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Conversations Across America: A Father and Son, Alzheimer’s, and 300 Conversations Along the TransAmerica Bike Trail That Capture the Soul of America by Kari Loya Review

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

Author Kari Loya shares an emotional and heartfelt journey of perseverance through adversity as he shares the physical journey he and his father made in 2015 as they rode their bikes in the early years of his father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the conversations they had with others along the way in the book “Conversations Across America: A Father and Son, Alzheimer’s, and 300 Conversations Along the TransAmerica Bike Trail That Capture the Soul of America”. 

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The Synopsis

Conversations Across America is about a father-son journey of a lifetime: a 73-day, 4,600-mile cross-country bike trip Kari took in 2015 with his 75-year-old dad, Merv, who had early-stage Alzheimer’s. Their adventure reminds us of the power of perseverance and adaptability in the face of uncertainty. It’s also a heartwarming example of listening and discovery, including 300 short conversations with people who approached them along the way, providing a rich snapshot of America, especially rural America.

Conversations is a mix of Blue HighwaysTuesdays with Morrie, and Humans of New York… on a bike. As you read, you can’t help but reflect on your relationship with your own father and children, while gaining perspective on Alzheimer’s—which now afflicts more than six million Americans—and getting a sense of the TransAmerica Bike Trail and America itself. Above all, you will be inspired to seize-the-day with someone you love—whatever that means to you.

The Review

This was such a powerful and moving story. The author’s ability to find the perfect balance between emotional and personal storytelling with inspired and honest conversations with hundreds of people across the country made this such a unique and memorable book. The way the author was able to take these stories and conversations from so many people and find a way of using these to explore the fabric of American society and culture through so many different lenses was inspiring to say the least and showcased the diversity and heart of the nation as a whole.

Yet the true heart of this book is in the story of Kari and his father. The impact that Alzheimer’s has on both those who are afflicted with the illness and those who love or care for someone who has it is something many people throughout the world, let alone in the United States, can relate to. The emotional story of this father and son duo as they come to terms with the realities of this diagnosis, as well as the passion they share to make this journey together, makes for a relatable and heartfelt experience that many others could see themselves in. The snapshots and diary entry style writing make this feel like an intimate look into the author’s life that elevates this emotional story more, and the father and son journey helps elevate the stories of those they come across as the book progresses. 

The Verdict

Thoughtful, engaging, and hauntingly beautiful, author Kari Loya’s “Conversations Across America: A Father and Son, Alzheimer’s, and 300 Conversations Along the TransAmerica Bike Trail That Capture the Soul of America” is a must-read nonfiction story of endurance, family, and the strength that comes from our connections to one another. The social and cultural ties that are explored through these stories blend well with the author’s personal journey to come to terms with his father’s illness and make this a heartfelt reading experience that will be impossible to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kari Loya is an educational leader, storyteller, and adventurer. He has worked nearly three decades at a range of innovative educational institutions, beginning with Teach For America in 1993 and serving most recently as headmaster at the Good Hope Country Day School in the U.S. Virgin Islands, when he received a Klingenstein Fellowship from Columbia University. He is also an Emmy-winning bilingual voice talent, musical artist, and author. He spoke at TEDx UC Davis in April 2022 on the theme of “Metamorphosis.” He holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Columbia University. He currently lives with his wife and daughter in Sugar Land, Texas.

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater Review

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

A young woman responsible for the protection of her kingdom and family must find a way of changing her family’s ways and saving her world from utter destruction in author Maggie Stiefvater’s “Bravely”. 

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The Synopsis

Merida goes on an all-new, life-changing adventure in this original YA novel set several years after the close of Brave!

What if you had one year to save everything you loved?

ONE PRINCESS. Merida of DunBroch needs a change. She loves her family—jovial King Fergus, proper Queen Elinor, the mischievous triplets— and her peaceful kingdom. But she’s frustrated by its sluggishness; each day, the same. Merida longs for adventure, purpose, challenge – maybe even, someday, love.

TWO GODS. But the fiery Princess never expects her disquiet to manifest by way of Feradach, an uncanny supernatural being tasked with rooting out rot and stagnation, who appears in DunBroch on Christmas Eve with the intent to demolish the realm – and everyone within. Only the intervention of the Cailleach, an ancient entity of creation, gives Merida a shred of hope: convince her family to change within the year – or suffer the eternal consequences.

THREE VOYAGES. Under the watchful eyes of the gods, Merida leads a series of epic journeys to kingdoms near and far in an attempt to inspire revolution within her family. But in her efforts to save those she loves from ruin, has Merida lost sight of the Clan member grown most stagnant of all – herself?

FOUR SEASONS TO SAVE DUNBROCH – OR SEE IT DESTROYED, FOREVER. 

The Review

This was a great read. The author excelled at continuously building an atmosphere and tone that reflected both the magic and historic nature of the narrative. The world-building was excellent here, as the author built upon the storied setting of Castle Dunbroch and the kingdom that Disney established in the film Brave and managed to craft enough new narrative to make the world feel even bigger and more alive. 

The mythos, history, and imagery are all that really drove this narrative forward and elevated the characters to the heights that they reached. The way Scottish mythology and mythological figures played into the story, as well as the emotional storyline that was brought to life through Merida and her family, made for a brilliant story overall. Yet despite instances of magical action and adventure featuring ancient gods and mythological figures, the real emphasis on history that this story brought to life allowed for a really well-balanced novel that kept readers invested in this world.

