Thursday, February 12, 2015

Witchcraft Couture

West, K. (2014). Witchcraft Couture. Self-published.

Adult / Fiction / Supernatural? / Magic?

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.


Witchcraft Couture spins the tale of artist "Oscar" Federico Pellegrini, who has lost his confidence and creativity. When he faces his former love, who has now become a major player in the fashion world, the stress to succeed becomes too much for Federico, who goes into a panic of self-doubt, fleeing the country and drinking himself into oblivion. As he vacillates between reality and hallucinations, Federico gains possession of a machine - either divine or devilish -- which converts plain clothing into designs which have otherworldly qualities. In the process, Federico becomes obsessed with the machine as the public becomes obsessed with his pieces. Rather than feeling better about himself as he becomes a fashion world sensation, Federico suffers debilitating depression, paranoia, and guilt, as the voices in his head call him an imposter and the few people who love him are forced to distance themselves from his erratic and destructive behaviors.  Does something supernatural power the machine, or is it Federico's mind that creates via the crutch of the machine?

Katarina West has created a truly unique premise that will have readers drawing their own conclusions as to what is real and what is imagined, and no conclusion will be final. I found myself feeling strongly that Federico was simply a delusional, brilliant artist suffering from mental illness, but then West would provide some evidence that would taint my theories with doubt.  West built her characters so richly that we could feel they were going through the same struggles as the readers with what to believe. Conflicted friend Ben and designer Dante seem to be the only people who are clearly sane, but even they get swept away with the magic and success of Federico's designs. Federico's mother seems intentionally blurry for the reader, adding to the mystery of what is truly unfolding. Readers know only what Federico tells them through his journal, which is the format for most of the book, and we can't know for sure if its truth or only Federico's version of it.  When Dante asks, "Why can't you do ordinary things in an extraordinary way," Federico, in striving to do something extraordinary, can't grasp the possibility of escape from his self-imposed chains.  An epilogue written by Ben clears-up some issues, but muddles others so that the reader is left with MUCH to ponder. 

Clearly, author Katarina West has been deliberate in her word choices, creating beautifully descriptive scenes and characters, for a well-edited, cohesive, and captivating story. Witchcraft Couture explores the power of the mind and how experiences and expectations can drive people to extreme behaviors. 

Thank you to the author for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 


Learn more about the delightful author KATARINA WEST on her website, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads.

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Word

Crouch, H. (2015). The Word (Jace Forman Series, book 2). Dallas: Serpentine.

Adult / Legal / Thriller

I gave this book 5 of 5 stars

Young journalist, Leah Rosen, working for the premier Texas magazine in Austin, has uncovered proof that legendary Fort Worth trial lawyer Cal Connors has used false evidence and testimony to win some of the biggest court cases in recent history. As she tries to leave no stone unturned before publishing her story, threats to her get increasingly dangerous as she gets too close to the truth.  Meanwhile, in the town of Hagstrom, Texas, parents on their way to bury their veteran daughter come face to face with a group of extremist Christians protesting the woman's service in the military.  Attorney Jace Forman is called in to file a lawsuit against the group, exploring the limits of the First Amendment.  In both cases, private investigator Jackie McLaughlin is hired to hunt down people and information for both Rosen and Forman, for whom the stakes are getting increasingly higher. Hubert Crouch's The Word will keep readers immersed from start to finish in a world where justice always comes with a heavy price tag.

Be ready for a wild ride! In The Word, real life attorney Hubert Crouch provides masterfully connected, multiple storylines that could have been ripped straight from the headlines. Corruption, greed, and danger criss-cross with the pursuit of honesty and truth for a page-turning, action packed story.  Though this is book two in the Jace Forman series, it absolutely stands alone -- though I fully intend to read book one.  Crouch is in his element as the courtroom drama unfolds, writing memorable and unique characters -- all with a Texas flair -- for readers to love or loathe. 
This book was reviewed for Readers' Favorite, who provided an eBook in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.  And to anyone concerned about my being biased (the author and settings are all from my stomping grounds) -- no worries. Anyone from anywhere will agree this is top notch stuff. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Torn Away

Brown, J. (2014). Torn Away. NY: Hachette Audio.

