“Breaking Twig” Deborah Epperson

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. 2011. CreateSpace. (Includes Discussion Questions).

BreakingTwigWe first meet Becky in 1963 Georgia when’s she’s 13 years old and suffering through yet another beating by her Momma, who the town believes to be the picture of beauty and grace. The only bright spot in her life is Johnny, the son of her housekeeper. They’ve known each other their whole lives but, because he’s Mexican, her mother hates him and forbids them to see each other.

With Johnny gone, her stepfather Frank becomes her only friend. He believes in her and loves her and, with his help, Becky slowly learns to accept herself. It takes time, but she learns to listen to her heart for the lessons it’s been trying to teach her about her life.

As I read about the constant beatings and abuse Becky suffered over the years from her mother and stepbrother all I could think was “how could anyone not have noticed?” Unfortunately that was the reality of the times, but knowing this doesn’t make reading about it any easier.

I was upset about the abuse, but I was really upset that she seemed to sit back and accept it as the norm, even as an adult, because the years of abuse had rendered her pliant. It seemed as if the author wanted her stripped down to having nothing left to live for before she was allowed to make a decision of her own.

At the risk of giving out too many Spoilers, let me just say I think Becky should have been allowed to come to her senses long before she lost everything she held dear. She should have been allowed her time with Johnny, and not endured everything the author piled upon her, including the time she spent with Frank.

Recommended, with some misgivings, for Adults.

“When no one is watching” Joseph Hayes

Rated 4 stars **** Ebook. 2010. (Includes “Discussion Questions.”)

WhenNoOneIsWatchingBlair Van Howe and Danny Moran had been the best of friends since their days in law school. Both are rising stars in their prominent law firm, but one fateful evening everything came to a screeching halt for Danny. Though a great lawyer he had problems holding his liquor, and that particular night was too intoxicated to drive.

Blair was thrilled to drive Danny’s Porsche, but wound up causing an accident that killed an innocent driver. Afraid his budding political career would suffer if the truth came out Blair framed Danny, allowing him to take the fall for his own crime. Danny was too drunk to know he wasn’t at fault, while Blair believed he could make great changes in other’s lives if he stayed quiet about the accident and kept his political dreams alive.

Throughout the book, as Hayes tells Danny and Blair’s story and the truth struggles a bit too long to be revealed, readers are constantly brought back to the question of who had the better life. Was it the man one step away from becoming President who lived his life based on a lie, or was it the man who lost everything yet had everything in the end? What kind of life do you live when no one is watching?

Hayes ends his thought provoking novel with even more thought provoking Discussion Questions, sure to generate debate on these issues.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“The Picture Frame” Iain Rob Wright

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2014. Salgad Publishing. (Includes two short stories by Matt Shaw.)

ThePictureFrameBlake Price sold his home and moved his family to the English countryside under mysterious circumstances. Eager to get away from the “bad things” found in city life, he is sure his wife and 10-year-old son Ricky will find a new, safer life in their cottage.

While wandering the countryside with a Geiger counter, he and Ricky unearth a strange looking, old picture frame that doesn’t appear to have suffered any of the ravages of time. Thrilled with the find Ricky places a picture of his dog Bailey into it and, within moments of doing so, Bailey is dead.

After replacing the photo with a family portrait, strange accidents begin to occur to everyone in the picture. It seems too bizarre to believe, but Blake soon learns that a man named Oscar Boruta has put a curse on his family. Oscar was killed in 1928 but seems to be calling out from the grave for revenge. With nowhere to turn, and with the curse gaining in strength, Blake will have to figure out how to save his family before it’s too late.

“The Picture Frame” is a quick read but was a little too predictable and had a few too many loose ends, along with some grammatical errors. I would have liked to learn more details about how/why the frame was cursed so, perhaps the author would consider writing a prequel in which the story of the picture frame is told from Oscar’s point of view.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Love by Deception: A harrowing true story of love and betrayal” K.C. Barnard

Rated 2 stars ** Ebook. 2014.

LoveByDeceptionDevil Man, Cockroach, Tomcat and Floppy. What do these names have in common? They belong to a series of physically and mentally abusive men the author dated over a few years.

“Love by deception” is supposed to convince readers in abusive relationships that they can escape. Barnard lists tons of warning signs for them to look for in her quest to lead them away from the darkness of their sufferings. Instead of accomplishing this goal I felt like the author never listened to her own advice as she went from one abusive relationship to the other in 7 years.

Devil Man seemed so horrible, yet she went back to him THREE times! After she finally managed to set herself free from him, Barnard talked about how she needed to listen to the inner voice she’d kept ignoring about Devil Man, and went over all the ways she should have known he was a terrible person. On and on she went about how she was now a “stronger and more compassionate person” yet, after Devil Man, she still allowed herself to be manipulated by Tomcat and soon entered into another awful relationship with Cockroach followed by an abusive one with Floppy.

The takeaway for me was that she would continue not to listen to her inner voice, and would continue to date terrible men because of her habit of wanting to give these awful men in her life second chances. I would think by now that she’d realize those second and third and fourth chances were the sounds of shovels as she dug herself deeper and deeper into relationship problems.

I do not recommend this book because of its confusing message, but will leave it up to you to decide if You want to Read it or Not.

“Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry” Amanda Hughes

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2011. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform).

