review by Amy Biddle
PUBLISHER: Some Peril Publications (i.e., Createspace
EDITOR: Annie Auerbach
DESIGNER: The Book Designers
LENGTH: 480 pages
AUDIENCE: Young Adult/Adult
Nyx has been sent to Hell as a sacrifice for her people. She is from the land of Fae, and has been branded with the Tithe, which shows the world that she is meant to stay in Hell. Forever. The Fae are a small and mischievous folk who aren’t too fond of being called Pixies, and most definitely don’t get along with witches. So when Nyx runs into a pack of witches shortly after her entry into Hell, and they start calling her names, it’s a recipe for disaster.
After watching a few witches get eaten and otherwise consumed by nearby dangers (after all, it’s Hell) she tells the remaining witches that she knows the way out. Which, of course, she doesn’t. Then she realizes that she might be able to transfer the Tithe and leave one of the witches behind as a sacrifice in her place, thus getting out of Hell scott-free. So, she decides to hang out with the witches until she can figure out a way to pull it off.
Eventually Nyx and the witches do get out of Hell, and they find that the earth has been ruined after a war between men and demons. They are the only witches left, and it’s up to them to save the world from being overrun by the Hell they just escaped. Despite the fact that the Tithe is spreading up her arm and getting rather stiff, Nyx decides it would be more fun to hang out in the mortal realm with the witches than to run back to the pits of Hell. After all, she’s a Fae, and she can’t help but be drawn to chaos.
What follows is a story filled with such imagination, giggling and Fae trickery that it’s easy to get sucked in. Little Nyx, with her fiendish and sometimes deadly tricks, is impossible not to like. The magical realms and possibilities within the book are never-ending. And the end, well, it put a smile on my face for a whole day.
Admittedly, there were some minor typos and formatting errors, and a number of amusing footnotes that were rather painful to read on a Kindle. But these issues did not detract from the overall quality of the book, and I stand firmly by my decision to choose it as a Top Pick.
is a delightful ride, and a priceless way to pass the time. It might not be a particularly thought-provoking or philosophical book, but it will bring you to new, imaginative realms that you never thought existed. Not only is it suitable for young adults, it’s the kind of book that my younger self would have read and re-read many times over. And my adult self might just re-read it too. Don’t hesitate to pick it up!
5 out of 5 stars: Top Pick!
Buy it on Amazon
Check it out on GoodreadsD. M. Livingston's website
The official Nyx website
THE REVIEWERAmy R. Biddle, co-founder and senior editor at Underground Book Reviews, was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has since made a living on the great blue sea.
The Atheist's Prayer, her debut novel, will be published in the fall of 2013 by Perfect Edge Books. You can visit her at www.amyrbiddle.com.
review by Candi Sary
PUBLISHER: Dream of Things
Donny’s mother Betty is a mess. She’s a con artist, a compulsive liar, a neglectful, horrible mother who brings home loser boyfriends that abuse her kids. Donny is often left to take care of his two younger brothers even though he is just a kid himself. They live in a rough neighborhood where Donny and his street friends turn to small-time crime and working late nights in a bar to earn money. As if it weren’t bad enough that his mother barely provides for him, she takes from him the little money he makes on his own. “My mother was like a ghetto IRS, always demanding a chunk of anything I managed to earn.” Betty has boyfriends who beat up on her kids, and yet she is consumed with keeping the losers around. She lies, manipulates, cheats and steals. The book is filled with ugly Betty moments, and yet underneath it all is the unexpected beauty of this resilient child hanging onto the tiniest hope that one day, he could be more.
Dempsey’s honesty in story and language really pulled me in. The boy’s clever and witty comebacks were brilliant! Words were an amazing weapon for him as a kid, and they continue to serve him well as an adult. I cried for him, laughed with him, sat at the edge of my seat rooting for him to make it through danger, and even in the quiet moments I just felt moved being there with him. I fell in love with his faithful dog who taught him more about loyalty and family than his own parents did. Dempsey offers such a clear, raw view of an abused and neglected child’s life. It gave me a new understanding and deeper compassion for kids like him. Even when I set the book down, it felt like Donny was in my life as his heartbreaks, his small joys and his strong spirit stayed with me.
