now, she’s working toward a diploma in Integrated Healing Arts with a certificate in Hypnotherapy.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Audiobook Review: Halfway Bitten by Terry Maggert

Author: Terry Maggert
Narrator: Erin Spencer
Length: 7 hours 19 minutes
Series: Halfway Witchy, Book 2
Publisher: Maggert and Spencer
Released: Mar. 6, 2018
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

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The circus came to Halfway, and they brought the weird.

When the body of a young woman washes up in the lake, it unleashes a spiral of mystery that will bring Carlie, Gran, and Wulfric into a storm of magical warfare. Spells will fly. Curses will rain. Amidst it all, Carlie will make waffles, protect her town, and find out if a man from the distant past can join her in happy ever after.

There will be clowns. There will be vampires. There will be waffles.

With love and honor at stake, Carlie has no peer.

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I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Terry Maggert. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

This is the second book in the Halfway Witchy series. I’d already listened to books 1 and 3 four years ago. I’m not sure why I didn’t get to listen to the second one, but I remembered enough about Carlie that I knew I’d enjoy it.

Carlie is a witch. She’s young, cute, single, and very serious about her craft. Witchcraft has been in her family for generations and she has some awesome magical powers. She is involved with Wulfric who is half human and half vampire, and they have a special relationship. Her Gran is a force to be reckoned with and has taught Carlie a lot about being a witch.

When the circus comes to town and a body washes up on shore, things get strange. Luckily, Carlie is the perfect one to investigate “strange.” Carlie and Gran learn that they’re up against something very powerful and evil, and I like how everyone in the town, whether dead or alive, helps them to defeat the evil.

Erin Spencer did a fantastic job narrating this book. Her voice is perfect as Carlie and she changed her tone just enough so that I knew when someone was speaking. 

I definitely recommend Halfway Bitten. It’s a quick read and full of action, suspense, fantastical beings, and even humor. I look forward to reading more of the Halfway Witchy series.

Left-handed. I like dragons, coffee, waffles, running, and giraffes; order unimportant. I write the Halfway Witchy, Messenger, Starcaster and Shattered Skies series, as well as contributing to many anthologies.

If I’m not at home, then I’m on the road, and if I’m on the road, I’ll be at a book event. I’ve written thirty-three novels and counting. I don’t sleep, but you probably guessed that already. If you want me to visit your town for an event, let me know when and where. See you out there.

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Narrator Bio

Erin loves audiobooks! As an actress, they have allowed her to creatively stretch by playing all kinds of characters, all kinds of ages and all kinds of accents! She voiced roles in the Audie award winning title, Illuminae and was also nominated for a Voice Arts Award in the romance category. She has narrated over 100 titles and as an audiobook director has worked on at least 100 more. She has worked for most of the major publishers and also enjoys working with indie writers who are some of the most talented writers out there! Follow her on Twitter @ErinSpencerLA or find her on Facebook, Erin Spencer Actress.

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Guest Post
So you’re visiting my little town of Halfway, and Erin Spencer is your guide. Let me explain how Erin’s audition process went:
By Author Terry Maggert

I, with audacity of a teenaged boy, emailed her and asked her if she would take my series. She auditioned. I listened to fifteen seconds and thought, “Well. That’s that. She is Carlie.” Six books later, I think in Erin’s voice when I write about Halfway, which is a testament to how fully she embodies the people of my town, and Carlie’s world, and even Gus the Judgy cat’s occasional mrrrrowt, which I am told Erin nailed in one take.

I love audiobooks, and listen to my own. For me, audiobooks are like meeting your favorite characters all over again—a kind of magical reset that lets me start over with stories I love, set in places I want to visit. Or live. Or drink coffee in a diner that sits in a town where magic is as common as tourists.

Thanks for visiting Halfway, on behalf of Erin, and me, and everyone else who made the series happen. I hope you laugh along with us, and I’ll see you later this year with Halfway Hatched.

Click here to view the full tour schedule!

Plugging you into the audio community since 2016.

Sign up as a tour host here.

Book Review & Giveaway: The Adventures of Molly & Ollie: Moving Day by Sally Beale

Book Title:  The Adventures of Mollie & Ollie: Moving Day by Sally Beale
Category:  Children’s Fiction (Ages 3-7),  38 pages
Genre:  Children’s Picture Book
Publisher:  Mascot Books
Release date:   March, 2021
Content Rating:  G for everyone.