YA / Realistic Fiction / Natural Disasters / Audiobook

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars

Living in the Midwest means storm sirens are a way of life; everyone knows the drill of what to do when sirens sound, but few take them seriously. After a tornado rips through her town and her life, sixteen-year-old Jersey Cameron rethinks the questiond of what does it really mean to lose everything? And can you ever truly lose everythingForced to live in unfamiliar places, with relatives who are strangers, Jersey discovers that the truths she never questioned were just versions of the truth.  Through her grief, fear, and anger, Jersey has to find the strength and courage to move on and unbury those things that even a tornado can't destroy. In Torn Away, author Jennifer Brown takes readers through an emotional journey of surviving a natural disaster -- and so much more. As an audiobook, the pacing was exactly right and the narrator nailed the voices of multiple characters and perfectly portrayed Jersey in her full range of moods.  

Torn Away operates on many different levels, dealing with many different issues. There is the obvious issue of losing one's home and belongings, but the more subtle issues of abandonment, disillusionment, betrayal, and profound loss are where Jennifer Brown's writing really pops.  Her portrayal of Jersey is perfect in how it captures the struggles of any girl this age, but also the struggles she's forced to deal with as a result of the catastrophe -- including reconciling the memory of the mother she thought she knew with the reality of her flaws, imperfections, and even deceptions.  Jersey must redefine every part of her life including who are really her friends and who is really her family.  Jennifer Brown's characters are richly described so that readers will have clear feelings about each of them.  

The author's notes at the end added another level of reality to the story, as she explains her inspiration for the story.  This is a powerful story, and I highly recommend it to young adult and adult readers alike.

This audiobook was provided free in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fly Guys: Monday Madness

Thandi, B. and Leverton, E.(2014). Fly Guys: Monday Madness. (Volume 1). Self-published.

Children's / Illustrated / Rhyming / Issue

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Bold illustrations by Joe Sharpe and clever rhyming will have children requesting re-reads again and again.  Readers will appreciate that this self-published book is a well edited, well written story, (The Grammar Police -- that's me -- found only one capitalization error and a missing apostrophe towards the end of the story.) and the rhyming, alliteration, and onomatopoeia will keep the kids entertained especially when the story is being read aloud. Go ahead! Say, "What is that Buzzy-Bug-Fly-Flappy sound?" out loud a few times. Joe Sharpe's illustrations perfectly capture the moods of the characters through the clear expressions on their faces, and the sequences drawn on the dad's face are outstanding, with him going from passive to annoyed to maniacal to sheepish. I recommend this book for kids ages 2-7, with the note that for little ones, they could get quite anxious at some parts, and that it's likely adults will never be allowed to swat a fly again. 

Thank you to Authoramp for giving me a free eBook in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. Please continue reading for the book's Press Release. 


Click here to learn more about the authors, illustrator, and producer

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Press Release

New Children’s Book ‘Fly Guys’ Deals With Prejudice

A new young children’s book, ‘Fly Guys: Monday Madness’ tells the fun story of two unlikely best friends, a fly called Fuzz and 5-year-old Alice. Their mop-based adventure to the moon is brought crashing back to Earth when Alice’s Dad attempts to swat Fuzz.  When Fuzz asks Alice why her Dad hates flies, the story takes a thoughtful turn and raises questions about difference, diversity and friendship.

The book’s creator Bobby Thandi said, “the book helps parents and teachers to broach the tricky subject of prejudice. The main challenge was writing a book that deals with prejudice in a fun yet effective way to engage children. I hope readers enjoy discovering the deeper meanings within the rhyming narrative. No child is born with prejudice and I’d love to keep it that way."

Monday Madness is the first in a series of seven books, which will launch Fuzz and Alice on a new adventure each day of the week. As well teaching children the days of the week, the ending of the first book invites readers to use their imagination and submit ideas to help shape Fuzz and Alice's next adventure. 

Bobby Thandi – Creator of ‘Fly Guys’

Bobby has a bold vision - he wants his daughter to grow up in a world free from prejudice. To do his part in making this vision become a reality he has created a book aimed at young children called ‘Fly Guys: Monday Madness’. The book helps parents and children to think about difference, diversity and friendship.

The book was inspired by conversations with his daughter Avani who was aged 3 at the time.

When he’s not working on Fly Guys, Bobby is VP Digital at Dubit. They create kids entertainment products for clients such as Nickelodeon, Disney, PBS KIDS and Cartoon Network.