I love being entertained by a book, I love absorbing new ideas from a book, but it’s rare to say I’ve really been changed by one. Having walked in Donald Dempsey’s shoes in this 436 page journey, I am forever changed by the experience.
I have a stack of books on my nightstand that I’d planned to read before Betty’s Child
but when the book showed up in the mail, I was so curious about it, I read a few pages. And then I read a few more, and a few more, until I was absolutely hooked. I felt like all my other books could wait, but this one could not. Once I was introduced to twelve-year-old Donny, I had to stay with him and hear his story. It’s a powerful story in itself, but then add to that an incredibly gifted storyteller and writer, and you have an unforgettable book.
THE LINKSGet it on Amazon!Find it on Goodreads
THE REVIEWERCandi Sary, author of
Black Crow White Lie, has made the finals in several writing competitions, including the William Faulkner William Wisdom Writing Competition and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. She lives in coastal Southern California with her husband (while her 2 kids are off at college), and can often be found surfing the waters of Newport Beach. You can find her at www.candisary.com
review by Brian Braden
Literary Fiction Length:
180 pagesThe Rundown
What is the difference between a good book and a great book? People talk about a good book, perhaps recommend it to a friend or even rate it on Amazon. On the other hand, a great book connects in a very personal way. A great book is inherently honest, without a shred of manipulation. It gets inside you... tugs, digs, and performs reconstructive surgery on your heart and soul. A great book leaves you no place to hide and forever changes you to the day you die. Is The Watchman
by debut novelist Matt Langford such a book?
Adam is a mentally disabled teenager caught up in the everyday maelstrom we call life. He cannot speak beyond a few simple words. Most of his language is made up and known only to him. He possesses a very limited grasp of the past, with even less understanding of the future. Everything exists in the now, and revolves around him. Adam’s family, which is the same as saying his entire universe, is falling apart. His younger brother and sister are growing up and changing in ways he cannot comprehend. His parents’ marriage slowly grows cold under strain of a father’s joblessness and alcoholism. Adam is also changing, physically becoming a man, imposing more unrelenting demands and needs upon an already stressed family. The book begins with a short entry from an expecting mother’s journal, full of hope and love for the baby she carries inside. The Watchman
ends with a father’s touching connection with his oldest son. The Watchman
is an ambitious book by any standard, but Matt Langford took this challenge to a higher level.
The author tells this story exclusively through Adam’s perspective. In doing so, he forces the reader to actively participate and make their own translations of Adam’s world, their own conclusions about the motivations of the “normal” people surrounding him. Langford pulls this off masterfully. With short, simple and brutally effective prose, Langford creates more character development, more humanity
, in a few sentences than most authors can create in whole chapters. In only 180 pages Langford boils a family’s existence down to its raw essence.
This is the point in my review where I usually point out something I found wrong with the book. If there were editing problems with The Watchman
, I didn’t notice. I was too busy losing myself in the story. For two days it took over my life. A book hasn’t done that to me since I was a kid.
Is The Watchman
a Top Pick? Of course, but good books can be Top Picks. “Top Pick” seems like such a small kudo for such a profound novel. So, does The Watchman
qualify as a great book?
A few nights ago I attended my child’s school play. During the presentation loud, inappropriate laughter and other strange noises emanated from the back row. There, an obviously mentally disabled boy of perhaps thirteen squirmed next to his mother. He smiled, touched, flailed and spoke in a language known only to him. Tenderly, and with the utmost patience, his mother tried to simultaneously restrain her boy while watching her other child in the play. It could have been a scene right out of The Watchman
. Until the day I die I will never look at a mentally disabled person, or their family, again without thinking of Adam.