Book Description:

Every child experiences change in their life. Moving can be difficult, but in this Mom’s Choice award-winning book, when eight-year-old Molly Day meets a new friend, a magical owl named Oliver Winston Howell III, her move to a new house in a new town becomes easier than she expected. Be on the lookout for Molly and Ollie’s next adventure!

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Mascot Books
Add to Goodreads

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free copy. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

Poor Molly! Her family is moving and she’s not only leaving her home behind but her best friend as well. When she arrives at her new home, however, Ollie (Oliver Winston Howell III) makes the move much easier with magic and wise words.

I had to laugh when Ollie told his full name to Molly. It reminded me of Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island every time it was said. Although this adventure starts kind of sad for Molly, she finds the move easier than she expected. This is a fun book to read and I can see many children being able to relate since so many families move these days. The illustrations are colorful and done very well.

I recommend Moving Day, the first book in The Adventures of Molly & Ollie, for children of all ages whether they’re moving or not.

About the Author

Photo by Adrienne Reich Photography

The Adventures of Molly & Ollie: Moving Day was inspired by Beale’s own experiences as a young child. Her father’s occupation required that her family move across the country every two years. Beale’s childhood was filled with adventures that captured her imagination in each new home. She continued her passion for adventure while raising her two daughters and working as a costume designer for local theaters. Now she is channeling her sense of fun and her youthful spirit into her children’s stories. Beale is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). The Adventures of Molly & Ollie: Moving Day, a Mom’s Choice Award winner, is the first book in the Molly & Ollie series.

connect with the author: website ~ instagram ~ goodreads

Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of Sally Beale’s THE ADVENTURES OF MOLLY & OLLIE: Moving Day!
(one winner/USA only)

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May 10 – Reading is My Passion – book review / author interview
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Audiobook Review & Giveaway: Caroline & Mordecai the Gand by Jeff Gunhus

Book Title: Caroline & Mordecai the Gand by Jeff Gunhus
Category:  Middle-Grade Fiction (Ages 8-12), 186 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Literary
Publisher:  Seven Guns Press
Release date:  March 31, 2021

Content Rating: PG: The language is G. There is one scene with the main character punches a bully resulting in a bloody nose. The emotional treatment of grief and the death of a loved one can be somewhat intense.

Description

This novella was written by USA Today bestselling author Jeff Gunhus after he received a devastating diagnosis of state 3 cancer. The story is a message to his five children on how to deal with grief and a plea for them to grasp onto joy and love even in the darkest of times.

Caroline loses her spark. It takes a great adventure for her to find it again.

Caroline loses her father in a car accident for which she feels responsible. Consumed by grief, she has a difficult time readjusting to a world that has changed so dramatically for her. On the anniversary of her father’s death, a strange window opens in the middle of the small lake behind her house. She climbs up an old oak to peer inside, but falls out of the tree and discovers that the window also serves as a door into a different world.

Enter Mordecai the Gand, a mysterious traveler who befriends Caroline and promises to help her find a way back home since the window she fell through has disappeared. The two set out on a series of adventures that include visiting a tree village populated by a tribe known for eating travelers, running into a witch under a spell of her own making, hiding in a cave with a dragon encased in a wall of ice (prone to melting by campfire), all the while being pursued by a mysterious entity call the Creach which promises to devour Caroline and trap her in an eternity of despair.

As they navigate these adventures and this new world, Caroline slowly discovers that she is meant to help each of the characters she meets. As she battles internally whether to stay or return home to the sadness and grief waiting for her there, she must regain perspective and open her heart to the act of caring and to the joy of love itself. In the end, she must demonstrate great courage, loyalty, and caring as the plot unfolds, becoming the active hero of her own story.

Buy the Book:
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add to Goodreads

My Review

I chose to listen to this book after receiving a free audio copy. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

I have read all of the Jack Templar books by Jeff Gunhus and have always enjoyed his writing so I was looking forward to listening to this book. Just like the Jack Templar books, it is written for middle grade and/or young adult readers, but it’s a story that readers of all ages will like.

Caroline lost her father when she was 13 years old. They were very close and it was devastating, especially since she blamed herself for his death. When she ends up in another world and meets Mordecai the Gand, she goes on an emotional journey with him and learns some important lessons about loss, grief, and hope.

