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Review & Giveaway: Captain Fin by Amanda M. Thrasher

CAPTAIN FIN

by
AMANDA M. THRASHER
based on a screenplay by Kevin James O’Neill
  Genre: Young Adult / Adventure / Family
Date of Publication: May 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 432
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Hannah Gunner, once a carefree child, is faced with secrets, lies, and betrayal. A life-changing event during her adolescent years forces her to confront a past that she no longer recognizes. Now, questioning everything she thought she knew, Hannah struggles with the person she is supposed to be! With the help of her boyfriend and her closest friend, they discover several clues that may hold the missing links to her life.

A tattered box filled with worn-out letters holds some of the answers that she needs, but not all of them. With an assist from her aunt, and a visitor from her past, Hannah manages to track down the only person in the world who can answer her questions—the Captain! But why did those closest to her lie in the first place? Will Hannah ever find the answers that she needs to bring her peace?

 
Suspenseful, engaging, and with twists and turns that make it impossible to put down, this is a book filled with surprises.
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review
Not only should you refrain from judging this book by its cover, I also recommend skipping the summary on the back. While I can see the connection between the cover images and the story, I feel like it misleads you into thinking this book is fantasy, like Hook or something. The font of Captain Fin also perpetuates that misguidance, as well as the tagline, “Treasure is where you find it.” To be honest, if treasure is supposed to be some sort of analogy, I completely missed it.

As beetle brained as I am, I could still tell that a lot of heart went into this book. While their words sometimes contradicted themselves, you could feel the true affection between Hannah and her mother. And it is their genuine bond that makes Hannah’s ability to have a great BFF and wonderful boyfriend more believable. Because, really, who could believe that a teenage girl who has grown up with so much instability in her life would have only vaping as a vice? That little tidbit aside, Thrasher paints a believable portrait of a teenage girl whose world gets even more turned upside down.

If you skipped the synopsis on the back like me, you might have wondered about midway through the book where this was all headed. And there were a few times where I could see the screenplay joists more than the polished literary sheen of Thrasher’s descriptive writing. But a revelation comes, about 3/5 of the way through, that points the story’s trajectory to the future rather than muddling around in the past. While the characters do dig around in the past a bit, the story picks up its pace toward an exciting conclusion. I’m not going to lie, I cried in one of the last few chapters. I didn’t expect to feel so invested in this story, but I was.

Kudos to O’Neill for writing a heartfelt story about loss and forgiveness; I hope to see the short one day. (I looked it up on IMDB and recognized the actress that plays Hannah!) And big props to Thrasher for writing a novel from a screenplay; I’ve read a good number of scripts and know that it takes a lot of time and vision to flesh it out the way she did. These two should definitely collaborate again.

This book is classified as YA, but it’s not silly or melodramatic like many of the genre. I definitely recommend this book to the mature fans of YA.

Amanda M. Thrasher was born in England, moved to Texas, and resides there still. Amanda has authored picture books, middle-grade chapter books, early readers, young adult pieces, and a graphic novel written specifically for the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center.

Amanda is a multiple Gold Recipient of The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) for YA, General Fiction, and early reader chapter books, a Readers’ Favorite International Book Award winner for YA Social Issues, an NTBF winner for YA and General Fiction, and she was awarded a New Apple Literary Award for YA and general fiction.

As Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, she assists other authors with their work and shares her writing process and publishing experience with them. Her latest release, CAPTAIN FIN, was based on a contract to adapt a screenplay into a novel for the director, actor, and producer Kevin James O’Neill. Her works-in-progress are the sequel to CAPTAIN FIN and the fourth installment of her Mischief Series.

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Review & Giveaway: Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration by Julie Barker

HITCHIN’ POST
and the Tornado Twistin’
4th of July Celebration

by
JULIE BARKER
illustrated by Carolyn Altman
  Genre: Children’s Picture Book / Western / Fantasy
Publisher: BookBaby
Date of Publication: September 28, 2018
Number of Pages: 50
Scroll down for giveaway!
Hitchin’ Post, the cowboy jackrabbit, is back with an all new adventure on the 6Bs’Ranch. 
 
Hitch’s brothers come to visit for the annual 4th of July rodeo and dance, but they get much more than a long-awaited visit with their brother. When a giant tornado threatens to cut their Independence Day celebration short, Hitchin’ Post, his brothers, and the rest of the cowboys have to work hard to save the ranch and the celebration. Hitchin’ Post shows that even though he is just a small jackrabbit, he has the courage it takes to bring everyone together to rebuild what the tornado destroyed. Because of old Hitch being a great leader, the 6Bs’ 4th of July celebration will go on! 
 
This is the second book in the Hitchin’ Post series by Julie Barker, where Julie once again collaborates with her mother, artist Carolyn Altman, who provides the illustrations in this romping, stomping cowboy adventure!

PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:

Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration is a brilliantly woven story with a strong plot that will easily entertain anyone. The illustrations by Carolyn Altman are fun and engaging, complementing the story. I love how Barker has written an interesting story that will teach kids how working together as a team makes the hard work a whole lot lighter and much more rewarding. – Readers’ Favorite, 5 STARS

 
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review

My son and I enjoyed reading the first Hitchin’ Post book, so I was very excited to learn that Barker and Altman teamed up to create a second book. And much like Book 1, Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration serves up a story with big heart and illustrations that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

At face value, this is a cute cowboy book starring an adorable rabbit; but it has so much more than that. It tells the story of a rabbit who takes pride in his work and his country. It addresses deep-rooted relationships that don’t weaken by distance and time apart. We get to see the intuition of the youngest character and teamwork at its finest – both rabbit and human cowboys accomplishing the impossible. From sadness to elation, to the little guy coming out on top, this book has it all.

I think that old and young readers alike will enjoy Altman’s artistic style as it is easy on the eyes. You won’t see any of the harsh lines and psychedelic colors that seem to be the norm with picture books today. However, I found the random placement of the red, white, and blue banner that says, “6Bs’ 4th of July Celebration” distracting. At first I thought it was part of the story, perhaps the backdrop of that particular scene. But as I read on, it really felt like someone didn’t like to leave any white space and just pasted the banner up willy nilly.

I also felt confident going in that my 6-year-old had grown up enough to really appreciate this book, but I guess that Book 2 ran a little longer than Book 1. He only made it about a fourth of the way through before I was reading aloud to myself. Much like the original Hitchin’ Post book, some of the rhyming schemes got away from me. There were times where I wished that the book was written in prose instead, but then the last stanza changed my mind:

“Hitch would never forget that moment at the 6Bs’
standing with his brothers and filled with joy.
He was so proud to be an American,
but more than that, proud to be a cowboy.”

I recommend this book for grades 1-4 and think that it would be a great anticipatory set to lessons on Independence Day. I could also see a family sitting near a campfire or barbecue grill reading this story while they wait for the burgers and ribs to cook up nice. I look forward to reading the next Hitchin’ Post book.

Julie Barker is the author of Hitchin’ Post, her debut children’s storybook. With inspiration from her West Texas roots and being surrounded by the ranching heritage, Julie is fulfilling her dream of becoming a children’s author. Along with the encouragement and beautiful illustrations from her mother and artist, Carolyn Altman, the story of Hitchin’ Post the cowboy jackrabbit was born and is now officially a series. The second book, Hitchin’ Post and the Tornado Twistin’ 4th of July Celebration, was released September 2018.

WEBSITE  ┃  FACEBOOK   ┃  GOODREADS 
Carolyn Altman is an artist and the illustrator of the Hitchin’ Post children’s book series, in which she collaborated with her daughter, Julie Barker, the author. Carolyn resides in Vernon, Texas, with her husband Stanley. They have two daughters and six grandchildren, all of whom live nearby. “Touch the Heart with Original Art” is Carolyn’s slogan, which she has used for the past 40 years as she creates lighthearted and inspiring art with subjects such as wildlife, horses, cattle, and cowboys, in hopes of helping to preserve this way of life for many years to come. 
 
The beginning of her art career consisted of using mostly oil and acrylic mediums, then Carolyn began creating baby memory books in which she incorporates her art into each page. Each baby memory book is personalized and truly a work of art in itself. Carolyn believes that her experiences throughout her life are what inspires her art. 
 
She has spent her life in West Texas surrounded by wide open spaces and the beauty of the farming and ranching heritage, and that way of life will always show up in her paintings and illustrations. Her latest creations include a series of angel paintings depicting what she deems most important in her life — her faith. 
WEBSITE  ┃  INSTAGRAM  ┃  ETSY
TWITTER  ┃  PINTEREST  ┃  FACEBOOK 
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Review & Giveaway: Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner

WOOING CADIE McCAFFREY

by
BETHANY TURNER
  Genre: Christian Romance / Humor
Publisher: Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group
Date of Publication: May 21, 2019
Number of Pages: 352
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After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

 

PRAISE FOR WOOING CADIE McCAFFREY

“Rising star Bethany Turner’s Wooing Cadie McCaffrey highlights the author’s oh-so-readable voice and engaging characters. One of the many things I love about Turner is the way she tackles tough subjects with candor yet writes with the right amount of discretion. Romantics everywhere will sigh happily at the perfect ending. Highly recommended!” — Colleen Coble, USA Today bestselling author of The House at Saltwater Point and the Rock Harbor series