The Verdict

Rich in world-building, heartfelt character growth, and entertaining mythology, author Maggie Stiefvater’s “Bravely” is a must-read YA Historical Fiction and Fantasy novel of 2022. The deep dive into Scottish mythology and history blended so well with the established Disney storylines and characters that Brave introduced, and yet the author’s unique twist on the character’s new story and the atmospheric world that the author brought to life through imagery and tone made this one of the year’s best YA reads. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.

Maggie Stiefvater plays several musical instruments (most infamously, the bagpipes) and makes art in several media (most generally, colored pencils).

She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, their two children, many dogs, a bunch of fainting goats, and a mating pair of growly tuner cars.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09D8RJX93/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F58854953-bravely&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Weekly Comic Book Roundup 22

Deathstroke Inc. Vol. 1 HC

(Deathstroke Inc. #1-7)

by Joshua WilliamsonHoward Porter (Artist), Paolo Pantalena (Artist), Stephen Segovia (Artist), Trevor Hairsine (Artist), Hi-Fi (Colorist), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Rain Beredo (Colorist), Steve Wands (Goodreads Author) (Letterer)

The Synopsis

DC’s deadliest assassin gets a major upgrade, a new mission, and a new partner…Black Canary? Slade Wilson joins a secret organization to take down the biggest villain!

After suffering too many losses, Slade Wilson decides it’s time for a change. When he’s enlisted to work with an ages-old secret organization called T.R.U.S.T. who want to take down the heavy-hitter villains, he’s all in. They’ll supply him with an all-new team and resources for his new mission into the depths of the weirdest parts of the DCU, including a new partner…Black Canary! Wait what?!

What kind of missions does T.R.U.S.T. have in mind for Slade? How about heading into deep space and stop Cyborg Superman from spreading his consciousness to every machine in the Multiverse! But as they battle the dangers of space, Black Canary begins to uncover the truth about T.R.U.S.T and exactly why they want to control Deathstroke… Maybe T.R.U.S.T. isn’t so trustworthy after all.

This volume collects Deathstroke Inc. #1-7 and a story from Batman: Urban Legends #6.

The Verdict

The clash of different personalities in this unique new team makes added depth to the new direction that the writers are taking Deathstroke as a character. The exploration of Slade as a person and how he defines himself really did a great job of showcasing the fight for his own identity. The determination and ruthless nature of his fighting skills paired well with Black Canary’s own skills, and yet the clash of her optimism and morality with his “do whatever needs to be done” mindset made for such an interesting character dynamic between them. A definite must-read for longtime Deathstroke fans, and a fresh new direction in the DC Universe.

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The Swamp Thing, Volume 1: Becoming

(The Swamp Thing (2021) #1-4)

by Ram V.Mike Perkins (Illustrator), Mike Spicer (Color Artist), June Chung (Color Artist), Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)

The Synopsis

Swamp Thing returns in a new series that stars Levi Kamei as the next Guardian of the Green!

Unable to control his transformation into the monstrous Swamp Thing, Levi is thrust into the harsh, unforgiving mystery of grisly murders committed by a supernatural desert legend. Levi must revisit past events in his homeland of India and face the deadly reality of a ravenous new villain in order to comprehend what he is truly, and horrifyingly, becoming. A new era of global action and horror blossoms here, and Swamp Thing will be at the root of it!

Collects Future State: Swamp Thing #1-2 and Swamp Thing #1-4 

The Verdict

I love this new direction for the iconic DC Comics character. Levi is a heartwarming and heartbreaking new host for the Avatar of the Green, and the artwork and narrative do an excellent job of highlighting both Levi’s unique culture and backstory with the horror and gritty reality of Swamp Thing titles throughout the company’s history. The juxtaposition of the harsh desert landscape introduced in the early chapters of this new series with the beauty of the Green was great to see on the page, and having Levi as the new host allows readers to get new glimpses into the mythos surrounding the Green itself. A definite must-read for longtime Swamp Thing fans. 

Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Give Peace a Chance

(Suicide Squad (2021) (Single Issues) #1-6)

by Robbie ThompsonEduardo Pansica (Illustrator), Julio Ferreira (Illustrator), Dexter Soy (Illustrator), Joe Prado (Illustrator), Marcelo Maiolo (Color Artist), Alex Sinclair (Color Artist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)

The Synopsis

The Suicide Squad enters a brand-new era as they encounter fresh foes and threats at every turn!

All hell breaks loose for the squad! With all new do-badders they don’t only have to worry about surviving their next mission…they have to survive each other! This volume collects the most daring tales of the antiheroes as the DC Universe spins out in the aftermath of Future State!

Collecting Future State: Suicide Squad #1-2 and Suicide Squad #1-6.

The Verdict

As a longtime fan of the Suicide Squad titles, I loved this new direction the team and series are taking. The new concepts introduced with these new characters and members of the squad were fantastic to see, and the mysteries were so intriguing to dive into. From Amanda Waller’s powerful new endgame to the divide between her and Rick Flagg and the way Waller was able to gain control of Superboy all drove this new team led by the new fan-favorite character Peacemaker. The bright and intense artwork really kept me invested in this story as it evolved, and the chemistry of this new team was unique enough to make the title feel fresh and alive on the page. A must-read new direction for the squad!