Caroline meets some quirky characters along the way. Mordecai is quirky enough but then there is the tribe that lives in the trees whose people like to eat travelers, the terrifying Creach, and a dragon that started out being frozen in ice…

The narrator, Sarah L. Colton, has a great voice for telling a story. Her timing and pace are also excellent. I hope to listen to more stories that she narrates.

If you’ve experience a recent loss, or even if you haven’t, Caroline and Mordecai the Gand is a book that is full of sadness and grief but is still an adventure that is fun at times and is full of hope. I am thankful that Jeff Gunhus decided to share this book that was originally meant as a private story for his children when he was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer.

“Readers of all ages who look for ethereal, haunting stories of recovery and courage will find Caroline & Mordecai the Gand may hold the trappings of a fantasy adventure; but inside there is so much more. Make the right decision, to read this!” – D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“Caroline’s story is profoundly sad, and yet hopeful, magical, and yet rooted in reality. There is magic, mystery, and daring adventure.”– BooksCoffee

About the Author

Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade fantasy series, The Jack Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.

Jeff wrote Caroline & Mordecai the Gand after receiving a devastating diagnosis of stage 3 cancer. The novella was meant as a private story for his five children on how to face grief by holding onto joy and love. He leads an active life in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of Old Fox Books in Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.

connect with the author:  website  ~  twitter  ~  facebook instagram goodreads bookbub

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Mar 31 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Apr 1 – Lisa’s Reading – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Apr 5  Freda’s Voice – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Apr 6 – Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting – book review / giveaway
Apr 8 – pick a good book – book review / author interview / giveaway
Apr 9 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – audiobook review / giveaway
Apr 12 – Gina Rae Mitchell – book review / giveaway
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May 3 – Hall Ways Blog – audiobook review / giveaway
May 5 – Westveil Publishing – audiobook review / guest post / giveaway
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May 6 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
May 7 – Reading is My Passion – book review
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May 10 – Bound 4 Escape – audiobook review / giveaway
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Book Review: Beth & Lucy by Katherine Shade

Sixteen-year-old Beth Meyer has three guilty pleasures: nineties sitcoms, crosswords, and—most embarrassing of all—the Lucy Hutchinson book series. They’re silly novels about Lucy’s adventures at a secret school for magic, but they help Beth imagine an exciting life from a safe distance.

That is, until the day Lucy shows up at Beth’s door.

Lucy claims that Beth’s older brother Tim is going to be murdered. She says she wants to help Beth prevent his death. Which should be doable, seeing as she’s a wizard.

Beth is sure all those Netflix binge-sessions have finally gone to her head. She locks the door on Lucy and pretends the whole bizarre visit never happened. Then Lucy starts popping up everywhere—waiting for Beth in the school parking lot. Levitating Beth’s cup at Starbucks.

Beth is terrified of putting herself in danger for the troubled brother she knows doesn’t want her help. But when Tim starts behaving strangely, Beth realizes Lucy might just be right. And if she wants to keep Tim alive, she’ll have to work with Lucy to solve a murder that hasn’t happened yet. 

Amazon

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

The author’s idea for Beth & Lucy intrigued me. Beth leads a “normal” boring life until Lucy shows up. It’s difficult for Beth to believe, but Lucy is the main character in Beth’s favorite book series…and vice versa! Lucy is there to save Beth’s brother Tim and maybe Beth.

Beth doesn’t have any friends that she spends time with outside of school, and it’s easy to see why. She prefers to be alone, but she also speaks her mind whether she should or not. Lucy is from a secret magical island, she dresses in bright mismatched colors, and is there only because she wants to help.

Beth and Lucy aren’t nice to each other most of the time. They’re both rude, but Lucy seems to just respond to Beth’s hatefulness. Once in a great while, they’re nice to each other, but it’s hard to see how they can consider each other friends, except for what they’ve gone through together.

I liked the way that the book was narrated. Beth often speaks directly to the reader. For example, at the end of Chapter 3: “But just for a few minutes, let me be. Here, alone, in this car. Let me slip away from the page for just a few lines.”

The ending had quite a twist that was totally unexpected. It didn’t seem to fit with the light-hearted fantasy up until that point. If it had been a darker fantasy, it would have been great!

About the Author

Katherine Shade lives in Southern California. When she’s not engaged in imaginary conversations with fictional characters or reading nineteenth-century literature, you can find her wandering the world, playing piano, or baking cookies.

