“The Secret Billionaire” by Teymour Shahabi

thesecretbillionaireTHE SECRET BILLIONAIRE

Teymour Shahabi
PageWing (2016)
ISBN 9780997876017
Reviewed by Emily Sutton (age 15) for Reader Views (02/17)

“The Secret Billionaire” is an intriguing young adult mystery/thriller by debut author, Teymour Shahabi. The premise involves the decades-old unsolved disappearance of Billionaire, Lyndon Surway, and the current-day life and challenges of a young boy named Andrew Day.

Lyndon Surway took off in his private jet one beautiful morning never to return. After being missing in action for 90 days, Surway was officially pronounced dead. The reading of his Last Will and Testament revealed Lucian Baker as the heir to Surway’s estate, one of the largest fortunes in history. The problem with that is no one has ever heard of, or can find, anyone named Lucian Baker. The other problem is there seems to be no trace of the massive fortune.

Andrew Day is an orphan, who has been in and out of different homes and schools throughout the course of his lifetime. He is a stranger to wealth and luxury, but he knows deep inside that his is bound for good things. A high school freshman, Andrew learns that he is the recipient of a scholarship set up by an anonymous donor to attend St. Clemens, the most prestigious and expensive school in the country. St. Clemens is located in the same town where Lyndon Surway lived. The mystery of Surway’s disappearance was never solved and decades later Andrew Day stumbles upon a secret that will change his life forever.

This is a really great story that captivated me from the first page. I found it hard to believe that this is the author’s first book. The writing is flawless and he has such an alluring style that kept me engaged and entertained throughout the whole story. The narrative is crisp and clean, easy to follow and full of intrigue, adventure, and page-turning suspense. The characters totally make the story, as they are genuine and well developed. I was immediately drawn to the protagonist Andrew, and his plight. It is a long book at over 360 pages, but the story flowed so effortlessly that it felt like time progressed at twice the normal speed.

Overall, I found “The Secret Billionaire” by Teymour Shahabi to be an excellent read and I sincerely hope there is a sequel, as I definitely want more of these characters! Another thing I wanted to point out is that even though this is a young adult read, the story is so fascinating and well written that it will appeal to readers of all ages.

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“The Tao of Sudoku: Yoga for the Brain” by Cristina and Rick Smith

thetaoofsudokoTHE TAO OF SUDOKU: YOGA FOR THE BRAIN

Cristina and Rick Smith
CreateSpace (2016)
ISBN 9781536916355
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (02/17)

When I was given the opportunity to review “The Tao of Sudoku: Yoga for the Brain” by Cristina and Rick Smith, I was intrigued, but also a bit intimidated. Full disclosure, I’m a crosswords kind of gal and Sudoku is a numbers gig. Ultimately, though, my curiosity and competitive nature got the better of me and I must say I was the full beneficiary in this endeavor.

While I’ve never actually heard the term ‘yoga for the brain’ before, it makes total sense. It’s a well-known fact you have to exercise your brain just as you exercise your body. I consider myself a relatively new Yogi, starting my practice just a few years ago. I fell in love immediately with the many benefits, physically, mentally and spiritually. “The Tao of Sudoku” easily fulfills the mental and spiritual aspects of a Yoga practice.

The book begins with an explanation of the Tao as an approach to life in a spiritual and philosophical manner. It goes on to encourage the reader to learn, grow and evolve, by incorporating the 100 puzzles in the book as part of the process toward self-realization. At the bottom of each puzzle, there is a phrase for consideration, food-for-thought, so to speak, encouraging the reader to dig deeper into reflection and meditation.

So much more than a puzzle book, the fun facts, history, and education lining the pages make “The Tao of Sudoku: Yoga for the Brain” by Cristina and Rick Smith a unique treasure and I highly recommend it for an entertaining and enlightening experience!

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“The Gullwing Odyssey” by Antonio Simon, Jr.

thegullwingodysseyTHE GULLWING ODYSSEY

Antonio Simon, Jr.
Darkwater Syndicate (2013)
ISBN 9780991074501
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (02/17)

“The Gullwing Odyssey” is the first book in the Gullwing Series by Antonio Simon, Jr. It is a delightful fantasy story involving kings and princesses, dragons, knights, and even a few human beings! The story revolves around Marco, a messenger for Lord Amadis Eric, and his primary mission– to deliver an important parcel to Queen Catherine Saint-Saenz Lucinda of Avignary. With Queen Catherine located on the other side of the world, Marco realizes he may be in over his head as he encounters setback after setback, inhibiting his ability to complete his mission, which could ultimately cost him his job and his retirement pay!

I absolutely loved this story! It’s a fantasy, comedy, coming of age, adventure all wrapped up into one hilarious, witty, laugh aloud tale! The writing is superb–Simon has mastery over the English language and knows how to draw readers in with his elaborate storytelling charm. The humor sets the tone throughout.