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Future State: Gotham Vol. 1

(Future State: Gotham #1-7)

by Joshua WilliamsonDennis Culver (Goodreads Author), Giannis Milonogiannis (Illustrator), Nikola Cizmesija (Illustrator), Troy Peteri (Letterer)

The Synopsis

The event that was DC Future State continues in this graphic novel collection starring the Red Hood and the entire Bat-Family.

Disaster strikes Gotham City, and all evidence points to the Next Batman! Red Hood must choose justice over his family and allies when the corrupt Magistrate enlists him to bring in the new Batman dead or alive! Featuring the entire cast from the popular Future State Batman titles, this story line kicks off the next chapter in this forbidding world of tomorrow, and does so in brilliant, monochromatic storytelling! This black-and-white collection will showcase the brutal world that’s around the corner in Future State Gotham!

Includes stories from Future State: Dark Detective #2 and #4, plus Future State: Gotham #1–7. 

The Verdict

As the present-day DC Universe attempts to curtail some of the darker futures seen during the Future State event, this title takes readers back into the grim world of Gotham’s Future State, following Jason Todd when he is once again alone and separated from his Bat family. As he works to protect Gotham from the threats looming over them, the powerful hand of the Magistrate he now works for threatens the freedoms and lives of both heroes and villains alike. The gritty future the story depicts reflects beautifully in the black and white artwork that brings these futuristic versions of iconic characters to life. A great title in DC’s Future State line.

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red

(Harley Quinn Black + White + Red #1-14)

The Synopsis

Harvey Award nominated and one of the crown jewels of the DC library is the inimitable BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE – innovative short tales of the Caped Crusader, told purely in primal black and white ink. Unfortunately, now Harley Quinn wants in on the action…and she’s got her red pen, and some NOTES.

For the first time in print, 19 short tales of Gotham City’s craziest clown princess are presented in nothing but black, white, and bold splashes of red. See how Harley’s story unfolds in worlds beyond the DC Universe, in the alternate timelines of Batman: White Knight, Harleen, and the Harley Quinn animated series! Witness her darkest hours and her happiest moments! Behold a-wait a second, did she just…win an underground rap battle?!

An incredible array of talent from across the comics industry have put their reputations in jeopardy to bring you these stories. So show a little gratitude, will ya?

This volume collects Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Digital Chapters #1-17 in print for the first time-along with two all-new, never-before seen stories by writer David Mandel (Veep) and artist Adam Hughes; and Harley’s co-creator, writer Paul Dini, with legendary Batman: The Animated Series artist Kevin Altieri!

Collects Harley Quinn Black + White + Red 1-19

The Verdict

While there are so many authors and artists in this collection it would be impossible to stop and name them all, each one of these amazing creators did an incredible job of crafting unique moments in Harley Quinn’s history and bringing them to life on the page. The action, humor, and special connection Harley has to the greater DC Universe are felt profoundly in these stories, and the titles each reflect a different side of Harley’s personality and mindset that makes her character so unique. The short story/anthology aspect of this collection makes for such an entertaining and captivating new direction for this fan-favorite character. A definite must-read for Harley Quinn fans!

Crush and Lobo

(Crush & Lobo #1-8)

by Mariko TamakiAmancay Nahuelpan (Illustrator), Tamra Bonvillain (Color Artist), Nick Filardi (Color Artist), Ariana Maher (Letterer)

The Synopsis

The thrilling and chaotic fan-favorite miniseries from Detective Comics dream team Mariko Tamaki and Amancay Nahuelpan collected for the first time! In case anyone was wondering, Crush is doing just fine, actually. Sure, she effectively quit being a Teen Titan. And okay, her relationship with her girlfriend, Katie, is kind of on the rocks, if you want to get all technical about it. Oh, and she recently found out her dad, Lobo, is in space jail. But that’s cool, because he’s the worst. Okay, so maybe Crush has some stuff. But that doesn’t mean she’s gonna do anything

Collects Crush and Lobo #1-8 

The Verdict

I loved this title, as it gave the classic insanity and madness that Lobo is known for, while also doing an excellent job of diving more into the mindset and backstory of his daughter and new fan-favorite Titan character, Crush. The LGBTQ romance storyline that weaves so naturally into her interstellar adventure to confront her father makes this story so engaging, and the gritty conflict between father and daughter promises to keep the DC Universe more dangerous and zanier than anyone would ever imagine. A brilliant title in DC’s new lineup. 

X-Corp by Tini Howard, Vol. 1

(X-Corp #1-5)

by Tini HowardAlberto Foche (Illustrator), Valentine De Landro (Illustrator), Sunny Gho (Color Artist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Jason Loo

The Synopsis

Krakoa is for closers! The deals have been made. Mutantkind is safe on its new island nation. As the Reign of X continues, what are the wants of the mutants who have everything? Leading the charge is X-Corporation, headed by CXOs Monet St. Croix and Warren Worthington — a duo as cutthroat and ruthless in the boardroom as they are on the battlefield. But X-Corp needs more than just its figureheads. And as Monet sets out to staff their team with some of the brightest and most devious mutant minds available, Warren finds himself in a tense meeting with one of Krakoa’s first allies, who wants to know the truth: on Angel’s wings, will X-Corp crash or soar?

COLLECTING: X-Corp (2021) 1-5

The Verdict

The development of Marvel’s new age of mutants as the nation of Krakoa came to be formed has been the comic book publisher’s crowning achievement in the current Marvel Multiverse. The exploration of the nation’s various teams and assets has been so fun to read, and this comic was no different. The blend of business meets corporate espionage was a welcome new addition to the mutant’s evolving storyline in the Marvel Universe, and the chaos that erupts from both Monet’s cutthroat moves and Warren’s brilliant mind for business relationships adds both action and depth to the growing story that is Krakoa. 

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X-Men: X of Swords

(X-Men: X of Swords #1-22)

by Jonathan HickmanGerry Duggan (Goodreads Author), Benjamin Percy (Goodreads Author), Tini HowardLeah Williams (Goodreads Author), Vita Ayala (Goodreads Author), Zeb WellsEd BrissonLeinil Francis Yu (Illustrations), Matteo Lolli (Illustrations), Joshua Cassara (Illustrations), Pepe Larraz (Illustrations), Carlos Gómez (Illustrations), Viktor Bogdanovic (Illustrations), Carmen Carnero (Illustrations), Rod Reis (Illustrations), Phil Noto (Illustrations), R.B. Silva (Illustrations), Mahmud Asrar (Illustrations), Stefano Caselli (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

A tower. A mission. A gathering of armies. Swords will be drawn in the first epic crossover of the astonishing Dawn of X! Wolverine, the X-Men, Cable, X-Force, Excalibur, X-Factor, the New Mutants, the Marauders, the Hellions and the rest of Krakoa’s residents will all feel the effects — but which ten mutants will wield the blades? Weapons both new and familiar are drawn from their scabbards as the X-Men prepare to do mythic battle against a truly daunting foe! Jonathan Hickman and his fellow visionary creators — who have painstakingly put all the pieces into place during Dawn of X — join forces to smash the board!

Collects: X of Swords: Creation (2020) #1, X of Swords: Stasis (2020) #1, X of Swords: Destruction (2020) #1, X-Men (2019) #12-15, Excalibur (2019) #13-15, Marauders (2019) #13-15, X-Force (2019) #13-14, New Mutants (2019) #13, Wolverine (2020) #6-7, Cable (2020) #5-6, Hellions (2020) #5-6, X-Factor (2020) #4.

The Verdict

This was one of Marvel’s best X-Men crossover series in recent years. The exploration of Apocalypse’s history and the war-driven world of Arakko was such a brilliant new direction to take the mutants now that they are formed into their own nation. The multi-world tournament showcases the brutal history of the mutants and the fight for survival that so many have had to face over the years. The action, mythos, and world-building took the mutants to all new heights, and the shocking conclusion will see one major change to one of the nation’s most vital mutants. A Must-read!  

Hellions, Vol. 1

(Hellions (2020) #1)

by Zeb WellsStephen Segovia (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

Bad is the new good! When the new nation of Krakoa opened its doors to all mutants and forgave all past crimes, its leaders knew that they’d have to accept some of their worst foes into the fold…but they didn’t plan for what to do with them. Not to worry – Mister Sinister has plans for the troublemakers. Meet his new Hellions: Scalphunter, Wild Child, Empath, Nanny, Orphan-Maker, Psylocke…and Havok?! Under Sinister’s direction, they are sure to become productive members of mutant society…and the new mutant team that you’re going to hate to love! Though right now the Hellions can barely keep from killing one another, let alone find a way to fit into Krakoan society. Of course, that might be just what Mister Sinister is counting on when he sends them to clean up his messes…

COLLECTING: HELLIONS (2020) 1-4 

The Verdict

The Marvel Universe’s answer to the DC Comics team Suicide Squad just got another contender with a mutant twist! The twisted and chilling nature of some of Marvel’s deadliest and most damaged mutants leads one team to form in an attempt to find a place for these misfits in their nation before they are forced into Krakoa’s prison deep in the bowels of the island. Between Psylocke’s morality and Sinister’s devious nature keeping the team torn in two, and the emotional exploration of each team member’s unique psyche, this was a brilliant new direction for Marvel’s mutant nation. 

New Mutants by Jonathan Hickman, Vol. 1

(New Mutants (2019) #1)

by Jonathan HickmanRod Reis (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

The new generation claims the dawn! The classic New Mutants — Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Mirage, Karma, Magik and Cypher — get together with new friends Chamber and Mondo for a new mission…tracking down their teammate Cannonball! Hitching a ride into outer space with the Starjammers, the New Mutants soon find themselves in trouble and on trial for crimes against the Shi’ar Empire! But when Deathbird returns and throws the Empire into turmoil, the New Mutants’ happy reunion soon becomes a complicated struggle for galactic freedom! Who will claim the Shi’ar throne? It’s a star-spanning adventure from the mind of X-visionary Jonathan Hickman!

COLLECTING: NEW MUTANTS (2019) #1-2, 5, 7 

The Verdict

Marvel’s next generation of mutant heroes finally reunites on the island nation of Krakoa just in time for a space-faring adventure. The unique stories told in this narrative showcase the New Mutants unique chemistry together, and the writers find a great balance of intimate character growth for several characters, (Wolfsbane, Mirage, and Magik to name a few), and space-shattering action. A truly brilliant story.