Website: Katherine Shade

Book Review: The Me in Memory by Aspen Bassett

Book Title: The Me in Memory by Aspen Bassett
Category: YA Fiction
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Content Rating: PG

Book Description

t’s been one month since Penny Grace traveled through time with Stranger, the hottie from next door. One month since she changed the course of the future, developed mysterious control over a dark force, and somehow got erased from time… Now, not even her own sister remembers her. 

Penny feels the daily sting of not belonging in her own home, so when Stranger asks for help in preventing his brother Jack’s death, she jumps at the opportunity. 

But their simple rescue mission soon turns impossible when a darkness named The Shadow offers Penny an impossible choice: win her family back by taking down The Void and restoring the natural timeline, or save Jack and ensure the world’s collapse. 

Not one to trust a threat, Penny decides to find The Void herself and demand help. Only now The Void is masquerading as a human with no intentions of risking his freedom to save a dead man. Secrets pile up between Penny and her Stranger as she struggles against an inevitable sacrifice. 

If Jack lives, Penny dies. If Jack dies, Penny loses everything.

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

I read A Penny Lost, the first book in this series, almost three years ago, and I was looking forward to reading The Me in Memory, which was released in late 2019. Unfortunately, life got in the way (I mean, 2020), but I finally read it. It did not disappoint, but now there’s a third book out that I need to read that was just released in February. I have to find out what happens!

Penny (Penelope Grace) is a twin but no one remembers her since her last time travel adventure with Stranger (her neighbor). They embark on another adventure to try to save Stranger’s brother before he dies in an accident and to fix things so that Penny is remembered by her family. Penny’s twin joins them even though she doesn’t believe Penny is real. She wants to figure things out, and she wants to help.

This book is full of time travel adventure, a touch of romance, old friends and enemies, and soul searching. Poor Penny doesn’t even know what she is anymore, so she doesn’t quite know what to do, but Stranger helps to keep her grounded. I read the first half of the book a few pages in the evening for several nights but once I got to the second half, I couldn’t put it down. The end was not what I expected, and now I want to know what happens!

I definitely recommend The Me in Memory for anyone who likes young adult and/or time travel novels. I do suggest reading A Penny Lost first, though.

Meet the Author

Aspen Bassett works at a library, telling stories and suggesting books. When she’s not working, she’s usually sipping hot cocoa and wondering what would happen if she had superpowers. She’s been published in multiple anthologies including Oomph: A Little Super Goes a Long Way and Inaccurate Realities.

Aspen grew up learning about chakras and auras and the true power of imagination which slips into her writing whether she intends it to or not. In college, when she wasn’t busy working on her degree in Creative Writing, Aspen also got her certificate in Women’s Meditation (basically general energy work). Now, she’s working toward a diploma in Integrated Healing Arts with a certificate in Hypnotherapy.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Audiobook Review: Bernie and the Putty by Steve LeBel

Title: The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty
Author: Steve LeBel
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publication Date: 12/4/20

Not all gods are created equal….

Even on a world where everyone lives forever and abilities are god-like, there’s always one who struggles to keep up. His name is Bernie.  

More than anything, young Bernie wants to be a great universe builder like his father. In school he learned to build suns and planets and to create life. When he gets the chance to build his own universe, Bernie finds it full of problems: mysterious asteroids, unexplained volcanoes, and shifting continents, all threatening to destroy his beautiful planet.

Bernie discovers the problems were caused by an evil god who will do anything to destroy Bernie and his planet. Can Bernie save his world? Maybe, but it would have helped if he’d studied harder back in school. You’ll laugh out loud as the plot takes twists and turns that even omniscient gods could not have foreseen.

If you enjoy imaginative and unpredictable worlds, like Harry Potter, Peter Jackson, or the tales of Terry Pratchett (Diskworld), then The Universe Builders is for you. It’s epic fantasy and science fiction at its best – for both adults and young adults. 

Winner of 16 Awards for Excellence:

  • Grand Prize, Writer’s Digest
  • Best Book of the Year, IAN
  • Gold, Readers’ Favorite
  • Gold, San Francisco Book Festival
  • Gold, eLit Awards
  • Gold, Independent Author Network
  • And 10 more awards…

My Review:

I chose to listen to this book after receiving a free audio copy from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

I had read this book when it first came out, and I thought it was great, so I jumped at the chance to listen to the audio version. Bernie and the Putty is fantasy/science fiction full of drama and suspense. There are more books about Bernie, and I’ve read them all. It’s been several years since I read the first book, and as I listened, I was surprised at how much I had forgotten.

