“The History Major: A Novella” by Michael Phillip Cash


Michael Phillip Cash
CreateSpace (2015)
ISBN 9781518893797
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (09/16)

In “The History Major” by Michael Phillip Cash, college student Amanda wakes up one morning, after a night of heavy partying; realizing things seem strangely different from yesterday. She barely recalls the night before, she just knows that she said things she shouldn’t have said to her boyfriend, and they broke up. Feeling totally off kilter, she finds herself in a history class that she was sure she never signed up for, with a teacher that looks like remarkably like Aristotle. Not a fan of history, Amanda is very upset at being in this class. When a friendly stranger named Nick seems to take her under his wing, she feels better, but she still wants to be back in what she knows to be her reality, so that she can mend things with her boyfriend.

When three heavenly beings, Archangel Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret visit Amanda, she realizes that things aren’t going to go back to normal. As the history lesson continues, Amanda finds herself thrown back into other lives, reliving moments that they experienced. This includes seeing things through the eyes of Joan of Arc and Lucrezia Borgia. Amanda doesn’t understand what they have to do with her and she is incredibly upset when these events trigger memories of abuse that she suffered at the hands of her stepbrother and the traumatic aftermath that followed when she finally reported him.

Slowly, Amanda begins to realize that reliving history can help heal her past. As she starts to understand the lessons set in place for her, she sees that healing from the trauma can help her move forward. She now has some decisions to make.

“The History Major: A Novella” by Michael Phillip Cash tells a unique tale. The author does a great job of taking us inside the mind of the troubled protagonist. Readers clearly see everything through Amanda’s eyes and are as confused as she is before she finally starts figuring things out. I would classify this book as a psychological horror because it utilizes elements of psychological suspense and fantastical horror. It is really a perfect blend of two genres. Fans of both will enjoy reading this novella and find themselves wishing it was a full-length novel!

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“Run” by Becky Johnson


Becky Johnson
Becky Johnson (2014)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (09/16)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Run’ by Becky Johnson on Blogcritics.

“Run” is the first book in the Charlotte Marshall Mystery Series by Becky Johnson. Charlotte, an author under contract for her third novel, experiences a serious bout of writer’s block when an idea for a story suddenly springs to mind. Recalling a news story from 20 years ago about the rape, torture, and murder of a young girl, Charlotte has all the makings of her next bestseller. She sets out to learn everything she can about the case of Emily Carmichael, and in the process discovers a slew of unsolved cases involving young girls murdered in the same fashion.

Convinced that the murders are connected, Charlotte takes her research to the FBI, who find her theories unlikely, and her attempts at investigating humorous, at best. Within days of meeting with the FBI however, Charlotte is attacked and forced into hiding. Not knowing who to trust, Charlotte is uprooted from her stable life, as she tries to piece together the mystery, and catch the killer before she becomes the next victim.

Told in the first person narrative, Charlotte’s opening line entices the reader with the promise of a creepy, chilling tale. The storyline is full of action and suspense, and the plot twists and turns at an exciting pace. Charlotte proves to be a worthy, smart female protagonist. Quirky, a bit reclusive in her habits, and an animal lover, she is easily relatable. Using her quick wit, analytical skills, and common sense, she manages to stay one-step ahead of the killer – most of the time. There are moments when the story begs the reader to dive deep into their imagination in order to grasp the believability of certain events, but that said, it remains entertaining throughout. The potential for this story to delve deeper than that of a cozy mystery is definitely there, and at times I craved going down that road, but the author is more than successful in telling an engaging story in a relatively short number of pages.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed “Run” by Becky Johnson. I recommend it as a highly entertaining read and look forward to seeing what’s in store for Charlotte in the rest of the series.

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“Blacktip Island” by Tim W. Jackson

blacktipislandBLACKTIP ISLAND

Tim W. Jackson
Devonshire House Press (2016)
ISBN 9780991033287
Reviewed by David K. McDonnell for Reader Views (07/16)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Blacktip Island’ by Tim W. Jackson on Blogcritics.