This great novel earns Five out of Five Stars. Matt Langford Links:Matt Langford’s Blog
and Amazon PageThe Watchman on Amazon
Matt Langford on Facebook
, and Goodreads.
review by Amy R. Biddle
TITLE: Black Crow, White Lie
AUTHOR: Candi Sary
PUBLISHER: Casperian Books
LENGTH: 159 pages
Underneath the glamour of Hollywood is a collection of battered people with broken dreams. In Black Crow, White Lie
, twelve-year-old Carson’s mother is one of those desperate souls. A psychic by day and an alcoholic by night, Carson’s mother plants ideas of grandeur in his head. Carson grows up hopping from motel to motel, all the while believing that he is destined to become a great healer, that his mother can tell the future, and that his father was a war hero. As he treads the delicate line between boyhood and manhood, Carson must grow up to face the truths both around him and inside of himself. Mystical and inspiring, Carson’s coming-of-age story kept me turning pages well into the night.Black Crow, White Lie
is simple and almost plainly written. However, I must give the author credit: the plain writing suited the age of the protagonist. I feel that Candi Sary sold herself short on her first novel by boxing herself within the mind of a pre-teen, but that did not keep me from choosing the book as a Top Pick. Candi’s style is memoir-esque and the beauty within the pages comes not from flowering prose but from heartfelt character development. The story is so gritty and real that even when Carson began to use his healing powers, I did not feel as though I had to suspend my disbelief. While the plot is somewhat predictable, the overall message is worthwhile and the final pages are perfectly satisfying.
THE RECOMMENDATIONBlack Crow, White Lie
is a touching coming-of-age story about family bonds, love, and being true to yourself. It is a quick read, and appropriate for adults and young adults alike. I highly suggest putting this book on the top of your reading list.
I’d give this crow nine out of ten feathers: just enough to fly to a Top Pick.
THE LINKSBuy it on AmazonVisit Candi's website
review by Brian Braden
Title: Need to Breathe
Author: Tara Staley
Cover: Photo by Carolyn Burns Bass; Design by Word Art
Genre(s): General Fiction
Length: 368 pages
A few weeks ago a man discovered a twelve pound gold nugget with a metal detector under a few inches of loose soil. I wonder what went through his head when he pulled the treasure from the ground. I didn’t quite
feel that amazed when I read Tara Staley’s debut novel Need To Breathe
, but I kept asking myself if this really was a self-published, 99 cent novel. The deeper I dug into her book, the more I realized I’d stumbled on a chunk of literary gold.
From the beginning Need to Breathe
gives the reader very few opportunities to catch their breath. Staley puts us into the mind of Millie Rose, a guardian spirit who dies as a
young woman in 1922 giving birth. In 1975 Millie hovers over the incubator of Claire, a 26-week premature baby, whose existence hangs from one precarious breath to the next. From that point forward Millie guides Claire, often unsuccessfully, through life as a voice in her head. Claire’s life is haunted by a host of medical conditions resulting from her premature birth as well as a dark secret that eats away at her parents’ souls and marriage. To gain a place in Heaven, Millie must guide Claire to an unknown purpose while protecting her from life’s every day perils. Millie, however, is haunted by the memory of the baby she’s never known and a past life unfulfilled. Worse yet, a malevolent spirit named Liam dogs her every move, seeking Claire’s earthly ruin and Millie’s spiritual demise.
The story is told from Millie’s perspective. Because she’s a spirit that means we get everyone else’s perspective, too. Staley pulls this off masterfully. Her efficient and beautiful prose flits from paragraph to paragraph, never dwelling too long on one person or one event. The amazing thing, however, is the novel never feels shallow. Like a parachute in a gale, Breathe’s
characters pop to life quickly, rich and full and ready to carry the reader to whatever destination Staley has in store. We’re there with Millie every step of the way, cajoling, scolding, nudging, suffering and sharing the amazing life of a little girl with all the cards stacked against her. We grow up with Claire in a sometimes loving, often messed-up, and always unforgettable extended Southern family.
I was concerned that the excellent, character-driven novel would bog down as the plot progressed. Thankfully, Staley never let that happen. Each stage of Claire’s life presented a new crisis, served up naturally, with great timing, and so realistically as to make any parent cringe. This book never stalls.