Steve LeBel has created a world full of gods who are more like humans than we would imagine. Unfortunately, most of the gods believe that their creations have no feelings so they have no qualms about destroying a universe if it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Bernie is not like other gods and refuses to blink out a universe because of a mistake or two or ten.

The characters are well developed and have mostly human characteristics. Bernie, the main character, is a young god, just out of school and a good guy. He doesn’t have many friends because of Billy, a typical bully, who threatens anyone who tries to be Bernie’s friend. He does have two good friends though who stick by him through thick and thin. When it looks like Bernie will probably lose his job as a builder, they do what they can to help.

The narrator did an excellent job with timing and with the different voices. I hope he continues to narrate the Universe Builder series.

Bernie and the Putty is mostly about the conflict between Bernie and Billy but there are side stories that are just as important. The book is well written and it even makes it easy to understand how to build a universe! This would be a great addition to any library. This is the book that made Steve LeBel one of my favorite writers.

About the Author

How best to describe an author who writes humorous fantasy?

Do we tell about bookshelves full of fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal books, his love of mythology, or the years he spent as dungeon master? Or is it more important to know his favorite player-character was a chaotic-good elven fighter / mage? And what about that stack of old comic books he never seems to get rid of?

There’s a serious side too. The other half of his bookshelf bulges with titles on management, marketing, computer programming, and financial analysis. What about his years as a hospital president, the many businesses he created, or all the time he spent in board rooms? What about his early years counseling drug addicts, or his years as a stock trader?

Is there a pattern to his travels around the world? Why choose places like King Arthur’s Camelot, the Temple of Delphi, Buddha’s Tree of Enlightenment, China’s Forbidden City, or the Great Pyramids of Egypt? What is he seeking?

And what does this have to do with writing good fantasy?

Perhaps it’s that dichotomy within Steve that makes The Universe Builders such a compelling read.

Book Site:  www.TheUniverseBuilders.com
Email:  Steve@TheUniverseBuilders.com
Facebook:  SteveLeBel.Author
Twitter:  SteveLeBel

Book Review: Sol Invictus by Ben Gartner

Siblings John and Sarah barely made it home last time, but in their next time traveling adventure the challenge really heats up. Surrounded by clashing cultures on the ancient Roman frontier, they must fulfill their quest to unite the emperor with his enemy, an Alemanni barbarian, or risk being stuck in time forever.

An action-packed fantasy full of sword fights, chariot chases, fearsome wild animals, and high mountain survival. For graduates of the Magic Tree House looking for a thrilling middle grade page-turner, read Sol Invictus, book two of The Eye of Ra series!

Amazon

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

John and Sarah recently moved to Maryland, and they’re handling it okay. Sarah seems a lot moodier though, and she doesn’t want to spend much time with the family. It sounds like typical growing pains at first, but is there more to it?

When their parents decide to take John and Sarah to a museum, they end up in the ancient Roman frontier! This time, it is no accident. The gods are sending them on a mission, but they don’t want to time travel again. When they get there, they try using the Eye of Ra to return, but it doesn’t work! They decide that they probably have to complete the mission, but that seems impossible. They’re smart but I couldn’t see how they could complete this mission to get home.

John and Sarah make several friends while they’re in the ancient Roman frontier. I was hoping for more action in this second book, and I got it! I’m impressed with how the author incorporated a lot of history in Sol Invictus without it feeling like a history lesson. It didn’t slow down the story at all.

Sarah is having more and more trouble figuring out how to deal with the conflicting emotions she’s feeling and tends to walk off to be alone, forgetting how dangerous that could be. She made me so nervous running off like that! I enjoyed watching them grow throughout the book.

Sol Invictus is full of adventure that middle grade readers (and adults) will enjoy. It contains a lot of action and is a page turner. This time that John and Sarah are in is more dangerous than where they were in ancient Egypt, and they have to be on guard at all times. I’m looking forward to reading more books in The Eye of Ra series.

About the Author

Ben Gartner is the award-winning author of The Eye of Ra adventure series for middle graders (ages 8-12). His books take readers for a thrilling ride, maybe even teaching them something in the meantime. Ben can be found living and writing near the mountains with his wife and two boys.

Email: ben@bengartner.com

Website: https://bengartner.com