Bethany Turner has done it again! Filled with wit and loaded with pop culture references, Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is sure to be an instant favorite among fans of Christian romance. I’ve found my new go-to author for rom-com with heart.” — Carla Laureano, RITA award–winning author of The Saturday Night Supper Club and Brunch at Bittersweet Café

 
review

 

While we’re told time and time again never to judge a book by its cover, I always do, and it has never failed me… until now. At face value, Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is just an adorable book with a baby pink cover adorned in delightful doodles. The doodles reference some of the greatest romance movies ever and hint at the warm fuzzy feelings contained within. But when you dive below the surface to examine that 90-something percent of the iceberg, you find a story about relationships between friends and families, and how outside influences can cause you to become disenchanted with an already wonderful life. Cadie is that girl who hasn’t yet realized that all those beautiful people take fake candid photos with all sorts of filters, and those supposedly blissful people are just cropping out the very real and sometimes not very pretty stuff out of their real lives.

Like any good rom-com, boy meets girl, boy and girl quickly fall in love, boy loses girl, boy moves heaven and earth to win back girl. And while spoilers abound (see front cover blurb) on how this story ends, I still found myself holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen next. Turner makes our man Will work incredibly hard to get Cadie back. I don’t think any movie I have seen has ever featured so many false starts and hurdles. It really brought to mind the story of Sisyphus for me. Every time we cheered Will on with each great gesture he came up with, Cadie would just swat us back down with her newfound cynicism. Normally that would have annoyed me, but I got where she was coming from. No fairy tale is enough when the princess has become jaded.

If Christian books are not your jam, this one might be a little heavy on the spiritual for you. But honestly, you would be missing out on some of the funniest and heartfelt characters that I have ever encountered. Darby is the quintessential best friend whose mistakes make her that much more endearing. Ditto to the meatheads who work on The Field at ASN with Will. Even Cadie’s reverend father and Christian talk show host mother are fun to read about.

Turner’s talent for creating characters that you care about extends to her treatment of New York City. The city has a definite pulse, and each borough has a personality. The pretentiousness of one borough seemed to have the ability to influence its inhabitants, while the other innately cool borough was secure in its own existence. That uptown girl thing doesn’t matter when people come together in Manhattan though. And I will leave you with that because I refuse to spoil a great book.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It beats all of my favorite rom-coms, hands down. Please read if you haven’t found love yet. Please read if you want to fall in love again.

 

Bethany Turner is the award-winning author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, which was a Christy Award finalist. When she’s not writing (and even when she is), she serves as the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.
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Review & Giveaway: Bonnie and Clyde: Radioactive by Hays & McFall

RADIOACTIVE
Bonnie and Clyde #3
by
CLARK HAYS AND KATHLEEN McFALL
Genre: Historical / Alternative History / Romance 
Publisher:  Pumpjack Press on Facebook
Date of Publication: March 23, 2019
Number of Pages: 332Scroll down for the giveaway!

Bonnie and Clyde: Defending the working class from a river of greed.

It’s January 1945, the height of World War Two. As the bloody conflict drags on, America has undertaken a massive top-secret effort to unleash the power of the atom and develop the first nuclear bomb. A network of Nazi and Soviet spies is determined to steal the technology, or failing that, sabotage the project. 


But first, they have to get past Bonnie and Clyde.
In a heart-pounding adventure spanning the windswept landscapes of eastern Washington to an isolated internment camp in the California mountains, Bonnie and Clyde face deception at every turn.Can the former outlaws put aside their desire for revenge long enough to help end the war?

As in Resurrection Road and Dam Nation, the story cuts back and forth between 1984 where Royce, a washed-up investigative reporter, teams up with the now-elderly Bonnie Parker to hunt down the truth about their past, and the 1940s undercover exploits of the young Bonnie and Clyde.

And in Radioactive, Royce and Bonnie finally discover the devastating truth: Who Sal — the brains behind forcing Bonnie and Clyde into covert service defending the working class all those years ago — really was.

 

After the exhilarating ride in the last book, Dam Nation, I was anxious to get my hands on this third and final book of the Bonnie & Clyde saga. Fifteen years have lapsed since the original ride or die couple was working the Hoover Dam assignment, but we pick up where we left off with Bonnie and Royce the journalist, sometime in the ‘80s.

Time hasn’t taken anything away from Bonnie and Clyde. Their smarts and toughness haven’t dulled after over a decade of living covertly, and their passion for each other still burns at a hot and heavy roar. As I read their banter and became reacquainted with the couple, it got me thinking that this fictionalized relationship is probably based quite a bit on the stuff that powers the couple who wrote this series. I don’t know how they split their writing duties, but Hays and McFall write a seamless story. Hell, I’ve read books written by ONE author that felt like crashing into a brick wall every time the perspective changed. But this writing duo jumps decades as smoothly as Bonnie and Clyde lie their way out of sticky situations.