One of my favorite moments is when Marco meets Barclay, a Knight on a religious mission. Marco is subjected to Barclay’s beliefs with no chance for escape as Barclay holds him hostage, so-to-speak, forcing him to read the most holy book, the ‘Book of the Glorious Verb,’ which begins:

“In the beginning, there was the Good Master. And He spoke the word that brought the universe into being, the glorious verb: BECAUSE.” (36)

This exasperates Marco as ‘because’ is neither a verb, nor an explanation of the message. At this point I just had to stop reading as images of my mother saying, “Because, I said so!” sprang to mind, causing a most enjoyable laugh at the memory. The whole book is like this, the canny wit amusingly pushing the story forward.

The characters are full of depth and definition, and the settings explicitly detailed, filling the readers heads with wondrous pictures and fantastical imagery.

While seemingly geared toward the YA crowd, I find the story will appeal to all ages, mostly due to the humorous elements. I give “The Gullwing Odyssey” by Antonio Simon, Jr. a highly recommended five-star rating.

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Interview with Joshua Landeros, Author of “Reverence”

INTERVIEW WITH JOSHUA LANDEROS


Reverence

Joshua Aaron Landeros
CreateSpace (2016)
ISBN 9781517726133
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (02/17)

Article first published as Interview: Joshua Landeros, Author of ‘Reverence’ on Blogcritics.

Joshua Landeros was born in Pomona, CA, but was raised in Perris of Riverside County for years uncountable now.

He comes from a large family in which he is admittedly “the black sheep.” Landeros grew up on Dragon Ball Z, Godzilla films, Batman the Animated Series, and Star Wars. Not to mention an infinite love for dinosaurs and all movie monsters.

He began writing in middle school starting with Godzilla fanfictions. He kept writing and eventually created his own world full of characters. In 2016, the dream was finally realized in his first novel, Reverence. He now attends University of California, Riverside where he majors in History Admin Studies and minors in English.

Josh Landeros.jpg

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

Josh: Well, I’m a 90s kid as they once used to say, born in April 1992. I’ve lived most of my life in Perris, California, which is a hot and barren little town in Southern California. I was an odd kid in school, namely that while most kids were gossiping or playing sports, I was drawing dinosaurs and reading. In my math class, I would often be reading my dinosaur encyclopedia, to the chastising of my teacher.

My love of reading and watching various TV shows/movies was probably my defining trait in school and to this day. I graduated high school in 2010 and attended community college in Moreno Valley, CA. It was my original intention to major in film, but problems with money in my single-parent home forced me to do solely full-time work for a few years. Luckily, after time things stabilized and I came back to school and even managed finally, to transfer to a university, one of the proudest moments in my life.

Even after all that, old habits die-hard. During most of my classes I still end up reading novels or comics, depending on whatever my latest purchase has been. Nowadays I have a new habit during class: jotting down ideas for my planned series.

Sheri: What is Reverence about?

Josh: Reverence at its core is about William Marconi, a super soldier who, for many decades, has held up the superpower known as the United Nation Republic. The tyrannical government rules unopposed, that is until a new terrorist group emerges to challenge Chancellor Venloran. Will and his fellow soldiers are tasked with putting down the rebellion, but as the fight goes on Will learns the empire he’s been holding up may be keeping secrets from him. The super soldier becomes trapped between two choices: remain loyal to his Chancellor, or trust the words of the dangerous dissidents.

Sheri: What was your inspiration for writing this book?

Josh: A number of things really, but some of the major points off the top of my head would be the films Children of Men, V for Vendetta, and Blade Runner. Not only are these fantastic films, but they all comment on different aspects of society, which I definitely wanted to do in my work. As for the character of Will Marconi himself, I drew the biggest influence from Alucard of the Hellsing series and Roland from King’s The Dark Tower series. Both are anti-heroes that do unsavory things to get what they want, and yet at the same time the audience can still feel for them. Like both of those characters, Will is on a quest and the question, among many in the story, is if he’ll maintain his morality along the journey.

Sheri: What was your biggest challenge in writing Reverence?

Josh: Two things come to mind. First, I wanted Reverence to be relevant beyond just an action story, which is how it started out. Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy a good action-oriented story, but for me the films and books that stick with me the most are the ones that leave you thinking about the topics they address in their stories. I went through several different versions of the story until I reached a version I was pleased with.

The second biggest challenge was editing. It was definitely a trial-and-error process, but I did learn a whole lot. So as painful as it was, I’m grateful for the lessons I learned.