“Blacktip Island” by Tim W. Jackson is a fascinating, well-written story. The lead character is an almost-inadvertent embezzler from the United States who seeks anonymity in a small (fictional) Caribbean island. The island, it turns out, is inhabited almost entirely by others hiding from their pasts. They work as cooks, barmaids, charter captains, dive masters, cottage landlords, and they share cheap flats — and each hides a secret, which is unveiled slowly throughout the novel. It is their interaction, and the gradual reveal, which makes the story such an interesting read.

The setting is almost as important as the characters. Perhaps most of us envision a life on a Caribbean island. “Blacktip Island” shows us some of its shortcomings – inadequate housing, intrusive landlords, quirky neighbors, and the lack of privacy, which should be expected with life on a small island. But, it is nevertheless the stuff of fantasy, which, in turn, makes good fiction.

“Blacktip Island” is otherwise a bit difficult to classify. It is an adventure story, to an extent, and a mystery, to a lesser extent. There is a plot – the hero attempting to avoid detection, eco-terrorists trying to stop construction of a new airport, a beautiful bartender keeping her own secrets, and hunts for a pirate treasure, each overlapping within the story. But, the story is less driven by a plot than by the characters and the idyllic setting.

The book’s opening paragraph sets the story’s tone, and also illustrates the author’s voice:

Blake Calloway had really done it this time. Here he was trying his damnedest to blend in with the scuba tourists until he could stash the bricks of money he wasn’t supposed to have, and now everyone on the boat was watching him. It couldn’t be helped, though. The bonehead needed rescuing.

The “bonehead” was another diver. The protagonist’s successful rescue enabled his transition from island tourist to resort dive master – and immersion into the soap opera lives of the island locals. And, it is the lives of the island locals that makes the story so engrossing.

“Blacktip Island” by Tim W. Jackson is, indeed, an entertaining tale of the misadventures of expatriates on an island, which should be, but is not quite paradise.

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“Zealy’s Very First Swim” by Roe DePinto

zealysveryfirstswimZEALY’S VERY FIRST SWIM

Roe De Pinto
Outskirts Press (2016)
ISBN 9781478771142
Reviewed by Paola Belloso (age 8) for Reader Views (09/16)

In “Zealy’s Very First Swim” by Roe de Pinto, it was a very cold day and Zealy and her dad were not sure what to do. They decided to play ball and went down to the beach. Daddy started to roll the ball and then he picked it up with his nose. Zealy was so happy to see how her daddy could use his nose that she wanted to learn for herself, but her dad said her nose was too small. After playing for a while longer Zealy asked if she was too small to swim. Her dad explained to her that it was very important to learn to swim so she could catch fish. They started at the edge of the ocean and then went deeper. Zealy practiced and learned very fast. Then Whubba surprised her and they started playing together. It was Zealy’s very first swim, and her friend helped her. She learned from him and practiced all afternoon. When it was time to go, Zealy thanked Whubba and said goodbye. Her dad was very proud of her, and she was so tired and happy of what she learned.

I love how Zealy worked really hard all day to learn to swim, and that she learned with the help of her best friend and her dad. It is a great book that will teach you how nice it is to share, learn, and care for your friends as Whubba did.

A note from Paola’s mom:

I simply loved the lesson of happiness portrayed by Zealy after she worked so hard to reach her goal, with the help of a good friend. The following quote from the author is so true, “Sharing the fun times is the best lesson they could learn.”  “Zealy’s Very First Swim” by Roe de Pinto is an excellent story about learning, friendship, and sharing.

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“Zealy and Whubba Go Fishing” by Roe DePinto

zealyandwhubbagofishingZEALY AND WHUBBA GO FISHING

Roe De Pinto
Outskirts Press (2016)
ISBN 9781478771159
Reviewed by Paola Belloso (age 8) for Reader Views (09/16)

In “Zealy and Whubba Go Fishing” by Roe De Pinto, Zealy and Whubba were having another fun day together when Zealy asked Whubba to teach her how to catch a fish. But first, she needed to practice her swimming some more like her dad said. Whubba liked the idea of helping Zealy, and they practiced a lot of times. Zealy got upset but Whubba kept helping her until she got it. Zealy got faster and learned from Whubba and after awhile they finally had their picnic with all the fish they caught. They also went to get her Zealy’s dad so that he could also enjoy the fish and take some for her mom.