X-Force, Vol. 1

(X-Force (2019) #1)

by Benjamin Percy (Goodreads Author), Joshua Cassara (Illustrator), Stephen Segovia (Illustrator), Dean White (Colorist), GURU-eFX (Colorist)

The Synopsis

X-Force is the CIA of the mutant world–one half intelligence branch, one half special ops. Beat, Jean Grey and Sage are on one side. In a perfect world, there would be no need for an X-Force. We’re not there…yet.

COLLECTING: X-FORCE (2019) 1-6

The Verdict

The black-ops team of the Marvel Mutants was a brilliant addition to the nation of Krakoa. The cold, calculating mind of team leader Beast showcases the evolution that some of Marvel’s OG mutants have undergone. Jean’s morality clashes with Hank often, and Wolverine’s clash with Kid Omega on the ground makes for both humorous and bloody action scenes. The introduction of this secret society of mutant-hating powerful humans makes for a great foil and need for X-Force. 

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Marauders, Vol. 1

(Marauders (2019) #1)

by Gerry Duggan (Goodreads Author), Matteo Lolli (Illustrator), Michele Bandini (Illustrator), Lucas Werneck (Illustrator), Mario Del Pennino (Illustrator), Federico Blee (Colorist), Erick Arciniega (Colorist)

The Synopsis

Ahoy, muties – the X-Men sail at dawn! Mutantkind has begun a glorious new era on Krakoa, but some nations’ human authorities are preventing mutants from escaping to this new homeland. Which is where Captain Kate Pryde and her high-seas allies come in! Funded by Emma Frost and the Hellfire Trading Company, Kate and her crew of Storm, Pyro, Bishop and Iceman sail the seven seas to liberate their fellow mutants – as the Marauders! But the real cutthroats are back home in the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle, where Sebastian Shaw has recruited a new Black Bishop to aid in his machinations against the Club’s two queens. As tensions rise, Kate’s crew finds itself caught in the dead center of the Battle of Madripoor! Can the Marauders avoid being made to walk the plank?

COLLECTING: MARAUDERS #1-6 

The Verdict

Kate Pryde shines brightly in this new series. The comic does an excellent job of diving into the black market work and missionary work that Krakoa undertakes to protect mutants and help their allies around the world. The intricacy of the Hellfire Trading Company and Emma Frost’s manipulations to secure her seat of power lead to some great tension with Sebastian Shaw, and the story also highlights some of the sexism that exists in Shaw as he tries to assert his dominance in the company. Yet it was Kate’s humor and heart that shone the brightest, as she fought to find the answer to her inability to resurrect herself on Krakoa. A truly beautiful comic series for the mutant nation. 

A Death in Berlin (The Simon Sampson Mysteries Book Two) by David C. Dawson Review

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

In the 1930’s Berlin, a city that once stood for liberation is about to become the capital of one of the world’s largest waves of oppression, and one man must fight to save the lives of several gay men as the Nazi party rises in author David C. Dawson’s “A Death in Berlin”, the second book in The Simon Sampson Mysteries series.

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The Synopsis

Berlin 1933: When the parties stop…the dying begins

The city that’s been a beacon of liberation during the 1920s is about to become a city of deadly oppression. BBC foreign correspondent Simon Sampson risks his life in a bid to save thousands of gay men from the growing Nazi threat.

This is the second in the Simon Sampson mystery series. The first, A Death in Bloomsbury, was hailed as ‘a good old-fashioned John Buchan-esque mystery reworked for the twenty-first century’.

Simon moves to Berlin where he meets British author Christopher Isherwood and his lover Heinz. He’s also reunited with his banter-partner Florence Miles, better known to her friends as Bill. She’s recruited him into the British intelligence services and he’s got the task of hunting down communist spies.

But when Simon is ordered to spy on an old college friend, his loyalties are brought into question. Who are his real enemies? And how much can he trust his masters?

The Review

This was such a well-developed and engaging historical fiction meets mystery thriller. The atmosphere and intrigue the author was able to infuse into the story really elevated the historical time period the narrative took place in, and the gripping story kept me on the edge of my seat as the author’s balance of fast-paced action and slow-build character growth kept the novel moving at an even pace. The LGBTQ aspect of the narrative and the character growth felt refreshingly natural and insightful, as it played into the history itself quite well.

The rich character dynamics and the unique setting are what really made this story stand out. The chaos and sadness that became such a part of everyday life at the beginning of the Nazi occupation were felt strongly in this novel. The harmonious way the author was able to weave these emotions and facts from our world’s history into the actions and experiences of this cast of characters made this novel so gripping. It allowed the mystery itself felt elevated as the narrative dipped into the espionage spy genre with ease.

The Verdict

Entertaining, thought-provoking, and uniquely pertinent to many of the recurring struggles so many around the world face today, author David C. Dawson’s “A Death in Berlin” is a must-read historical fiction meets suspense thriller and a great addition to The Simon Sampson Mysteries series. With the adrenaline rush and mind-bending twists and turns, this narrative will resonate with readers who enjoy an almost pulpy noir-style storytelling with an LGBTQ-driven cast of characters and a heavy dose of historical research and accuracy. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Men in love, men in jeopardy.

David C. Dawson is an award-winning writer of page-turner thrillers with a gay theme and the occasional romance.

His latest novel A Death in Bloomsbury was published in November 2021.

His debut novel, The Necessary Deaths, won bronze for Best Mystery & Suspense in the FAPA chairman’s award. It became the first in the Dominic Delingpole series. The other two books are The Deadly Lies and A Foreign Affair.