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

Josh: A whole lot, especially considering the turbulent times we live in. At the heart of the story, I hope readers embrace the idea of constantly questioning your surroundings. Questioning his surroundings is what truly starts Will’s journey. The moment we stop questioning things we become complacent and potentially blind to the true nature of a situation. The characters who “just go with the flow” are victims in their own way, which was the idea of the tragedy behind the character, Luis.

Another important aspect of the story I wanted to present is the duality of life, especially in politics. Leaders have the power to bring prosperity to people, but also to destroy lives. This duality is also present in the rebellion movement. Both sides can promise the world and claim righteousness, but both need to be questioned. I didn’t want it to be a matter of ‘good vs. evil’ because while I believe good and evil definitely exist, it is incredibly rare for any matter to be that simplistic.

Lastly, I wanted to instill the horror of war. Reverence is not All Quiet on the Western Front, but I didn’t want to make a story where the casualties are thrown aside. When war is waged, no matter the cause, people suffer. Civilian and soldier alike become threatened. In a world like ours that is increasingly dangerous, we need to be very careful about when we choose to engage in war. This something I expand upon in the sequel.

Sheri: What can you tell us about your self-publishing experience?

Josh: It is both awesome and arduous, but at the finale very rewarding. It takes dedication and a willingness to learn because I learned A LOT myself in 2016.  These range from little things like formatting (embarrassing stuff like when to indent and when not to) and big things like pursuing the best cover and book blurbs possible. Everything has to be taken into account before and after publishing your work. To anyone who I may have scared off, let me reassure you: once you get the process down, it’s a lot of fun, and the feeling you get when you progress is indescribable.

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

Josh: Great question, and I think I have an answer that ties into both: Never shy away from help in life, including your writing. Having an outside opinion is key to making your work better, which is ironic considering the ‘do-it-yourself’ nature of self-publishing. Also, the necessity of sticking to your guns on certain things in life, as well as writing. It’s important to edit, but if there’s a scene, piece of dialogue, or character choice you strongly feel is relevant to your book, don’t budge on it.

Sheri: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Josh: First, find the right editor because they’ll see things you missed even after you’ve read your book a thousand times. Secondly, be patient. It’s rare for an author to be a hit overnight. Instead of worrying about making it big, focus on writing your next book. The fruits of your labor will shine through as long as you continue to move forward.

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

Josh: I LOVE going to the movies. In fact, no matter how bad the film is, I have never walked out of a film. It’s such an awesome experience to watch a movie on the big screen and to me no amount of speakers and 100-inch TVs can compare. I also like to try new beers and bourbons, so when I have the money I try to visit local breweries. Last but not least, I love a trip to the comic shop.

Sheri: So, what’s next, do you have another project in the works?

Josh: My God, a whole lot! I’ve already written a sequel to Reverence which I am very proud of. A preview of it is provided in both print and Kindle editions of my first book, Reverence, and it greatly expands on the world. Readers can expect it to be released around April of this year. I’m also in the works of writing a prequel to the Reverence saga. I can’t say much, but what I can say is that you can expect it to be released this year as well. The prequel will focus on familiar characters like Robert Neeson, Captain Halsey, and Chancellor Venloran, but the main focus is on Will’s wife and daughter, Julissa and Zaneta. The story will explore the early stages of the UNR-rebel conflict.

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

Josh: Indeed I do. The site is http://jlanderos5.wixsite.com/joshualanderos, although if you just Google ‘joshua landeros wix’ you’ll find it. I recommend readers check it out since I have a blog on there, a list of all my reviews, and a link to my YouTube account, where I talk movies and more.

Sheri: Where can readers purchase Reverence?

Josh: Right now, I believe it is exclusively on Amazon, but both print and Kindle versions are available so readers can pick which ever they choose. I myself prefer the feeling of a book in your hands, but I understand Kindle readership is expanding rapidly.

Sheri: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?

Josh: I just want to say thank you for the opportunity to talk with you. It was a lot of fun! As for the readers, read on my friends, and as for the writers, keep on pursuing it. No matter how big or small the idea, see it through to the end.

Sheri: Josh, thank you so much for joining us today! I really enjoyed getting to know more about you and your work.

Josh: Thank you.

Read review of Reverence
Visit authors website

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“A Magic Door & A Lost Kingdom of Peace” by H.D. Hunter

amagicdoorA MAGIC DOOR & A LOST KINGDOM OF PEACE

H. D. Hunter
H.D. Hunter (2016)
ASIN B01CH3BMT0
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (02/17)

When I picked up “A Magic Door & A Lost Kingdom of Peace” by H. D. Hunter, I thought I was getting a collection of short fantasy stories–I was wrong.  It is a collection of short stories, but they are not just stories. The book is within the Sci-Fi & fantasy realm, but these stories contain reality disguised as fantasy and Sci-Fi. Each story also has a colorful illustration, which I found helpful to the reader to place them in the right setting and time. This collection takes the reader through a timeless trip into human consciousness.  Yes, while reading, the audience will believe they are getting away from their reality. They might even believe they are being entertained, and that only their imagination is being stimulated. It is after the book is put down–each time deep, heartfelt thoughts will pop up in their minds. It is then the reader will relate to what they read and apply fantasy to their real life. It is then when they will find that this little collection of short stories is a jewel to be kept and re-visited time after time.