BeyondTheCliffsOfKerryDarcy McBride and her brother Liam had survived the Great Hunger of 1740 in their hometown of Kerry, Ireland. With the rest of their family lost to starvation, Liam turned into a bitter, hard drinking man who hated the British for their laws against Catholics. He and Darcy joined a small ring of smugglers in 1755 to trade wool with the French, helping their village obtain food and allowing them a small measure of revenge against the British.

One night they smuggled a priest into the village, deliberately breaking the British law that did not allow the Irish to have a priest or worship as Catholics. Severe penalties would result if it were known they were harboring a priest, but the villagers of Kerry were determined to worship as they pleased. Father Etienne was eager to help the people who had been without a priest for so long, and soon became an important part of their lives. Sensing a love for knowledge he taught Darcy to read, opening a new world for her as she and Father Etienne’s friendship bonded over her education.

Darcy’s life changed again when she was arrested and sentenced to 7 years of bondage in the American Colonies for her role in the smuggling ring. Her life as an indentured mistress, as well as battles of the heart and the times are excitingly detailed in “Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry.” Readers will be drawn to her independent spirit and fiery attitude, and lovers of historical fiction will see the beginnings of the French and Indian War come to life in its pages.

Despite a few too many commas in the wrong places, I thoroughly enjoyed this self-published book. It is one of the rare ones that captured my attention because of its storyline, and because it was well edited.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“The Boy” Madhuri Blaylock

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. 2014. The Sanctum, book #2. Lucy Publishing (Amazon Digital Publishing.)

TheBoyWith Wyatt dead from their portal travel to the land of the Ramyan, Dev becomes beholden to Qi to do all he can to return Wyatt to the land of the living. However, Dev doesn’t know that bringing Wyatt back from the dead will have unforeseen consequences which will cause both of them to question everything they hold dear.

In the meantime, while Dev and Wyatt fight their own battles, Ryker’s character is explored in more detail. After coming across as gentle, loving and kind it is a shock to learn he has been secretly killing Magicals. As readers struggle with Ryker’s behavior, Ava and Max Breslin continue scheming to bring down the Clayworths as Head of the New York Academy. Lastly Darby’s heart and various loves are explored in great detail.

I received “The Boy” as part of a promised book review for the Diverse Book Tours blog. I found it to be more blood thirsty and violent as well as more sexual in nature than book one. In addition I was left with a few unanswered questions such as “How did Darby figure out what Jedda was doing when all she had as a clue was her lover’s cryptic words?” and “How did Jools get close enough to Jedda to raise blood on his neck when, previously, Darby was furiously keeping everyone away from him with a very well aimed whip?” With the protective behavior she had been exhibiting, it felt inconsistent to have Jools be allowed to approach Jedda with knife in hand and not have Darby say or do anything about it.

I was able to look past some of the self published author’s usual spelling errors (such as writing “taught” for “taut,” and other errors) because the book had an interesting plot line. I would be interested in reading part three “The Prophecy,” so I could see what finally happens to the evil Breslins as well as to Dev, Wyatt, the Ramyan warriors and the rest of The Sanctum.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

“The Girl” Madhuri Blaylock

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. (Also available in paperback). 2014. The Sanctum, book #1. Lucy Publishing (Amazon Digital Services.)

TheGirlDev is half demon and half angel, and has been living in India while training to be a warrior. For years her parents have been in hiding from The Sanctum, a group of families called The Circle of Ten, who believe Dev will destroy their way of life. They have ordered Dev be killed on sight and, when they succeed in killing her family, Dev vows revenge on all Sanctum.

The Clayworth family is in charge of The Sanctum’s New York Academy where Wyatt, his sister Jools and his best friend Ryker learned their warrior skills. Wyatt and Ryker hold opposing views of the role The Sanctum plays in their lives. The gods created The Sanctum to protect humans and magicals (trolls, vampires, fairies, etc.), yet their original purpose is long gone because of one founding family’s lust for greed and power. Despite Wyatt’s and Ryker’s differences of opinion in what The Sanctum means to each other and to society, they are inseparable in their love and friendship for each other.

When Wyatt stumbles upon Dev after she escaped The Sanctum’s attack, their lives are forever changed. Little do they know the love they feel for each other, and the invisible bond that ties them together, will lead them onto paths neither had ever expected to travel. It is only a matter of time until they change the lives of all they hold dear.

I received this book to review from the Diverse Book Tours blog, and was a little leery since it was self-published. Readers of my blog know how squeamish I get around self-published books. However I am happy to report there were relatively few grammatical errors and, despite having many similarities to Cassandra Clare’s “Infernal Devices” series, the storyline was very interesting. I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next to Dev and Wyatt, as their star crossed lives seemed destined for heartache from the beginning.

In addition “The Girl” developed strong female characters through the persons of Dev, Jools and the vampire Darby showing them as well trained fighters who remained one hundred percent female and were not dependent on a man to complete their lives.

I was not happy with the title of the book, as Dev is not a girl. She is a strong, independent woman and I wanted a title which reflected that image. I also didn’t like the cover, as I would have preferred to see a photo of Dev, Jools and Darby in action ready to show readers all that a woman can be. I look forward to reading part 2 of the series “The Boy.” 

Recommended for ages 14 and older.