His first mystery romance For the Love of Luke was published in October 2018 followed by Heroes in Love.

David lives in London with his boyfriend and ageing motorbike.

You can read his blog here: http://bit.ly/DavidCDawsonblog

In his spare time, David tours Europe on his ageing Triumph motorbike and sings with the London Gay Men’s Chorus.

https://www.davidcdawson.co.uk/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BB7WHR4N/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F62071459-a-death-in-berlin%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3D8mAMg3tNGM%26rank%3D3&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young Review

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

Two people haunted by the past on a small island town find dark secrets emerging as strange happenings unearth the magic and folklore that their town has been steeped into for years in author Adrienne Young’s “Spells for Forgetting”.

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The Synopsis

A deeply atmospheric story about ancestral magic, an unsolved murder, and a second chance at true love.

Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.

But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.

The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

The Review

This was such a powerful and captivating mystery thriller. The rich character-driven narrative really did an excellent job of elevating the atmosphere and emotional tone of the narrative. The air of suspicion and secrets run deep in this small island town, and the seemingly small-knit community where everyone knows everyone suddenly becomes a bed of deceit in which everyone is a suspect, even those closest to the protagonists. The heated passion and unresolved feelings between both August and Emery add even more tension to this atmospheric thriller and keep readers invested in their divergent stories until they come together in unexpected ways.

For me, the rich and dynamic setting with the subtle yet the natural feeling way the author incorporated magic and fantasy into this narrative felt so alive on the page. The author did an incredible job of showcasing the concept of town secrets, local legends, and the power that secrets and lies can hold over us in life, and blended these themes into a years-long whodunnit that captivated the audience instantly. The atmosphere of this small town played well into the mystery both in the novel and the genre as a whole, as the story elevated the reader’s curiosity factor while also keeping them emotionally invested in these protagonists. 

The Verdict

Haunting, mesmerizing, and entertaining, author Adrienne Young’s “Spells for Forgetting” is a must-read fantasy and murder mystery read. The passionate character development and ideas of destiny and the power of local legends played well with the diverse cast of characters and the sheer volume of twists and turns that will keep readers shocked for days after reading the final pages of this incredible story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Adrienne Young is the New York Times and international bestselling author of the Sky and Sea duology, the Fable series, and Spells for Forgetting. When she’s not writing, you can find Adrienne on her yoga mat, on a walk in the woods, or planning her next travel adventure. She lives and writes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

For information on release, appearances, ARCs, giveaways, and exclusive content, sign up for the newsletter at https://adrienneyoungbooks.com/

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Embracing the Magic: A Middle-Grade Magical Fantasy (Town Magician Book One) by S.A. Schneider Review

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

A young boy who dreams of becoming a powerful wizard must work with his bitter rival, a trickster who has convinced his town that he is a powerful magician himself when an evil wizard arrives to destroy their home and those they care about in author S.A. Schneider’s “Embracing the Magic”, the first in the Town Magician series.

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The Synopsis

Their hero is a fraud and only he knows it. When the truth comes knocking, can one boy conjure a way to save the day?

Young Samual longs to perform magic of his own. And what’s worse, he can’t seem to convince anyone that their beloved Town Magician is a trickster without an enchanted bone in his body. When a wicked wizard challenges the pretender to a duel, Samual vows keep his village safe by forcing the fraudster to rise to the challenge.

Determined to prevent disaster, he secretly shadows the phony protector during his training with the Grand Wizard. And when they barely escape an attack by dire wolves, Samual realizes he must partner up with his bitter rival. But keeping the truth hidden any longer may not help them outwit a powerful sorcerer.

With his town in grave danger, can Samual protect the ones he loves from the forces of evil?

Embracing the Magic is the enchanting first story in the Town Magician middle grade fantasy series. If you enjoy unlikely heroes, coming-of-age adventures, and spellbinding creatures, then you’ll love S.A. Schneider’s fantastical tale.

The Review

This was such a captivating and tantalizing read. The author did an incredible job of capturing a unique world filled with magic and wonder. The imagery and atmosphere did a beautiful job of bringing the action and adventure of the story to life on the page. The way the author is able to relate this story to younger readers and provide both study guides, terminology, and a reference guide on the world-building he did was great to see brought to life. 

For me though, the character growth and world-building/mythos the author creates in this story were the highlights of the narrative. The relationship between Rory and Samual was such a rollercoaster of highs and lows throughout the narrative, showing the bond they form and the motivations that take life as their journey continues. The concept of challenges between town magicians, a Town Magician Council, and so much more made this story feel so vibrant and alive on the page. 

The Verdict

With amazing world-building, rich atmosphere, and engaging storytelling, author S.A. Schneider’s “Embracing the Magic” is an incredible Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure novel and the perfect first chapter in this emerging series. The emotional growth of the characters, the powerful villain they face, and the entertaining narrative will have young readers and others alike hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Don’t you wish you could have a lightsaber? I imagine it all the time. And force powers – definitely force powers. Think of that? Oh, wait – how about spider powers? Shooting web lines and clinging to walls. You could get to school in style.

OK, so we can’t have those. At least to the best of my knowledge. What’s the next best thing? Reading stories about other worlds. I guess I’ll have to settle for that and hopefully you’d like to come along for the ride.

I live and grew up in a rural area in Ohio. That left a lot of room for reading. I now live with my family and create stories set in many other places.

For now, I have to visit another world.


Enjoy the adventure!

Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen Review

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

After becoming the prime suspect in the disappearance of the finalists for the nation’s highest medal of valor for civilians, one man must put himself on the line to find and save these heroes from the sinister web they’ve been ensnared within author Ken MacQueen’s “Hero Haters”.

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The Synopsis

Jake Ockham had a dream job, vetting nominees for the Sedgewick Medallion—the nation’s highest civilian award for heroism. His own scarred hands are an indelible reminder of the single mother he failed to pull from a raging house fire; her face haunts him still. Obligations drag him back to his hometown to edit the family newspaper but attempts to embrace small-town life, and the hot new doctor, are thwarted by unknown forces. The heroes Jake vetted go missing and he becomes the prime suspect in the disappearances. Aided by resourceful friends, Jake follows a twisted trail to the Dark Web, where a shadowy group is forcing the kidnapped medalists to perform deadly acts of valor to amuse twisted subscribers to its website. To save his heroes, Jake must swallow his fears and become one himself…or die in the attempt. 

The Review

This brand-new thriller from a brand new author and seasoned journalist was absolutely fantastic. The author immediately showcased the strength of finding the right balance between character growth and suspense building. The atmosphere and tension really elevated the narrative here, capturing the shocking nature of the crimes and the fight for survival that takes place. The focus on “heroes”, and how we treat our heroes in the world is a great central theme to play into this thriller and did a great job of showcasing the humanity within our heroes.

The brilliant character development and escalating suspense were so well delivered. The chemistry between Tina and Jake as the story develops adds a hint of romance into the narrative, but the complexity of the protagonist’s struggle with his brush with heroism and the blend of guilt for those that couldn’t be saved, as well as the human faults all heroes still have in their daily lives that are often ignored in the wake of their heroism, made their development so mesmerizing to read about.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, atmospheric, and entertaining, author Ken MacQueen’s “Hero Haters” is a must-read suspense thriller of 2022. The gripping blend of haunting dark web crime and the balance of morality with heroism as a whole made this such a rich and dynamic story to dive head first into, and readers will be hard-pressed to put this novel down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy or preorder by October 5th, 2022!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Before turning to fiction, Ken MacQueen spent 15 years as Vancouver bureau chief for Maclean’s, Canada’s newsmagazine, winning multiple National Magazine Awards and nominations. He travelled the world writing features and breaking news for the magazine, and previously for two national news agencies.

He has written extensively on crime, politics, disasters, both natural and man-made—and, being Canadian, on the shifting fortunes of Queen Elizabeth II and her clan. All of this is potential fodder for future fiction, though the Queen as action hero seems unlikely.

Hero Haters, set in the Pacific Northwest and rural Pennsylvania, is his debut thriller.

MacQueen covered nine Olympic Games and drew the athletic prowess of Jake Ockham, his protagonist, from tracking elite rowers in training and on podiums in Athens, Beijing and London.

He and his wife divide their time between North Vancouver and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.

kenmacqueen.com

Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family (The Destiny Trilogy Book 2) by Cathy Burnham Martin Review

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

The journey and struggle to escape a horrific attack and genocide of the Armenian people at the end of the Ottoman Empire leads to a new life in America and the struggle to overcome new prejudices and persecutions in author Cathy Burnham Martin’s “Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family”, the second book in the Destiny Trilogy. 

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The Synopsis

“Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family” illuminates the stark realities of immigrants determined to settle in America, a land of opportunity and freedom. While young Hrant’s Armenian story parallels the horrors experienced by far too many cultures in both the past and present, book 2 in the Destiny trilogy also highlights the strength and hope that live within survivors of various nightmares. After witnessing and escaping genocide, Hrant may just find American prejudice and bigotry to be manageable hurdles.

Book 1 found Hrant Gulumian, the youngest child in his family, deeply relating to his granddaughter, Cassie when her nightmares precisely mirrored his traumatic childhood experiences. Destiny of Dreams… Time Is Dear shared young Hrant’s harrowingly narrow escape from the mass deportations and attempted annihilation of the Armenians in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire.

Despite the hauntingly intense and dramatic truths in Book 1, the Destiny trilogy resumes with the powerful hope and strength known only to survivors. Book 2 completes Hrant’s voyage and sweeps the reader into his family’s new life in the USA, illuminating the vulnerability of the diaspora and all forced refugees in a new and unfamiliar land filled with language, cultural, and discrimination challenges.

Author Martin celebrates her family’s quiet determination and its refusal to lose faith, despite intolerance and numerous economic woes. Set in the 20th Century, her family’s true story shines a beacon of optimism and comfort for countless other families, hailing from many nations and struggling to endure on the way to freedom and a chance for a better life in this century.

The Review

This was such a brilliant blend of both fiction and nonfiction storytelling. The author did an incredible job of relaying the experiences and powerful memories of her family, showcasing the struggles to make a place for themselves in the United States and the hurdles they had to overcome from a society that judged and looked upon them with suspicion and even at times hatred. The themes of immigration, family, and the pursuit of acceptance were felt so powerfully here in this narrative and made the story flow smoothly. 

