4 of 5 stars to ‘Once written Twice shy’ by Carey Decevito

Once written twice shy

Story between silken sheets

Devastated by a failed marriage, Paxton takes refuge in his writing and his son Jasper. He meets Alissa in one of his online writing groups and their relationship blossoms into a great friendship. After months of chatting online and on the telephone, they decide to meet. Sparks fly and before they know it, Alissa and Paxton are much more than just friends. But there are old and new obstacles to overcome before they can truly take the next step.

Let me first say this: contemporary erotic romance is generally not my thing. Whilst I love to read romance, I find the anticipation and emotional connection much more exciting than a blow by blow account of the various positions possible for intimate relations. One of my biggest gripes about this particular genre is that I feel most novels sacrifice good plot and character development in order to fit additional sex scenes into the story.

That said, I have a keen interest in Indie writers and like to read the work of authors who travel in my social network circles. I’ve come across Carey Decevito’s name through various interactions and chose to step outside my comfort zone. It’s always good to broaden your horizons, I think.

The first thing that stood out for me was the fact that the novel is written from a male POV. The second, is that it’s not the typical kind of male you find in modern erotica. Paxton is no muscle-bound, egotistical hero. He may be easy on the eyes but there’s no hoard of women waiting to fall at his feet. Paxton is a modern man. He comes with emotional scars from a very real and messy divorce and a loveable little parcel of ‘baggage’ too.

There were parts of the story I felt were predictable and too good to be true. I tend to prefer more conflict in my romance, a lot more ‘chase’ and less ‘catching’, so to speak. But it’s true that life is not always pushing and pulling, and perhaps Paxton had been through enough already and deserved to find his peace. I also found some of the narrative POV’s inserted from time to time pulled me out of the story.

BUT…there was a real story written in between the silk sheets, and it was a good one! I enjoyed how Alissa emerged from her shell and how even the peripheral characters matured and learned their lessons. There were some lovely themes in this novel: self-acceptance, second chances, self sacrifice, healing, and the reality of new age families.

Very entertaining!

4 of 5 stars to ‘The unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer

Playing God

Just months ago, Mara Dyer’s life was normal. She had a best friend and had finally caught the eye of the boy she’d been drooling over. But all it took was one night to bring all the pieces of her life crashing down around her.

Now she wakes in a hospital, unable to remember the horrific accident that took the lives of both her boyfriend and her lifelong best friend. Unable to contemplate a life without her best friend, Mara convinces her family to start anew.

The Dyer family moves to a new city and Mara and her brothers start a new school, but Mara soon realizes that the troubles of the past are not so easy to leave behind. Not to mention the new troubles that come with this new life. Not only does she have a heap of school work to catch up on, but she finds it’s not so easy to make friends in this new school with its deeply entrenched social hierarchy.

Then Mara meets Noah. He’s at the top of the food chain and has both the good looks and the not so good reputation to match. No matter how much Mara keeps pushing him away, he won’t leave her alone. Then strange things start to happen to Mara and the only person she can turn to becomes the one she’d been trying to avoid. Can Noah save her from herself? Can he help her distinguish between what’s real and what’s not? Or will his own secrets be both their undoing?

This novel was a suggestion of one of my Goodreads bookclubs. It’s the kind of novel I love to read with a touch of paranormal in a normal young adult life. The character of Mara Dyer was highly refreshing. From the start, she’s not your average good girl. She’s crazy – in very real terms and she’s been through the wars. What a wonderful change from the perfect life of most teen heroines. Noah’s character was suitably mysterious and book-boyfriend-worthy. There were a few parts, like the Everglades scene, where I felt Mara’s reactions to him were not completely believable and there were too many unanswered questions surrounding him for me to feel completely satisfied.

The plot was well-paced and the overall story quite entertaining although I will say that the storyline with the legal case and Everglades felt a lot like it had been inserted as a last minute theme to setup the end scene’s moral dilemma. In terms of themes and messages, there are a few. Questions are raised about the power of the mind, about trying to start over without facing the demons of the past, and about the moral right to ‘play God’ with the lives of others, regardless of circumstances.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel – and I’m dying to know the outcome of that cliffhanger!

On a side note: I purchased an Audible copy of this book and was quite disappointed with the narration. It reminded me of Kindle text to speech. The cover, on the other hand, is one of my favorite ever!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Pandemonium’ by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium

Poetic prose and concurrent time frames

The old Lena is dead. Buried beneath a tree in the wilds. The new Lena has been born into the resistance. She knows what it is to be hungry, to be afraid and sick and also to be free.