H. D. Hunter is a young writer with an old soul. His first book reflects not only amazing skill, but thoughts deep as the ocean and wise as the oldest man alive. If I must mention favorites I will choose ‘Southern District,’ ‘Hatari Forest,’ And ‘Gridlock,’ not because I think the other ones are any less, but because these brought backan oldaspect of myself that was long lost and buried within. When a young writer can do this to a well-read, traveled, older lady from a totally different background, and who happens to be an author and editor, you know this young writer has immeasurable skill, intellect, and heart.

“A Magic Door & A Lost Kingdom of Peace” by H. D. Hunter is an impeccable written collection of stories–all different, but somehow with the same effect. All fantasy, but somehow real. A Five-Star must read by a Five-Star must-follow author. Well done!

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“Some Senses” by Kirk Lee Redden

somesensesSOME SENSES

Kirk Lee Redden
Outskirts Press (2016)
ISBN 9781478763932
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (01/17)

“Some Senses” by Kirk Lee Redden is a unique poetry book as it also includes a novella. But that is not the only unique aspect of this collection. Judging poetry is not an easy task due to its subjective nature; however, its technique and ability to convey a feeling, thought, or message can quantify.

Within this context, I found Redden’s poetry impeccable. His voice is clear throughout, and his messages are loud and clear. I liked the fact that the poetry was featured before the story, as it gives the reader a somewhat introduction of the author’s voice and tone. Although individually, there were some poems that didn’t speak to me, I found that together they induced in me a mood that contributed to my enjoyment of the Novella. There were some poems that did speak to me though. Some of my favorites are, ‘I Sought The Ground,’ ‘Endure,’ and ‘Tear.’ The last one is the one I believe to reflect the tone of “Some Senses” in general. To give an example of the tone, I will quote a portion of ‘Tear’:

“ Sacked and utterly forlorn;
I look to my empty bed.
The storms have risen once again.
I just need to feel a companion or a friend…”

Kirk Lee Redden’s voice and tone is evident in the previous quote, but so it is the feeling readers will embrace within his novella, ‘Cross-veil.’ In this short story, Lucien tries to take back the love of his life from his brother, Balenquist.  But that is not his only battle. It is a tale of right and wrong, sin and forgiveness, and an immense love. I enjoyed this story the most as it captivated me from beginning to end, taking me in an epic journey of love, pain, and forbidden love. What is right and what is wrong become a blur when we fight for what we want.

Overall, I enjoyed “Some Senses” by Kirk Lee Redden, and recommend it as a captivating unique read to all poetry lovers who enjoy epic drama, and thought provoking poetry!

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“12 Random Words/12 Palabras Al Azar” by Fabiana Elisa Martinez

12randomwords12 RANDOM WORDS/12 PALABRAS AL AZAR

Fabiana Elisa Martinez
Talk-Active, LLC (2016)
ISBN 9780997149708
Reviewed by Juliana Leal For Reader Views (02/17)

In “12 Random Words/12 Palabras al Azar” by Fabiana Elisa Martinez, you will find a beautiful collection of very short stories in which the author describes every character and every place in a unique way.

It is very easy to get immersed in such an excellent way of writing. Your imagination will fly and will transport you to the place she is describing and you will feel what she wants the reader to perceive.

Each story is full of so many feelings, wanting to continue knowing more about the characters. I enjoyed every story but especially Door/Puerta, in which she writes:

“He’ll be here soon. Breathe. Smile. Relax. You will never live this waiting again. Steal this moment. Feel a window opening your chest, much bigger and wider than the three sad windows that only look at a gray wall. Listen! That is the elevator. Those are his steps. Lay your head on the pillow, close your eyes. The key is clicking easily and the hinges are singing. He is opening the door. He is in.”

And the story, Highs/Alturas:

“The sun of her hair and the sea of her eyes are the posthumous presents from my friend to me. My heart leaps high inside my chest, and I know that I am not dead and will not be for a long time to come.”

I love how she describes every moment with so much detail. So human, with a beautiful touch and surprising endings.

“12 Random Words/12 Palabras al Azar” by Fabiana Elisa Martinez is truly a piece of art that you will enjoy as well as the contrast in reading in two languages. Where it can be a great instrument of learning on how to write and read in English and in Spanish.

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