Tag Archives: Jonathan Koven

Author Anthony Avina’s “Top 10 Books of 2021”

Hello there everyone! Wow, what a year of books it has been. I am so honored to be sharing my top reads of the year. There have been so many amazing books published this year, and with the pandemic having kept us all indoors far more than ever before, there has been a surplus of books being published from indie authors and publishers alike. Now I want to mention that although the books are numbered here in the last post, this is not an indicator of ranking of any kind. This is more about organizing the books, not ranking. So with that in mind, here are my top choices for the year, each with a snippet from the original review. 

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10: Below Torrential Hill by Jonathan Koven

What really stood out to me was the incredible way the author matched the atmosphere and setting to the protagonist’s journey, almost as if the character’s surroundings became a reflection of their own inner turmoil and the ups and downs they went through. I also was really impressed with the fine line the narrative played with magical realism, as it allowed enough room for the reader to kind of draw their own conclusions from this aspect of the story, and kind of put a whole-new modern-day, coming-of-age twist on the classic Christmas Carol narrative. 

This was one of the last books I reviewed this year, and the author’s amazingly poetic writing style and imagery were just so breathtaking to behold. A definite must-read!

9: Traveller Manifesto by Rob Shackleford 

What always strikes me about this series and the author is the vast amount of detail the author puts into the series. From both a historical and a narrative standpoint, the author explores not only the sci-fi side of the series from the use of the Traveller technology, but the historical fiction side of each period of time these missions take on with an attention to detail that creates a sense of imagery and tone that bursts with life and vibrancy. The exploration of history’s impact on our world and the means by which the direction that history takes is often dictated by those who emerge victorious from a situation made this story feel so thought-provoking, and readers won’t be able to help being drawn down the rabbit hole that is this heart-pounding historical fiction thriller.

I am a huge fan of this author and this historical fiction/sci-fi series. The third and final book in the Traveller series, the narrative was just so engaging and thought-provoking that I wasn’t able to put it down.

8: The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer 

The characters were the show stealers of this read to be sure. What was so interesting, and something I always enjoy is when a writer crafts a narrative that features such a diverse cast of characters that we could find someone in the narrative to identify with for one reason or another. As someone with several chronic diseases, seeing protagonist Rachel’s struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome and the struggle with how she is perceived by others is a struggle I am all too familiar with, and it was great to see that representation in the book. The chemistry and heated moments, both good and bad, between Rachel and Jacob, were truly memorable and allowed the story to feel very cinematic in its approach.

As far as holiday romances go, this was definitely one of the most unique, creative, and heartwarming to read. It was so original, and I related to the protagonist so much with her struggle with chronic illness. (More holiday reads are coming soon).

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7: A Cry in the Moon’s Light by Alan McGill 

I was hooked immediately with this book. The author did such an amazing job of crafting a narrative that was both emotionally investing and chilling at the same time. The story was written in a way that felt like historical fiction meets Brother’s Grimm meets folklore all at once. The nods and homages to classic fairy tale style storytelling elements and themes were felt immediately, but then did such a great job of taking readers immediately into a right turn that held gruesome mayhem and terrifying creatures, and then made a completely new turn into heartbreaking and heartfelt romance and drama. 

I am an absolute fan of gothic horror, and this was pretty amazing. Great atmospheric haunt and an absolute pleasure to dive into. 

6: Blood Mark by J.P. McLean 

This was a refreshing new take on the paranormal thriller genre. The integration of Inca mythology into a modern-day thriller was engaging and thought-provoking, giving readers a wonderful blend of mythology and gritty crime thriller. The author’s own writing was outstanding, delivering a very descriptive and creative balance of imagery and character growth that felt very cinematic as a whole. 

A gritty and captivating new fantasy thriller that I just couldn’t put down!

5: Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story by Lilliam Rivera (Illustrated by Steph C.)

What a powerful and engaging new take on the iconic Green Lantern character. This was a fantastic story that really captured the struggle and strength of the Latino community, especially when the debate over immigration has never been higher in recent years. Jessica Cruz is the perfect character to bring this fight for justice and equality to light, as her DC Comics history played into the battle between fear and hope that her character has embodied since her introduction. As a half-Latino man whose late grandfather came to this country as a young child and built a family of his own through dedication and hard work, the cultural element and the familial bonds that Jessica had not only with her parents but her community as a whole really spoke to me, as these core values are something I was taught at an early age.

As a fan of this character and a proud Hispanic man, I was so enthralled with this story. As a fan of DC Comics, I loved this original take on the characters. 

4: The Marionettes Book 1 by Katie Wismer 

I can honestly say this was one of the best New Adult and Dark Fantasy reads I’ve read not only this year but in a long time. The amount of world-building and mythos the author was able to fit into the narrative was not only entertaining but made the world within this book feel seamless and immersive. The freedom with which the author incorporates not only the two main classifications of supernatural beings, (vampires and witches), but other powerful beings as well that don’t always fit into the typical supernatural fantasy read helped elevate this narrative to new heights. 

The dark and edgy fantasy horror read was so captivating and entertaining, and left on a massive cliffhanger that will keep readers on the edge of their seats for the sequel!

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3: The Thicket by Noelle Ihli 

What a truly amazing and inviting horror read! Horror fans everywhere will love this intricately detailed and plotted thriller. The author does a great job of painting an image of the narrative in the reader’s mind, delving into our modern world’s obsession and love of all things terrifying and macabre. As a fan of haunts myself and with friends who run a haunted attraction, I could relate to the life and atmosphere of these attractions clearly. 

I am a sucker for classic slasher horror flicks, and so the atmosphere and characters the author crafted in this narrative felt right at home in this genre and did an amazing job of painting an image of the novel’s plot in my mind.

2: Thread of Souls Book 1- Phantom Five by Scott & Ashley Roepel 

The balance of dark fantasy and character growth really elevates the narrative here. The danger and stakes of this fantasy world are made apparent early on in the story, as one of the main characters watches her sister taken right before her eyes by a large flying creature out of a nightmare. Yet it is the bond between the characters that really steal this story, as the blend of humor, charm, and heroism mixes with the personal problems each of these characters faces with their pasts and futures. It speaks of the classic swords and daggers, hero’s journey elements of adult fantasy novels that fans have come to know and love over the years.

I am a sucker for epic fantasy, and I loved the world-building and mythology the authors crafted in this original tale. I was able to devour the first 3 books in this series, and I absolutely cannot wait to read the next chapter in the coming year. 

1. Beyond the Stars and Shadows by Kristen Martin

This was such a compelling and engaging read right from the start. As anyone who knows me can attest, I love a wide variety of books. As such, I was so thrilled when the story I thought I was reading took off in such an exciting new direction. The author’s writing is so inviting and draws the reader into the narrative and the lives of the protagonist with ease. Elara is a truly fantastic character, well-rounded and while many books take their characters through a total evolution in their story, it was refreshing to see the narrative really hinged on the growth of the characters, making her story so much more interesting. 

When I think of books that really moved or inspired me this year, I cannot leave off one of my all-time favorite authors, Kristen Martin. The imagery and emotions this narrative brought out as I read it, along with the real-life interest I hold for metaphysical studies and the paranormal really sold me on this novel, and I was so honored to have been able to read this amazing story.

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Well, that does it for me. These were some of my favorite reads of the year, but certainly not the only favorites. What was your favorite book to read this year? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to like and follow my website if you aren’t already. Also, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, and if you are in the market for some custom writing projects, ranging from poetry to short stories and more, then be sure to order something from my Etsy shop, Cosmic Writing Studios. Everyone have an amazing New Year’s Eve, and I look forward to seeing you in the coming New Year! 

Below Torrential Hill by Jonathan Koven Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young man struggling with his father’s death years earlier and his crumbling family life finds himself facing strange occurrences in author Jonathan Koven’s “Below Torrential Hill”, a unique and emotional literary fiction read with a hint of magical realism.

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The Synopsis

It’s Christmas, and strange occurrences are plaguing the small town of Torrential Hill: a supernatural comet, undead insects, exploding streetlights, and a presence luring people into the woods. But when the mother of Tristen—a wistful, fatherless sixteen-year-old boy—hears voices from the kitchen sink, all he can think of is running away.

The Review

This was such a moving and powerful coming-of-age story! The author did such an incredible job of crafting relatable and emotional characters for readers to become invested in while layering their narratives to get a much better understanding of everyone’s motivations and struggles, especially protagonist Tristen. The balance of the author’s genres between magical realism and literary fiction felt absolutely seamless and natural, allowing the reader to become invested in the character’s arcs while still exploring the world the author had created.

What really stood out to me was the incredible way the author matched the atmosphere and setting to the protagonist’s journey, almost as if the character’s surroundings became a reflection of their own inner turmoil and the ups and downs they went through. I also was really impressed with the fine line the narrative played with magical realism, as it allowed enough room for the reader to kind of draw their own conclusions from this aspect of the story, and kind of put a whole-new modern-day, coming-of-age twist on the classic Christmas Carol narrative. 

The Verdict

Heartfelt, thought-provoking, and mesmerizing, author Jonathan Koven’s “Below Torrential Hill” is a must-read short story/literary fiction read with a hint of magical realism. The connection readers feel to the main character is immediate, and the exploration of themes like our innate need for love, family, and dealing with loss all come together in a very heartening way. With a writing style that leans towards imagery and artistry, readers will be hard-pressed not to grab their own copy of this amazing read, so be sure to do so today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jonathan Koven grew up on Long Island, NY, embraced by tree-speak, tide’s rush, and the love and support of his family. He holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from American University, works as a technical writer, and freelance editor (and formerly head fiction editor of Toho Journal). He lives in Philadelphia with his best friend and future wife Delana, and cats Peanut Butter and Keebler. Read Jonathan’s debut chapbook Palm Lines, available from Toho Publishing, and his award-winning novella Below Torrential Hill, available from Electric Eclectic.

https://linktr.ee/jonathankoven

Interview with Author and Poet Jonathan Koven

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I was raised on Long Island, NY. My first writings date back to when I was a child. Art always offered me comfort even at a young age. I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Literature from American University in Washington DC, where I then lived for seven years and met my fiancée, Delana. We’ve since moved to Philadelphia into a home with our two precious cats, Peanut Butter and Keebler.