Suitable for early teens and up, Need To Breathe
is a beautiful story and I’m glad I stumbled across this piece of self-published gold. Tara Staley makes a powerful debut and sets a high bar not only for herself, but for other independent authors as well. Need
earns 94 out of 99 cents and needs to be my next Top Pick. 99 Cents Worth of Tara Staley Links:Need to Breathe on Amazon
. Tara Staley’s website, Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoyed this review follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Brian Braden on his blog, Facebook and Twitter
and buy his book, Carson's Love. If you are an agent or publisher you can make the smartest financial decision of your life and offer Brian a contract on his brilliant
novel, Black Sea Gods.
review by Katie French
Every so often a book comes along that really speaks to you, gets you at a gut level that most books cannot. The wonderful thing about Ketchup is a Vegetable by Robin O'Bryant is that not only did this book really “get me”, but it made me snicker non-stop for over two hundred pages. This memoir focuses on Robin and her misadventures as a mother and wife. Let the hilarity ensue.
In one scene Robin recounts the road trip from Hell. With three daughters ages five and under, one an infant, Robin's family sets off on a five hour drive. Below is a short excerpt of the story that left me rolling. “At this point, my dearly beloved was standing on the side of the road, shirtless, Emma was wearing nothing but a pull-up and a frown, and I had wiped the Big Berthas out once again to feed Sadie. I could feel a great red neck joke brewing, but he (her husband) doesn't normally enjoy my humor in times of crisis, so I kept my mouth shut.”
Any mom who's taken a road trip knows that the worst events possible can and do happen. Robin's trip made me have flashbacks of a family Florida road trip where my husband projectile vomited into a beef jerky container. Nothing's more hilarious than car trips and regurgitation.
Robin's humor is so effortless and real I found myself envious at many points. Humor is an advanced skill and many authors try and fail. This book is hilarious without being over the top. At one point she discusses killing flies that had swarmed on her windowsill. “I grabbed a bottle of air freshener and took my stand at the window in very much the same way Scarlett O'Hara faced those Yanks, I'm sure. I sprayed furiously while I held my breath and watched as a measly four flies met their Maker. This was pathetic. Scarlett would be so ashamed.”
The best part of O'Bryant's book is that she makes it okay to make mistakes as a mother. We all put so much pressure on ourselves. We all want to be Joan Clever mixed with Angelina Jolie, but we can't. O'Bryant helps mothers everywhere commiserate, laugh at themselves and learn to love the mother you are, not the mother you should be.
Bottom line, mothers, buy this book, make sure all sharp objects are safely stowed, lock yourself in the bathroom and enjoy.
You can find Robin O'Bryant on her blog.
You can find the book here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
review by Katie French
When I saw the cover art for The Scourge
at the bottom of my own novel's
“Customers who bought this item also bought...” page, I knew I wanted to read it. The haunting description of Fennel, a sightless girl who must be the water bearer for her people during the time of the scourge drew me in. The scourge are basically zombies-- humans turned flesh-eaters who attack the healthy, turning them sick as well. For some reason the scourge do not attack the sightless, so Fennel is tapped to take an agonizing walk down to the water through the throng of fleshies everyday.
Then enter Peree, a tree-dwelling hunter, who has been given the task of being her keeper. Peree is her eyes while she slips through the masses of sick ones. Fennel's people and Peree's people live in an uneasy alliance. Yet, somehow these two find an instant connection, one that worries both of them. Groundies and Lofties do not mix. Fennel agonizes over the bond that grows between her and Peree.
When the scourge doesn't leave after a few days as expected, Fennel's people get desperate. Fennel volunteers to search for the Hidden Waters supposedly buried deep within the safety of their caves. Peree slips away to guide her. The two embark on a nail-biting journey through pitch-black caves where they are tested to the core of their being.
I was instantly jealous of the premise of this novel. What can be more terrifying than walking into a mob of flesh-eating monsters with no sight? Henley is a master of upping the terror, bringing us in to Fennel's haunting journey to the water hole. And here's the amazing thing, Henley cannot employ any visual imagery. No visual imagery! It's amazing. I was expecting the book to flounder and die in a sightless world, but no. As a reader, I got used to wandering around a world without vision. Somehow Henley uses surrounding sounds, smells and touch to make a world as vivid as any with sight. I was in awe of how easily she accomplished something that even master writers would not attempt.
I went online to look for a publisher for the novel. I was sure because of the quality that it had been picked up by one of the big six. However, I was surprised to learn it is self-published. There are gems out there in the self-published arena and this is one of them. I highly recommend this book to fans of speculative Young Adult fiction. You won't be disappointed.