The author’s emphasis on character growth and history and culture was brilliant to read. The knowledge that the “characters” were actual family members that the author changed the names of made their experiences and pivotal moments in the story much more impactful, and allowed the reader to really connect to them and the narrative, especially as it relates to the immigration story. The way the author pivots this immigration story between the character’s desire to maintain their culture and practices after the events they survived, and the hope of building a new life in this land of opportunity despite the bigotry they are faced with, allowed the reader to feel connected to the narrative. 

The Verdict

Captivating, inspiring, and hopeful, author Cathy Burnham Martin’s “Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family” is a must-read genre fiction meets biography nonfiction style narrative that you won’t be able to put down this fall. Due to release on November 2nd, 2022, the book brings readers a heartfelt, emotional, and engaging story of survival, family, and finding the balance between honoring one’s culture and history with the hope of a brighter brand new future. If you haven’t yet, be sure to preorder or grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Born in Goffstown, New Hampshire, Cathy Burnham Martin’s eclectic career path wove through recruiting, communications, television broadcasting, management, and bank organizing. An active board member and community volunteer, she received Easter Seals’ David P. Goodwin Lifetime Commitment Award. This professional voiceover artist, journalist, corporate communications geek, and dedicated foodie earned numerous broadcasting awards as a television news anchor. She wrote, produced, and hosted dozens of groundbreaking documentaries, TV specials, and news reports, ranging from the Moscow Superpower Summit and the opening of the Berlin Wall to extensive coverage of New Hampshire’s First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primaries.

Some of her most challenging work includes news stories behind the Iron Curtain under the scrutiny of foreign military personnel touting loaded AK-47s. While she met and interviewed Presidents and candidates, other interviews ranged from inventor Dean Kamen, best-selling authors Og Mandino and Richard Lederer, and Star Trek originator Gene Roddenberry to Popcorn icon Orville Redenbacher, Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, superstar New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme, and filmmaker Ken Burns.

Among little-known facts about Cathy? She once sang with The Beach Boys and with the marvelous Marvelettes, shared a dressing room with Ella Fitzgerald, and emceed for Tony Bennett. She also performed on stage with comedian Adam Sandler, actor Dan Lauria, and director Alek Keshishian.

Dubbed The Morale Booster, this 20-year professional member of the National Speakers Association remains a business speaker, media coach, and member of the Actors Equity Association. Proud of her Eurasian heritage, Cathy Burnham Martin narrates her own books and those of other authors. Audiobooks appear on such sites as Audible.com as well as Amazon and iTunes. Author of 20+ fiction, nonfiction, and cookbooks, Cathy writes articles for her  http://www.GoodLiving123.com website. When not writing or in full production mode, Cathy and her husband enjoy traveling, boating, music and visual arts, and great food.

Plague Unleashed (The Intern Diaries Book Two) by D.C. Gomez Review

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

Death’s intern must save a small town in Texas as a mysterious plague turns its citizens into the beginning stages of the walking dead in author D.C. Gomez’s “Plague Unleashed”, the second book in The Intern Diaries series! 

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The Synopsis

After eight months as Death’s North America Intern, Isis Black is comfortable seeing dead people.

She is used to talking to the souls of the departed and helping Death carry the souls to the afterlife, too. But unfortunately, her intense training is not enough to prepare her for her new challenge: the walking dead.

Zombie-like people, whom have lost all higher-level consciousness, are walking the streets in the small Texas city of Texarkana, where Isis lives and works. Isis, and her teammates, a talking cat and a genius boy, must find the person responsible for this destruction, stop the infestation, and find a cure before every living person turns into a zombie or dies without a soul.

Not only must Isis find a cure for the plague, she must find it in five days—before twenty-thousand people arrive to watch and compete in the math and robotic Bowl Games.

If Isis doesn’t stop the plague in time, everyone who attends the games will contract the virus and spread it across the country.

Can Isis find the culprit, the cure, and save Texarkana and the country from a zombie apocalypse?

In this second book of the captivating series, The Intern Diaries, author D.C. Gomez takes the reader on a fast-paced, exciting journey through the real-life streets of Texarkana

The Review

This novel’s unique blend of humor and supernatural mythos was on point. The author did an incredible job of world-building in this narrative, with the small town of Texarkana not only bringing a more intimate setting to the larger-than-life narrative but also becoming quite vast in nature when the grand scale of this storyline comes to fruition. 

Yet for me personally, it was the combination of rich character dynamics and deep-rooted mythos that the author crafted that made this story so brilliant. The inclusion of other powerful entities besides Death being expanded upon in this narrative and the inclusion and teases of other supernatural creatures and mythologies made the cohesive nature of the story feel pretty epic. All the while, the author brought some heart and humor to the situation with the cast of characters, for whom they found love and friendship amongst one another that kept them together and fueled their mission to help those affected by these supernatural threats.

The Verdict

Action-packed, captivating, and entertaining, author D.C. Gomez’s “Plague Unleashed” is a must-read paranormal and humorous fantasy novel and a great second novel in The Intern Diaries series! The breathtaking imagery and tension the author layers into the narrative enshrines the mind-blowing mythology the author builds upon from the first book and leaves readers eager for the third book in the series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

D. C. Gomez is a USA Today Bestselling Author, born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. She study film and television at New York University. After college she joined the US Army, and proudly served for four years.

Those experiences shaped her quirky sense of humor. D.C. has a love for those who served and the families that support them. She currently lives in the quaint city of Wake Village, Texas, with her furry roommate, Chincha.

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