I remember raving about all the different characters in the last book, and Radioactive delivers USA Network-worthy (“Characters Welcome”) cast. Not to be sexist, but I especially loved Anna. I don’t want to spoil anything but seriously, it felt like Bonnie might have met her match. A young, attractive woman with a knack for manipulation who can give our duo the slip? It was enough to make me nervous for Bonnie a few times, both as an operative and as a woman.

I really marvel at how much description, story, and character development are compiled in just a 332-page book. This story is screen-ready, as are the other two in the series. If you haven’t already read them, you need to. I know that this is supposed to be the last book, but there was a little something near the end that made me think it was possible to still sneak a few more books in if Hays and McFall find it difficult to part ways with Bonnie and Clyde for good.

Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed. 
Radioactive is their seventh co-authored book. 
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Clark: GoodreadsAmazon
Kathleen: Goodreads ║ Amazon  
 
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Review & Giveaway: The Open Portal by Michael Scott Clifton

THE OPEN PORTAL
Conquest of the Veil #1
by
MICHAEL SCOTT CLIFTON
Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Magical Realism
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Publication Date: May 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 337 pagesSCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 

But with dreams, there can also be nightmares

Lonely and plain-featured, Mona Parker is just another faceless teenager at Spring Hill High School. One day she runs afoul of Lady Anne Golightly, a beautiful and arrogant classmate who turns Mona’s colorless life into a hellish existence. Bullied relentlessly and with nowhere to turn, Mona considers suicide. One night, Thaddeus Finkle, her guardian angel, appears. He offers her a way out—swap lives with another.


The choice seems easy, and Mona takes the angel up on his offer. She awakens on Meredith, a parallel world of Earth where magic has replaced technology. Mona discovers she is Alexandria, a woman of breathtaking beauty, and the daughter of a Duke complete with servants and riches.

Then she discovers the price of her bargain.

Trapped behind the Veil, an impenetrable curtain of magic, the Duchy of Wheel is the last major province still unconquered by Marlinda, the creator of the enchanted barrier. Known as the Dark Queen, Marlinda’s cruelty includes a singular fondness for melding men, women, and children, with animals…and she has special plans for Alexandria.

Tal, the Prince and Heir of the Empire of Meredith, burns with an intense hatred for Marlinda and her minions. The Dark Queen’s raiders regularly cross the Veil to prey upon the helpless citizens living near the magical boundary. Despite an elaborate system of Watch Towers along the enchanted barrier, it is impossible for the Empire to stop all the raids. Desperate to protect his people, Tal takes dangerous risks to prevent these attacks. Banished to a remote garrison for his reckless behavior, while on a routine patrol, Tal leads an elite unit that happens upon a group of raiders—one whose leader possesses the means for opening a way through the Veil.

Thus begins the conquest of the Veil.

 
“The Open Portal is packed full of action from the time it begins in our mundane world, to when it jumps to another. It has all the elements of a good fantasy: a cruel queen; a frustrated prince; and beautiful girl with a pure heart. There are brave boys, werewolves, white priests, and watchtowers. I can’t wait for the saga to continue.” — Abookanight

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review

Escaping a humdrum life to a world of magic is my favorite sort of fantasy book. Who doesn’t like the idea of leaving behind a place where you merely exist for a place where you can truly thrive and be powerful and super attractive? But where most books fail to address the price you pay for such a switch, The Open Portal lays it all out in the open and reminds you every chance it gets.

Clifton paints a very bleak portrait of a young woman who only has her brother and a few church elders to keep her sane. While other fantasy books might describe pretty tame bullying scenarios, this one has situations that are difficult to get past. If you took the grossest bullying scenes from ‘80s movies and multiplied them by 10, you would understand what Mona goes through in the beginning of this book. And just when you think that she escapes all of that by choosing a new life on the gorgeous planet of Meredith, you realize that she has just traded in her old, terrible life for a George R. R. Martin-type situation.

When I wasn’t cringing at the horrible things that happened to the characters, I was admiring Clifton’s descriptions of each character and the different settings. I feel as though so many books are either plot driven or character driven to the point that you have no idea what anything or anyone looks like. That is certainly not the case with this book. I can say that I was truly transported along with Mona and felt like I really got to meet everyone for the first time like she had.

As much as I adore things like shapeshifters and gritty survival situations, I had difficulty getting through the chapters with Tal and Razor. I promise it wasn’t because of their strange names. I actually wasn’t a fan of many of the character’s names in this book: i.e., Lady Anne Golightly and Rodric Regret. But that’s ok, because they didn’t keep me from being disappointed that the story ended so soon. Thank goodness for the sneak preview of the prologue and chapter 1 for the next book in the series. Those tidbits left me in good spirits and in anticipation for Book 2.