You can find The Scourge here.
You can find A.G. Henley here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Katie French on Facebook and on her website.
review by Amy R. Biddle
TITLE: A Coupla Shades of Taupe: A Parody
AUTHOR: Court Burback
PUBLISHER: Diversion Books
GENRE: Humor, Parody
THE RUNDOWN A Coupla Shades of Taupe
is the Spark-Notes version of Fifty Shades of Grey
… on steroids and laughing gas. While Grey is the wealthy owner of a company that delivers food to the hungry, Taupe is the wealthy owner of a taxidermy company that immortalizes deceased pets. While Anastasia Steele pines over Grey’s perfectly sculpted face, Alexandria Aluminium fantasizes about picking jerky out of Taupe’s teeth. If you haven’t heard of Fifty Shades of Grey
, you should know that it’s a closet fad made infamous for its explicit sexual content, including whips and bondage. If you don’t think that’s grounds for a riotous parody, stop reading here.
What makes a parody hard to pull off is that the writer is regurgitating a known story. Because of that, plot twists are moot and all originality must come from the writing itself. The reader must turn the page because the writing compels them to read on, not because they want to know how the story will progress. That being said, there are few writers who could pull off the farce that is A Coupla Shades of Taupe
quite so eloquently.
Court Burback makes it very clear that her novel is parody for the sake of parody. The plot is one-dimensional and there isn’t a single redeeming character in the book. What redeems the book is the author, whose sarcastic, twisted sense of humor makes Tucker Max look like a goody-two-shoes and Austin Powers look like a sexy gentleman. Court has a handle on words, and she uses them like a stand-up comic. Her metaphors would get any English student promptly kicked out of class… with a begrudging A plus.
I read A Coupla Shades of Taupe before picking up Fifty Shades of Grey
, but that didn’t keep me from laughing out loud. When I finally got around to reading Fifty Shades of Grey
, memories of the parody had me chuckling when I wasn’t supposed to.
It goes without saying that the material in A Coupla Shades of Taupe
is not appropriate for young adults. In fact, it’s not appropriate for adults, either. If raunchy comedy isn’t your style, don’t pick it up. But if you’re looking for an off-color laugh, A Coupla Shades of Taupe
is an expertly executed parody, and it’s worth reading for the metaphors alone. Court Burback’s no-holds-barred humor will make you inge and laugh at the same time, whether or not you read Fifty Shades of Grey
Buy A Coupla Shades of Taupe
Check out A Coupla Shades of Taupe
Visit Court's website onedumbunny.com
Find A Coupla Shades of Taupe
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review by Kimberly Shursen
Title: Married or . . . Merry? Or, The international Greek Book of Marriage or 40 Plus Reasons Not To Get Married. Author: Kate Papas
Genre: humor, satire
Publisher: Self- published Summary: Love is in the air. Today is the day you’ve dreamed about all your life. You glide down the aisle to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March towards the man of your dreams. The church is filled as two star-crossed lovers’ eyes meet and repeat the words “I do.” Oh blissful, happy day when two shall come together as one.
Whoa! Stop the organ music! According to Kate Papas’s Married or . . . Merry? you'd best turn on your heels, pick up your long white gown and run as fast as you can! Ms. Papas is happy to inform you that your wedding day is the last day of bliss you’ll ever know until . . . the divorce is final. What led Kate Papas to write Married or . . . Merry? Surely it wasn’t for the sake of condoning marriage. According to Kate, instead of becoming angry about the state of her native Greece, she turned to writing humor. “It is bitter and sad. It's a nightmare, no one could imagine that would happen to Greeks and to our beautiful country,” Kate writes in an e-mail, “we have a fabulous past (our ancient history) and a miserable present.” In the first 40 days after the book was released in Greece, 2,000 copies were sold. After 7,000 copies were purchased, Kate decided to translate Married or . . . Merry? into English and send it across the Atlantic.