Under the guidance of Raven, Lena has learned to bury her past and the boy she once loved. Raven has taught her to be strong and to survive. Raven has become her sister, her mother, her friend.

Then Lena is kidnapped by a violent and radical resistance and held prisoner with the boy who is the face of the DFA youth. Can she save them both or is she destined to have her heart broken yet again?

Pandemonium picks up right after Delirium and details Lena’s flight to freedom in the wilds after the devastating ending of the first novel. Ms Oliver has used a very difficult technique in this novel by running two concurrent time frames throughout. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that mastered this as successfully as she has managed to do here. Each scene from ‘then’ is expertly matched and timed with the ‘now’, delivering insight and understanding as and when the story unfolds.

The suspense is superb. Like a roller coaster, Ms Oliver has written in the ebbs and flows, hi’s and lows to perch you on the edge of your seat. The character development takes the series to another level entirely. Lena’s sorrow can be felt bone-deep and her healing is something the reader is forced to journey through with every experience.

The introduction of Julian’s character was a wonderful twist in the series. To me, he is so much more three dimensional than Alex ever was. The whole theme of second chances is healing and endearing too.

But I think the thing that strikes me most about Pandemonium and will have me raving about it to all my friends, is Lauren Oliver’s writing. Her writing – oh wow! Such emotive, lyrical, descriptive, poetic prose. She is the kind of author you preorder books for, no matter the topic because you just know that she’ll transport you completely into another world with her words.

If you liked the Hunger games or any of Maggie Stiefvater’s books, you will simply love this series!

Lets chat with Evelyne Stone author of ‘Destroying the Wrong’

Destroying the wrong 2

Talented author Evelyne Stone reveals discusses her inspiration for Destroying the Wrong together with some great advice!

Q: What inspired you to write ‘Destroying the Wrong’?
A: My kids inspired me to write Destroying the Wrong. They listen to my advice but I don’t think they really hear me. I wanted to write about topics that would open up more discussions with them. I know I didn’t want to listen to my mom and had the attitude “it will never happen to me,” so I’m hoping at least some of my story will stick with them.

Q: Tell us something about Evelyne Stone that is not common knowledge.
A: This is a hard one! I’ve always been super boy crazy but if a cute boy ever talks to me, my whole body will turn red. Not a cute, blush red, but a red that makes me look like I just broke out in a rash! It happens with girls I find intimidating, too!

Q: Are there any specific childhood experiences or memories that you feel have helped shape you into the person you’ve become? Would you share them with us?
A: I have this terrible habit of remembering embarrassing moments constantly. The biggest one that made me terrified of public speaking seems to pop up more than the others. I was in seventh grade and I wanted to try out for cheerleading. The only experience I had was a cheer summer camp at the high school that lasted maybe two days. We had to get up in front of the entire school and they would vote. I was not skinny or popular, so the fact that I even considered doing it was amazing. I was the last to go and once I stood in the center of the gymnasium, I covered my face with my hands and couldn’t remember a thing I had practiced. I think I did one little part of the cheer and then ran off the floor. Everyone laughed. I hid in the bathroom for a few minutes, sucked it up and went to my next class. Even now, I hate getting up in front of people.

Q: Bullying and teen relationships are two of the most prominent themes in ‘Destroying the wrong’. Are these issues close to your heart and do you have any advice for teens going through such challenges?
A: They are both close to my heart. I was bullied throughout my entire school career and I wish I could say that it stops when you’re all grown up, but it doesn’t. Adults just bully others in other ways. Not to sound all professional, but I really think teen relationships help define our adult relationships. It’s so easy to manipulate younger girls and I’ve seen too many guys take advantage of that.
My advice for teens is to keep an open communication with an adult. It doesn’t have to be a parent but someone you can trust and go to when you need advice. If you don’t feel 100% comfortable in a relationship, it’s probably not a good one to be in. Never, ever sell yourself short.
Wow, I sound just like my mother!

Q: Are there any authors you particularly admire or who you feel have influenced you greatly?
A: I read a lot of books by Dean Koontz growing up and he has a way to pull you right into the book. I also read every Babysitter’s Club books and I loved the way I could relate to the characters while I was growing up. I want to write books with characters that are likeable so that when they experience things my readers have also experienced, the character can show the reader it’ll all work out.

Q: When and why did you decide to become a writer?
A: I’ve always wanted to write a book and honestly, I still have a lot to learn. I’m sure you can pull out at least five grammar errors in this interview alone! One of my best friends pushed me to try writing a book and I did. It’s not going to be a best seller but I finished and that feels really good.

Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I am working on another YA book that focuses on relationships and letting go of things we don’t have control over. After that, I’ll be finishing up the third book in the Wrong series.

Dream on and make it big!

Confined

Dream on…

So many blogs and interviews ask the same question of us writers. When did you know you wanted to become a writer? How did you become a writer? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers. Here’s a bit of inspiration from my own story.

One memory of my early teen years stands out vividly. My best friend, Bronwyn and I would sit on the school quad or lean against one of the class walls during break. Sometimes my twin sister and our little group of close friends would join us and we would just sit, munching on peanut butter sandwiches and dreaming of the future.

Even then, my passion for language and creative writing was evident. While my friends spoke of becoming doctors and conservationists, I distinctly remember telling Bronwyn that one day, I would be an author and that my first novel would be dedicated to her. (Yes it is!)

Thankfully, I was blessed with wonderful parents who proved supportive of my aspirations. I don’t think they will ever fully understand the influential role they have played, and continue to play in my life. It’s something I’ve only come to understand myself in adulthood and now that I have children of my own. I only hope that I can give my children the same gift.

From early on, my father encouraged me to keep a ‘dream chart’. My first chart was a piece of white project cardboard with a bunch of pictures and cut out phrases from magazines. Each picture represented something I wanted to achieve in life. A cheque with my name on it, a graduation gown, and even an arbitrary item of clothing or two amongst others. My chart was press-sticked to a wall in my bedroom, where I would see it every day. Some days I stopped to look at it, other days I didn’t but always it was there, in the back of my subconscious mind. It wasn’t long before I’d ticked off every item on my chart and started on a new one.

I remember one day, that I decided it was time to get my own vehicle. I grabbed the nearest magazine and cut out the first picture I found of a car, without much thought to specifications. It just happened to be a white VW Chicco. I never imagined that the universe would be so specific in granting my wish. Lo and behold, my first car was a white VW Chicco.

Since then, I’ve become more selective about the pictures and words I put on my dream chart. There have been many dream charts on the walls of the few houses I’ve lived in so far and even as I write this, I’m preparing for a new one. So many of the pictures I put up seemed so unattainable then, and yet they are ticked. Perhaps my only problem is not dreaming big enough.

So as I put up my new chart with book no 2 and 3 of the Maor series on, I want to challenge and invite every one of you to make a start on your own dream chart. Stop making excuses and take the plunge. Put it out there, dream big and you’ll be amazed at the universe’s response!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Destroying the wrong’ by Evelyne Stone

Destroying the wrong

Realistic and shocking

Alissa and Katherine can’t wait for the school year to end. They want to graduate and get out of this school that has become a nightmare. But there are still a few months to go and Kat and Alyssa will have to navigate the reality of bullying and boys before they’ll have the freedom they long for.

Destroying the wrong has two main themes at its heart.

The first is bullying. Well done to Ms Stone for tackling such a relevant and yet difficult topic! The reality and brutality of the bullying is eye-opening. Sadly, Ms stone is right too – with the advent of social media, bullying has reached a new low. Teens are cruel and have no qualms about splashing one another’s shame across media networks. While some of the scenes were a little cliched in terms of their angst, I felt that Ms Stone did a wonderful job of portraying the challenges that face many teens nowadays and hopefully, she will create some much needed awareness around this cruel practice.

The second theme is teen relationships. Ms Stone has so accurately portrayed the nervous, excited, jumble of hormones of a first physical relationship. The relationship between Matt and Alyssa progressed much too quickly for my liking and lacked softer emotions. This made me wonder if this is not a sign of the times. Sadly, the idea of girls discussing and planning the giving up of their most precious gift of virginity like it’s something to ‘get over with’, is shocking but true. The lack of respect and monogamy was annoying for me. I like my characters to have a bit of morality in their spines – but the simple truth is that not everyone does. Ms Stone expertly captured the naughty excitement and fear of wrong doing with her words.

There were some tense issues and some parts I felt were contrived. I would have also like to see a bit more depth in the lives of Kat and Alyssa – surely there is more to their lives that bullying and boys. But perhaps that is the whole intention of this novel. Perhaps these things consume our lives as teenagers to such an extent that we cannot see past them? I love a good book with an important message and this one has a few. It made me think past the end of the book and wonder. The story itself is pretty ‘normal’ and yet Ms Stone has managed to take a mundane part of life and turn it into something frightening, exciting, passionate, tender, naughty and eye-opening.