Bill Schultz, CEO Home Plate Entertainment, four-time Emmy-award winning animation producer and Studio Executive with more than 25 years of experience, producing such hit shows as “The Simpsons”, “King of the Hill” and “Garfield” -  “This book shows the sensitivity and creativity of an experienced creator.  Fly Guys is a fun read and the art style is light and very appealing.  The heavy and important subject is easily conveyed through the author’s careful use of color and action.  Fly Guys is a must read for any parent of a child living in a diverse world.  Meaning – Planet Earth.  Bravo Bobby!”

Mandip Sahota, Private Secretary to Minister of State at Foreign & Commonwealth Office, UK Government – “I loved this book. At a time when we hear reports of prejudice on the increase, the challenge is how to promote equality. Fly Guys is a fun story with a reassuring reminder – children are not born with prejudice. Bobby Thandi has definitely achieved something special here – a series that will help us all tackle prejudice one day at a time. Fuzz and Alice should be on every child’s bookshelf!”

Stephanie Gauld, Children’s Digital Media Consultant, and former Head of Disney’s Club Penguin and Digital Publisher at Egmont -  “Fly Guys' creator, Bobby Thandi, has an excellent understanding of this target reader-base and knows just how important building friendships and fitting in is to young children, in the process of forming their identities. This is a charming tale of diversity and acceptance... with fantastic illustrations to boot!”

Maria O'Loughlin, Children's TV Scriptwriter (CBBC, Discovery Channel, Disney Junior) – “I found ‘Fly Guys’ utterly charming! It strikes just the right balance between action, comedy and warmth to deliver a very important message about tolerance - something we need a lot more of in today's world! I can't wait to see what Bobby Thandi does with the rest of the series!”

Shahneila Saeed, Director of the Digital Schoolhouse (funded by The Mayor of London) - “With a layout and style that highly appeals to the younger audience, the book provides a strong message to promote diversity and the importance of friendship in a subtle but very effective way. Highly recommended.”   

Thaddaeus Varey, Research Manager, BBC – “Fantastic book! Can't wait to see what is in store for Fuzz on Tuesday. I love the theme of a father learning to see things from a different perspective. And of course it is fun to rhyme out loud on any day of the week.”

Feedback from Teachers:

Claire Jackson, The Froebelian School, Leeds, England – “A colourful, bold, easy read, touching on inclusion and diversity. Fantastic rhyming which engages the listener. A welcome addition to our school library.”

Nicholas Farmer, SEFE, São José dos Pinhais, Brazil - “Fantastic book for young children exploring their imaginations by delving into the fascinating relationships children create with animals whilst incorporating the importance of parental tolerance of the child's free-thinking.  Highly creative ideas coupled with interesting rhyming and dynamic illustrations, which is always essential for the target age group."

Kiren Rana, Arden Primary School, Birmingham, England - "A fun, enjoyable read for children of all ages. This story cleverly captures the value of friendship and inclusion through the use of an exciting storyline, eye-catching imagery and literary techniques."  

Feedback from Parents:

Elizabeth Kennedy, Australia - “Lovely book with nice bright pics, amazing rhymes and lots of fun onomatopoeic words that my kids (aged 2 and 5) love!”

Michael Smith, U.S.A – “Your kid will love this book! It was requested to be read 3 times in a row, which is a rare feat in my household. The book was recommended to me by a friend as they said it really got their 4 year old to use their imagination. I wasn't clear on how this book would do this, but it resulted in a 10 min conversation with my 4 year old about the ending of the book. Never thought I'd have such a long conversation over a book with my boy! The social message about respecting diversity and standing up for your friends is also really sweet. Not to mention the very modern and bold illustrations. And your kid will love the rhyming, as did I!”

Faye Lightowler, England - “My son loved this book, it is the first book that he asks me to read to him before going to sleep every evening. I love the fact it touches upon diversity and inclusion and another important factor is for all parents it's such an easy read. We can't wait for further books to become available.”

Bally D., England - “Me and my kids loved Fly Guys! A fun story that's cleverly rhymed and complimented by cool, bold illustrations. A welcome addition to the competitive kids market. If you love Julia Donaldson books & the like, you'll love this!”

Pariya Savarabadi, U.S.A - “This book is amazing for children. It is also my daughters favourite book so far... I have recommended this book to absolutely everyone, as it is so far the only book that I've read that teaches kids to stick up for their friends. It also teaches them diversity and friendship which is vital for growing kids.”