Quote: Reason Number Six entitled: “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, (Mosaic Law; 7th Commandment) “In my opinion this is the most inapplicable, unattainable and unrealistic commandment. Purely utopian! For god’s sake, my friends! Do you think it possible not to commit adultery, not even once, in your life not even mentally, not even in your imagination? (for that counts, alas!) And whoever claims that is it possible is either: 1. A pathological liar 2. Totally inexperienced 3. Extremely naïve 4. Very recently married!” Opinion: Married or . . . Merry? is brilliantly written using quotes and sayings from comedians to philosophers, Bible verses and commandments as a premise for each rule. This book of only l7,000 words will take those of us who have been, or are married, on a laughable journey into “I’ve-been-there-land” for at least one, if not numerous reasons. Satire sweeps every page that range from matrimony being harmful to your health, to the notion that you need another person to become whole when you were already whole to begin with. I could actually envision this performed by on stage by a comedian as making fun of real-life situations is the basis of great comedy. Recommendation: NOT for those who do not enjoy reading rebuttals of Biblical doctrine. I recommend the book to those light-hearted enough to enjoy the humor and pitfalls of every marriage. Oh, in answer to your question, yes, Ms. Papas is married. TOP PICK: 5 star ratingLinks: Find it on Amazon
Like it on FacebookFollow Kate Papas on Twitter
review by Kimberly Shursen
Title: Murder & Single Malt Author:
Mark Anderson Esquire Publisher:
Mike Baker is a serial murder. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. That’s who he is; that’s what he does. Not too far into Murder & Single Malt
, Mike loses his boring job, his only friend moves out of the country, his girlfriend trades him in for a guy who could be his twin, and the only person who cares about him is his dying mother. That’s it. That’s all there is to Mike except... he enjoys torturing and murdering people. Sometimes he murders because of a vendetta, sometimes it’s just on a whim and sometimes someone just ticks him off. There is no rhyme or reason. There is no connect-the-dots like 5’5” blonde haired women that look like his mother, or grumpy old men who remind him of a father who never really cared much about him, it’s just who Mike Baker is. Murder & Single Malt
will take you on a journey into the mind of a killer; a journey that is haunting. As normal on the outside as apple pie and four-leaf clovers in Ireland where Mr. Esquire resides, you will abhor Mike Baker, feel sorry and get angry with him, and then just pause and think, oh my God, do I know this guy? Quote: “I’ve been reading more and more. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a serial killer. But, at the same time I differ from most. My background isn’t the abusive/broken home stereotype you’d expect. Plus I vary my kills. Usually serial killers stick to a pattern. They might let the pattern evolve over time. But I’m not sure if I’ve killed two people in the same way yet. That’s maybe what’s keeping the police from connecting the deaths.” Opinion:
Okay, I have to admit, I was a bit leery when Mr. Esquire asked me to review Murder & Single Malt
. I’m a total serial murder junky and didn’t know if Murder & Single Malt
would be believable. From Gein, to the Zodiac killer, to Gacy and Bundy, I’ve studied them all, read the books, watched the movies and dug, dug, dug for more. The human mind fascinates me. Obviously it does Mr. Esquire too.
Written entirely in first person, Murder & Single Malt
is brilliantly composed. Mr. Esquire's crisp, concise dialogue puts us right smack inside Mike Baker’s head. Where some authors lose readers by taking us from past to present, Esquire is not that author. Each chapter brings us right back where we left off.
From the one person dialogue Mike has with himself about the Big Bang Theory to his ‘chat’ with God about the crucifixion of Jesus, Murder & Single Malt
is a brilliant down-to-earth read.
I did find myself closing my eyes during the murder scenes as the book was so visual it made me feel as if I was sitting in a movie theater, so you may get a little nauseous at times, yet not enough to put it down. A few minor grammatical errors to fix and this book will soar to the top. Recommendation: Murder & Single Malt
is for anyone fascinated by the criminal mind. We read about it, but never quite understand. It does not offer insight into the ‘why’s’, but gives a first-hand view inside the head of Mike Baker, serial killer. I do not recommend this for children, nor do I recommend it as a gift for a friend you feel is a good candidate to be a serial murderer. Rating: Top Pick!
Five Stars Links: Amazon Book Link Mark Anderson on FacebookMark Anderson on TwitterVisit Mark's personal webpage
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