It is a very cute story that can teach the kids how important it is to listen to your parents. Zealy wanted to catch fish, but she needed to practice her swimming and be safe first, like her dad told her. I love how a good friend by your side is always so great. I like the pictures, the big letters, and the size of the book.

A note from Paola’s mom:

Paola loved the story and shared it with a class that she reads to once a week. They loved it, too!

“Zealy and Whubba Go Fishing” by Roe De Pinto is a beautiful story with a great message of how important is to build a good relationship with friends and especially with family. It is also a great lesson for the kids to listen to their parent’s advice on how to always be safe.

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“Whistle Blower and Double Agents” by R.J. Anderson


R.J. Anderson
The Peppertree Press (2015)
ISBN 9781614933878
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (08/16)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Whistle Blower and Double Agents’ by R.J. Anderson  on Blogcritics.

“Whistle Blower and Double Agents” by R.J. Anderson begins when Jim Miller receives a direct phone call from the President of the United States requesting to meet him for lunch. The meeting was related to a leak that some Plutonium was unaccounted for in the account balance of the report from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). This indicated that safety security system in place for nuclear materials was inefficient, providing an open window for them to be stolen and sold to other countries. President George Keannealy asked Miller to take charge of the AEC in order to investigate and put a stop to this situation. Miller would work with a few FBI agents to track and recover the missing plutonium.

Anderson’s writing is impeccable. She did a great job developing the storyline utilizing factual information to create a credible plot that pulls the reader in, and doesn’t let go until the end. My only issue is that I would have loved to see a buildup of some action and suspense within this amazing storyline, but that is really just a matter of taste. The author did an awesome job describing how things work within the Government at the Presidential and FBI level and with International relations. The dialogs felt real and genuine. The character development was spot on. The plot not only included some romance…it also had an unexpected twist!

Overall, I really enjoyed reading “Whistle Blower and Double Agents” by R.J. Anderson, to the point that found myself turning page after page non-stop until I was done. I finished the reading on the second day, yet the plot lingered in my brain for a few more days. I strongly recommend “Whistle Blower and Double Agents” to all readers, especially those who love political intrigue and I hope to see more from R.J. Anderson in the future.

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Interview with Holly Moulder, Author of “A Time To Be Brave”


Holly Moulder
White Pelican Press (2015)
ISBN 9780979040580
Reviewed by Faryal Jabbar (age 14) for Reader Views (01/16)

Article first published as Interview: Holly Moulder, Author of ‘A Time To Be Brave’ on Blogcritics.

Holly Moulder is a former elementary school teacher who left the classroom in order to write historical fiction for middle-grade students. Her fascination with history has helped her create four award-winning novels: Eyes of the Calusa, A Cord of Three Strands, Crystal City Lights, and A Time To Be Brave.

Holly has two adult daughters and one granddaughter, Macie. She and her husband Don, live in Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sheri: Welcome Holly, and thank you for being with us today. Why don’t you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself?

Holly: I taught elementary school for over 20 years, mostly fifth grade. I loved teaching—especially history and language arts. But over the years I became frustrated with the kinds of books my students were choosing to read. Captain Underpantssprings to mind. A funny series, to be sure, but not much substance.

I left teaching in order to write books that would entertain my fifth graders, but would also challenge them to think a little bit. Maybe even learn some new vocabulary words along the way.

Sheri: What is A Time to be Brave about?

Holly: The story is set in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1910. In the spring of that year, the Wright brothers began a school for pilots just outside the city. My story is largely set against that backdrop. 1910 was also a very busy period in American history for other reasons. Lots of political unrest with the suffrage movement and racial unrest was prevalent across the country. It was also an exciting time for manufacturing and industry as many inventions found their way into American homes. I tried to incorporate details into my story that give readers a taste of what our country was really like at the beginning of the 20th century. From taking part in a suffrage rally to riding in a runaway Model T, my main characters, Macie and Theo, fully experience life in 1910.

Sheri: What was your inspiration for writing A Time to be Brave?