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

Palm Lines is largely influenced by my own experiences and relationships, with friends and family and with myself. Yet, more than anything, I hope others read and find something to latch onto themselves.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Be kind to the lonely child waiting in your heart.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I’m drawn to poetry the way blood reaches my heart, the way wounds scab over.

5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Maybe Instagram or Twitter, but mainly I’ve found my fans through other channels — workshops, open mics, journal events etc…

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Write more than you know what to do with, and never stop believing it is all worth the wait.

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

My debut fiction novella Below Torrential Hill is a 2020 Electric Eclectic Novella Prize winner, and releases this December. What to expect? A supernatural comet, voices from the sink, a boy’s coming-of-age, a presence calling from the woods . . . Keep an eye out! I also have a few shorter poems and fiction pieces being published before then. Follow my Twitter or Instagram for updates @jonathankoven. You can also read all my work featured so far at this link.

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About the Author

Jonathan Koven grew up on Long Island, NY, embraced by tree-speak, tide’s rush, and the love and support of his family. He holds a BA in Literature and Creative Writing from American University, works as a technical writer, and is Toho Journal’s head fiction editor and workshop coordinator. He lives in Philadelphia with his best friend and future wife Delana, and cats Peanut Butter and Keebler. Credits include Lindenwood Review, Night Picnic Press, Iris Literary, and more. His debut chapbook Palm Lines is available from Toho Publishing, and his award-winning novella Below Torrential Hill is expected winter 2021 from Electric Eclectic.

https://jonathanadamkoven.wixsite.com/portfolio

Palm Lines by Jonathan Koven Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author and poet Jonathan Koven explores the transformative journey that is life in his short book of poetry, “Palm Lines”.

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The Synopsis

These heartfelt poems speak to a transformative journey “to rediscover love as both a question and an answer.” Seeking hope, honoring family, finding love, accepting time’s passage, and understanding gratitude are all major themes explored in this dreamlike collection. 

The Review

This was quite a powerful and emotionally-driven collection of poetry. The author and poet has done an amazing job of balancing the imagery used to conjure up memories of the past, present, and things yet to come with the more in-depth and personal emotional journey that is embedded into those memories. The way the author utilizes a more metaphysical narrative to explore the emotions of these poems really stood out from the rest of the other poetry books I’ve read, splitting up each section of the book into the Heart, Head, and Life Lines that goes typically into reading palms. 

The poems themselves came across beautifully, perfectly capturing the raw emotions that the author poured into each verse. The poetry often read like a haunting melody or song, captivating the reader to live these memories for themselves and take on the feelings that they often invoked, as well as bringing to mind the shared experiences that people could relate with within this narrative, metaphysical poetry.

Amazon Music: Six Months of Disney+

The Verdict

A breathtaking, heartfelt, and memorable read, author and poet Jonathan Koven’s “Palm Lines” is a must-read book of poetry. The way the author blends nature and metaphysical themes into the more personal narratives of the poems themselves really stood out in a positive way, making this book shine. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jonathan Koven grew up on Long Island, NY, embraced by tree-speak, tide’s rush, and the love and support of his family. He holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from American University, works as a technical writer, and is Toho Journal’s head fiction editor and workshop coordinator. He lives in Philadelphia with his best friend and future wife Delana, and cats Peanut Butter and Keebler. Read Jonathan’s debut chapbook Palm Lines, now available from Toho Publishing. His award-winning novella Below Torrential Hill is expected winter 2021 from Electric Eclectic. Find more of his short fiction and poetry in:

• American Literary [2012; spring 2013]

• Toho Journal [vol. 1, issue 2]

• Cathexis Northwest [May 2020]

• The Lindenwood Review [issue 10]

• Pub House Books’ Gravitas [vol. 19, issue 1]

• 25 Servings of SOOP [vol.1]

• Paragon Press’ Echo [issue 8]

• Night Picnic Press [June 2020]

• Assure Press’ Iris Literary [fall 2020]

• Black Mountain Press’ Halcyone Literary [vol. 3, issue 3]

• The Dewdrop [April 2021]

• The Dillydoun Review [April 2021]

• 300 Days of Sun [summer 2021]

• Grattan Street Press [fall 2021]

• Head & The Hand Press’ Hindsight is 2020 [fall 2021] 

https://jonathanadamkoven.wixsite.com/portfolio