Holly: I come from a family of pilots. My dad loved airplanes, my younger brother is a hot-air balloonist, my older brother is a private flight instructor, and I took flying lessons—even soloed—so I knew I wanted to do some kind of story with aviation as a central focus. Also, I knew that my students enjoyed learning about the Wright brothers, so they might be inspired to pick up A Time To Be Brave to find out a little more.

Sheri: How did you come up with the storyline?

Holly: Lots and lots of research! I visited Montgomery, drove around the area, talked to historians, and chose interesting tidbits to weave into my story. I knew that I wanted to develop a friendship between a white girl and a black boy because they would bring such different points of view to the book.

Sheri: What can you tell us about the two young protagonists in A Time to be Brave? How did their friendship transpire?

Holly: Macie was terribly lonely. She had moved to a new part of the country, her father was away at a new and dangerous job, and her mother was occupied with the suffrage movement. Her grandfather was very ill. Theo was dealing with his own family issues. The two characters were thrown together by circumstances, but were able to forge a strong friendship based on trust and mutual respect.

Sheri: What motivates you to write in the Teen/Young Adult Historical Fiction genre?

Holly: Teens are so open to new ideas. They’re anxious to learn about life and their place in the world. I’m still a teacher at heart, and I love to give young people something to think about, talk about, ponder deeply. And, I like to give them strong characters—especially females—that they can emulate.

Sheri: How do you think writing for the Teen/YA crowd differs from writing for a more mature audience?

Holly: Teen readers deserve the very best I can give them. That’s why I spend so much time on my research and my writing. I want my books to be as close to perfect as they can be—for them. I want readers to be engrossed in my stories. I want them to laugh with Theo and cry with Macie. I want them to miss them when the book is over.

Sheri: What is the best part about being an author of Teen/Young Adult novels?

Holly: Talking to my readers about my books. I love to hear their comments, questions, and even criticisms. My stories get better when my readers challenge me. I want to know what they like or dislike. And they don’t mind telling me!

Sheri: What was your biggest challenge in writing A Time to be Brave?

Holly: I switched the point of view back and forth between Macie and Theo in alternating chapters. That was a challenge. But I think it gave the readers a better understanding of both characters. It was fun to write a chapter as Macie, and then switch to Theo’s voice. I hope it made the story richer.

Sheri: What is it you hope readers take away from this story?

Holly: Young people are stronger than they think and can accomplish great things. Faith and friendship are mighty forces!

 Sheri: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?

Holly: Someone told me to keep writing even though the big publishing houses rejected my manuscripts. After all, it took Dr. Seuss nearly thirty tries to get his first book published. I guess if he can hang on, I can, too. A friend said it this way, “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle!” That pretty well says it all. Never, never give up.

Sheri: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Holly: First, I recommend that anyone who wants to write must read, read, read. Every day. All the time. Everything you can get your hands on. Secondly, a writer has to write. Again, every day. In a diary, a journal, a blog. Whatever. Just keep writing.

Sheri: What do you like to do in your free time?

Holly: I love to read. You’d think I get enough of that, doing research for my novels, but I always want more. Gary Paulsen stands out as one of my all-time favorite authors. I love Hatchet! I’m also fond of Scott O’Dell, Mary Downing Hahn, and Lois Lowry, just to name a few!

I also love spending time with my family. My eight-year-old granddaughter (Macie!) keeps me on my toes.

Sheri: So, what’s next? Is there another project in the works, and if so, what can you tell us about it?

Holly: I’m currently researching a story set during World War I. It’s based on the remarkable work of a group of young women, “The Telephone Girls,” who manned phones on the front lines—right in the trenches with the soldiers—in order to facilitate communication between the French and U.S. officers. Fascinating!

Sheri: Do you have a website or blog (or both) where readers can learn more about you and your works?

Holly: You’ll find me at www.whitepelicanpress.com.

Sheri: Holly, thank you so much for joining us today! I really enjoyed getting to know more about you and your work, and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

Holly: Thank you.

Read Review of A Time To Be Brave
Visit authors website

Posted in Historical Fiction, Interviews, Teens, Thoughts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment