Saturday, February 28, 2015

With the Headmaster's Approval / Jan Hurst-Nicholson


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Woman’s Fiction

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

A resident of South Africa, Jan Hurst-Nicholson is the author of several books in various genres aimed at readers of all ages, including children, young adults, and grown-ups. For more, visit Ms Hurst-Nicholson’s website.

Description:

Adam Wild creates controversy when he’s appointed as the Head of St Mary’s Academy, an all-girls school in England. The governing board feels that his background as a officer in the US Navy makes him well suited to restore some needed discipline, but some of the all-female teaching staff don’t see it this way.

Appraisal:

I’m struggling to figure out how to articulate the problem I had with this book. So I’m going to start out with the good parts, and there are plenty of those. Adam Wild has been appointed as the head of an all-girls academy with a staff that is virtually all female, the lone exception an older Mr Fix-it type who takes care of building maintenance. Adam is a widower, but young enough to be seen as an attractive older man by the teen students and a potential romantic interest for any teachers who are unattached and looking. However, the school’s governing board has made it clear that romantic fraternizing with his staff isn’t allowed. Of course that means someone is bound to see that as a challenge. Adam’s struggle to hit the right tone with teachers and students, accomplish what the board has set as his goals, and work out what he wants his future to be, all make for an interesting and engaging story.

While there were a few minor instances of situations that didn’t ring true for me, the first two thirds of the book were mostly a fun, entertaining read. Although the book is not and is not intended to be a romance (despite Amazon including that as one of its classifications), the first two acts are set up exactly like a romance. Perhaps some of my struggles were subconscious expectations created by that pattern. Then the third act goes all to hell, at least if the reader is expecting the final third to play out like a romance.

First, another party is thrown into the mix. While this person is someone who has been mentioned a few times before now, how and what happens seems out of left field based on the story thus far. It feels like the reader has been set up, not unlike if a mystery book was to have the detective suddenly solve the puzzle by arresting someone we’d have no clue was even a viable suspect. Then, at the last second, that doesn’t work out the way it appears to be headed, and we’re thrown another twist, more in keeping with where the overall story seemed to be headed in some ways, very much not like that in others. Sometimes a story gets described as “like a roller coaster ride” and that is meant as a positive. For me, this was more like a roller coaster that jumped the tracks on the final turn.

FYI:

Uses UK slang and spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Friday, February 27, 2015

DragonKin / Maria Schneider


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Fantasy / Young Adult

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Maria Schneider grew up in New Mexico and currently lives near Austin, Texas with her husband.

After working in the computer industry for twelve years she now enjoys creating messes and inventing characters to find their way clear of her imaginings.

You can find several of Maria's short stories online in such fine magazines as: Coyote Wild Magazine, www.AnthologyBuilder.com, TownDrunkMag.com and Over My Dead Body.

She writes cozy mysteries, fantasy, paranormal mysteries. Feel free to check out her website.

Description:

“Drissa needs a place to hide, and she needed it yesterday. Wendal, with its rumors of inhospitable shifters, unknown terrain and wild magic, is not a territory many want to explore, making it the perfect place to disappear. Now, the last thing Drissa needs is to adopt more trouble, but what can she do when it hatches at her feet and then insists she drag it and a half-dead stranger to safety? But she’ll do whatever is necessary to survive, because her younger sister can’t wait forever to be rescued. Of course, Wendal and its inhabitants aren’t necessarily interested in her long-term plans or her survival.”

Appraisal:

This adventure is full of dragons, dragonkin (smaller dragons that don’t shift), gryphons, shifters, ogres, chimera, snakes, unhappy parents, a cruel uncle, poisonous plants, and one very special dryad (wood nymph). It also had a romance that made my heart melt. The story hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. There is a plot to enslave the dragonkin with nefarious capitalists who have enlisted the help of the chimera.

The plot is full of action as Lindis, Drissa, and Falk try to save the dragonkin from their plight. Sparks is the dragonkin hatchling that has adopted Drissa, he is delightful through the whole story as he grows up fast. The plot takes some unexpected twists as Falk’s parents try to find him a mate that will be advantageous for their clan. With Drissa running from the same fate and trying to save her younger sister who was drafted to replace her, she and Falk are able to relate.

I got a chuckle out of the fact that the same prince was kidnapped, again, to marry Drissa’s sister as in the Dragons of Wendal. This prince has some serious security issues to deal with back at home. Since he hasn’t chosen his own bride yet, I wondered if perhaps he is gay. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? (Sorry, I got distracted there a minute.) Ms. Schneider has done a wonderful job building her fantasy world and the characters who inhabit it. Except the chimera, I couldn’t wrap my head around them, they seemed too illogical. Mad cows would have been a better choice. (Stifles a giggle.)

FYI:

This is the second book in Dragons of Wendal series. There are a few returning characters in DragonKin, however I think it could be read as a standalone.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant editing or formatting issues.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Guest post from Brenda Vicars, author of Polarity in Motion



When I was a high school English instructor, an opportunity came up to teach a college night course inside a nearby prison. At that time I still had the smug idea that I could bestow brilliant wisdom upon my classes, so I jumped at the chance to teach inmates.  Of all the students on the planet, who more needy of my guidance than the incarcerated?

Entering the prison through a series of gates played out just as it had in movies I’d seen, but in spite of the clanging bolts and locks, I wasn’t bothered by feelings of being trapped. I would dabble in this world only a few hours and then retreat to my safe, white, middle class life.  I was led through a maze of check-in rooms and required to relinquish my purse and phone before a guard escorted me into an outdoor area—the prison yard—about the size of a football field and walled in on all sides by two-story buildings. With the guard, I felt safe enough as we walked twenty feet along a sidewalk that bordered the yard and led to the education building. 

But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional wham that hit me with my first glance at hundreds of men, mostly black—all dressed in white scrub-like uniforms—milling around in the caged in area. The reality of all these people, locked up, jolted me. 

Armed with my syllabus and lecture notes, I made it through the 165-minute class.  In this prison there were no breaks during the once-a-week session, so we worked for 165 minutes, non-stop.  The inmates were not allowed to do anything independently—no leaving early if the work was complete, no staying late for extra help. 

Bathroom breaks were permitted, but the logistics required with the guards was not something I wanted to experience.  During the three years I taught in prison, I rarely visited the ladies’ room.

So what great insights did I bestow upon these men?  Probably none.  Oh, for sure they absorbed the literature. These were the only classes I’d ever taught in which everyone actually read all the assignments—no Cliff Notes or Internet summaries in prison. Essays were never late or incomplete.  Test scores were excellent.

But here’s a better question: What did the inmates teach me? This question makes me take a deep breath and wish I had better words to express the profound lesson. The men often wrote about their youth—sometimes their middle and early high school years—when their lives had begun to unravel. I gradually realized that many of my public school students were living through the same stresses that haunted the inmates. The inmates’ pasts were my high school students’ present.  The difference was my adolescent students weren’t talking or writing about their struggles. Instead, they were coping and doing their best to navigate—so far.  

Teaching in prison changed me. Lessons from the incarcerated made me acutely aware of how fragile and blurred the critical line is during adolescence—the line between holding onto a path to success and crashing through a crack. 

In my writing I try to unearth that line and give it voice.

Get your copy of Brenda's book, Polarity in Motion, from Amazon US (ebook or paper), Amazon UK (ebook or paper), or Barnes & Noble.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person / Barbara Venkataraman


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-Fiction/Humor/Writing

Approximate word count: 7-8,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

During the day, Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney. At night, she writes in a variety of genres including humor and mystery.

Description:

“Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person is here and she has the answers to all of the questions you never thought to ask. As a dedicated and serious grammarian, she will do what it takes to be entertaining and enlightening, but never vulgar or coarse. Heavens, no! Where are her smelling salts? Warm and witty, Mrs. G.P. makes grammar interesting with rhyming, wishful thinking, story-telling and a champagne toast. You are cordially invited to join her for a spot of tea!”

Appraisal:

A series of chapters that may have had a first life as blog posts, this small book teaches and refreshes grammar rules with an emphasis on word usage (common homophone errors, who vs whom, etc). The lessons are delivered by the fictional character Mrs. Grammar Person. She’s a bit over the top, even for a mild Grammar Nazi such as me, in how serious she takes her subject. But that seriousness is where the humor comes into play. Mrs. Grammar Person’s wordplay to illustrate her points was both amusing and educational. I picked up on one set of homophones that I was consistently using wrong (you home in on something, not hone in). I also picked up a good rule to help with the dreaded ‘who’ versus ‘whom’ decision.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Confessions of a Hit Man / Richard Godwin


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Thriller / Mystery

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Richard Godwin is a widely published author, with a focus on horror and crime, and a playwright. He has written two full length novels – Apostle Rising and Mr Glamour and has contributed multiple short stories to anthologies.

You can learn more about the author on his website.

Description:

Jack is a Royal Marine commando, a trained marksman and explosives expert, good at reconnaissance, sabotage and using information. Needing finance Jack takes on a hit for Luca Martoni, telling himself it would be just the one.

But before he knows it Jack is a full time assassin, his stock on the rise, his fee increasing all the time. But he gets pulled into a government plot selling enriched plutonium to a country that shouldn’t have it…

Appraisal:

Confessions of a Hit Man is as addictive to the reader as it is to Jack. I devoured the story in a couple of sittings. The style is pacey, the sentences chopped, the chapters brief and to the point. The novel itself is short, around 50,000 words and if there’s one complaint it’s that I wanted more, it was such a good read.

The ‘confession’ aspect in the title is an apt description, Jack is writing down the individual hits as a salve to his conscience – he didn’t start out wanting to kill people for a living, it sort of crept up on him. Something he subsequently realizes.

As the narrative progresses it moves from individual chapters to more of an interlinked story line as he gets drawn into the government plot. We steadily learn about Jack and his motivations, but is there still good within him?

Godwin tends to write psychological thrillers and horror so this is a degree of departure for him. However it is a welcome one and suits him. I hope to see Godwin writing more within this genre and Jack too.

FYI:

Nothing of note.

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Unlucky Man / H T G Hedges


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Urban Paranormal / Thriller

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

The only information I could find about the author was from his Facebook site where he explains: H T G Hedges writes books and draws pictures.

Description:

Due to an unusual incident at the beginning of this story, Jon Hesker and his friend--small-time criminal Alexander Corgen--find themselves hunted by a powerful, shadowy organization whose secret they may have inadvertently stumbled upon. The story follows their attempts to evade the mysterious, “Control” whilst attempting to discover just what he wants from them.

Appraisal:

While Jon and Alex are stuck in a traffic jam, a body falls out of the sky and lands on the hood of their car. That the car is a hearse makes this an even more enthralling beginning. The story is set in a dystopian world where the establishment and the criminal underclass are separated by a bridge. Written in a compelling noir-style, I really enjoyed the first half of this story.

Then, quite frankly, I got so confused that I find it difficult to write a review of the rest. It may be that I’m too old, or too dumb to understand what the paranormal aspects of this tale were trying to convey. But I finished the story with not a clue as to what Jon’s real purpose was.

The author writes really well. The noir aspects and the main characters—Jon and Alex—were well fleshed out. At times, the descriptive elements were enjoyably literary. So it’s quite possible that another reader would love this story, for me it was frustratingly difficult to comprehend.

Format/Typo Issues:

English spelling.

Rating: *** Three stars

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reprise Review: The Big O / Declan Burke


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Crime / Thriller

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Declan Burke lives in Ireland with his family. To date he has published four critically acclaimed novels. In addition Declan hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction, Crime Always Pays.

To learn more about the author visit his website.

Description:

By day Karen works for disgraced plastic surgeon Frank, by night she carries out armed robberies. Whilst holding up a store she meets Ray, who also has two roles – mural painter and kidnapper.

Frank lives the high-life, but he’s bankrupt. He needs a lot of money, and fast, to resolve his many problems. So he employs local crook Terry to kidnap his ex-wife, Madge. The plan – get an insurance payout for $500,000 and jet off somewhere hot.

The trouble is Madge is Karen’s best friend and Ray is the one who’ll be snatching her. Throw psychopath Rossi, fresh out of prison and gunning for Karen, into the mix and things are going to get very messy, very quickly…

Appraisal:

Two comments before I start this review:

1)   I’ve clearly been living in a hole for the last few years as this was my first experience of Mr. Burke’s writing.
2)   I have a very short attention span.

Number one is now corrected (thankfully) but number two is a permanent affliction. I get bored easily, I find it hard to stick with long books that don’t grab me by my throat in the first couple of pages, I physically groan when I see the book size measure on the kindle screen going off the scale.

Can’t help it, it’s just me.

So when I start The Big O, I don’t know of Mr. Burke and the book looks huge. Oh dear. But this is the opening paragraph:

In the bar Karen drinking vodka-tonic, Ray on brandy to calm his nerves. Karen told him how people react to death and a stick-up in pretty much the same way: shock, disbelief, anger, acceptance.

Then Karen goes on to describe how to carry out said stick-up, it transpires this is how she met Ray (having nearly shot him). And so within a couple of paragraphs we plunge headlong into a whip-crack smart novel that barrels along at high pace that simply compels me to finish it. For the next couple of days I’m stuck with my nose in my kindle, much to my wife’s disgust as she wants me to get stuck into dreaded DIY instead, but I’m simply too absorbed by the characters and their activities to do anything else but read.

In short I thoroughly enjoyed The Big O and was disappointed when I finally put it down, simply because the joyride was over.

This is a very cleverly plotted, character driven novel. There are relatively few characters but all are very strong, have flaws (to varying degrees) but display hidden depths that are gradually revealed as the narrative progresses, adding to it.

The action is split into seven segments – the week long period over which the snatch is planned and occurs. These segments are then broken up by short chapters (which keeps the pace high) each headlined with the particular person whose perspective it follows – the narrative is modified accordingly. The prose is economic, very sharp and strongly dialogue driven.

What I really liked about The Big O and that set it apart from the pack was that initially the story seems well sign posted, i.e. it appears obvious what’s going to happen next, but Burke was simply lulling me into a false sense of security before throwing me into a tail spin with a twist. This happened on numerous occasions. In the end I gave up guessing – hence the joyride.

For example, Anna. I had a concept of who the character was and how they fitted with the others, but I was completely wrong (I won’t say any more so as not to give it away). Then there’s the snatch, again the cards fall in a completely different way to how I envisaged they would. It’s very, very well done.

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable, clever and well plotted read that simply makes me want to find more of Burke’s work.

FYI:

Adult scenes.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.


Rating: ***** Five Stars

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Goldilocks / Patria L. Dunn


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Fantasy / Folk Tales / Young Adult

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“Patria L. Dunn hails from the small town of Louisa Virginia. Born in 1981, a true child of the 80's; her interests range from classic to unimaginable. A young woman with many talents and many titles such as: Pianist, Author, Poet and most importantly Mother, if you ask her about her accomplishments she will tell you: ‘The best is yet to come.’"

For more, visit Dunn's website.

Description:

“At seventeen years old, Hannah Adler has already lost her mother to a brutal murder, and her father to a job that keeps him away more often than not. It couldn’t get any worse for this depressed teen, except it does when she is abruptly uprooted from the city and only home she’s ever known and deposited in the gold rich mountains of Hinsdale Colorado. Never one to make friends easily, the only thing that keeps Hannah grounded is her star quality cross country talent. While running through the woods behind the cabin, that is now her home, gives her solace, Hannah quickly discovers that this seemingly enchanted forest is hiding something that no one is willing to talk about.”

Appraisal:

"There are three bears, a girl with honey gold blonde hair, and a secret lair, but this story is far from the children’s fairy tale our parents used to read to us when we were kids."

Paul Adler, trying to reconnect with his daughter, takes a job as a mine inspector for Golden Wonder Mines in Colorado, where he won’t have to travel as much. Leaving the D.C. area is not an easy adjustment for Hannah to make, at least her new school has a cross country team for her to join. The relationship between Paul and Hannah is strained for a while, however Hannah relents and vows to try to adjust to living in the middle of nowhere. At least their cabin has an indoor bathroom.

When school starts things seem quite ordinary and Hannah makes a couple of friends on the cross-country team. However there is one boy that seems to stand out from the rest at school, he is larger and a little different from the other boys. His name is Jake Bear and he intrigues Hanna. As the story unfolds she can tell that he is keeping things from her.

The mine is having trouble with cave-ins so Paul is very busy at work and gets worried about Hanna running in the woods. Hanna loves running in the woods until one day she is stalked by a huge wolf. Luckily a bear comes out of nowhere and saves her. Ms. Dunn has done an excellent job creating an ancient myth for this world, which makes the story read like an urban fantasy. The plot keeps a steady pace as new elements come to light and things start to change between Jake and Hanna. It’s a unique story that turns the old fairy tale upside down with a few unexpected twists. The characters are easy to like and the author’s descriptive prose paints realistic pictures of the wilderness. This is a fun read to get lost in.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found a small number of proofing problems that include missing, extra words, or wrong words.

Rating: **** Four stars

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Last Circle / Gretchen Blickensderfer


Reviewed by: Sooz

Genre: Dystopian/LGBT

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Gretchen Blickensderfer grew up in Manchester, England. She acted and performed voices starting at 12. She came to the United States at 18. Gretchen has worked as an actor, screenwriter, and film critic.

Description:

The Last Circle chronicles the rise to power of a United States Evangelical theocracy and the small group of Pagan and LGBT friends who must escape the country to survive.

Appraisal:

As the current-day United States fights toward legalizing gay marriage across all 50 states, The Last Circle looks at a “what-if” world if the opposite happens. However, it’s not just about gay marriage, but paganism and anything that is deemed un-Christian, even Cinderella.

The fundamentalist Christians have won in The Last Circle and those that do not follow their beliefs are not safe in this dystopian future.

The message in The Last Circle is very heavy-handed with an almost preaching-like quality of what will happen to the country if Christians take over. This could be a real turn off to many readers, including myself, but not for the reasons you think.

It just seemed so much was painted in black and white. If you’re a Christian, you’re an evil person who doesn’t want anyone to be happy and you will go to dire lengths to ensure that salvation comes to everyone even if means they have to give up their freedoms to do so. On the other hand, if you are pagan or Wiccan and your friends are gay and outcasts from their families, you’re inherently good.

Life does not work this way.

While I appreciate Gretchen Blickensderfer’s fight for a better society, it just seemed many of the scenarios were outlandish and many of the characters were walking stereotypes. It’s a bit more complicated than good versus evil especially when painting with such a broad brush.

The book also seemed to jump around a bit too much and felt disorganized.

Format/Typo Issues:

There were some typos.

Rating: ***Three Stars

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reprise Review: Ice Diaries / Lexi Revellian


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Romantic Thriller/Post Apocalyptic

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

When she’s not writing fiction, Ms. Revellian designs and makes jewellery under her real name, Lexi Dick. She’s made pieces for Margaret Thatcher, 10 Downing Street, and Her Majesty the Queen.

Ice Diaries is her fifth novel. You can learn more about her at her website.

Description:

In 2018, the world’s population has been decimated by a virulent virus, and as if that’s not tough enough, a rapid freeze has covered England under snow and ice. London, where the story takes place, is buried by twenty meters of snow.

Appraisal:

In her Amazon author profile, Ms Revellian boasts that she has sold 60,000 self-published books. After reading Ice Diaries, my only question would be, “Why so few?”

I had a terrific time sharing a snow-swamped London with the characters in Ice Diaries. The author’s writing style is about as easy on the eye as any I can remember--like listening to a compelling after-dinner story told by a fascinating guest.

I particularly enjoyed the makeshift communities I spent time in with Tori, the twenty-three year-old protagonist. Her engaging nature and irreverent wit had me smiling, a lot. Tori hangs out with a small group of liberal-types. They have dug tunnels below the snow and live off the contents of the buried stores. This small group of survivors squat in apartments still above the snow level, furnish themselves with necessities from Argos (for Americans, think Sears), and live in hope that someone in the warmer south will send a helicopter to rescue them.

Along with Tori, I enjoyed her group of characters and the naive structure they force on themselves to retain a level of civility. They establish foraging rules and game nights and dinner parties—very British, in an eccentric but nice way.

Along comes Morgan, a rough, brooding, and dangerous cage fighter. He turns Tori’s head, forcing her to look outside the quaint but unrealistic life she has fallen into. When Morgan’s ex-gang members come looking for him, the pleasant balance of Tori’s community is turned upside down. Drawing on an inner strength that surprises everyone including Morgan, in the end she finds a way out of their difficulties, and in the process changes all their lives.

FYI:


English (UK) spelling.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five stars

#Free for your #Kindle, 2/19/2015

The author of each of these books has indicated their intent to schedule these books for a free day for the Kindle versions today on Amazon. Sometimes plans change or mistakes happen, so be sure to verify the price before hitting that "buy me" button.


Hunger Pain by Matthew Ebeling




A Chance for Charity by S.L. Baum



Author's interested in having their free book featured either here on a Thursday or a sister site on a Monday, visit this page for details.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened / Lori Schafer


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Memoir

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Lori Schafer describes herself as a “writer of serious prose and humorous erotica and romance.” The serious prose consists of several published essays, this memoir, and another slated for release in the next few months. The latter, two novels slated to be published this year with another in progress.

For more, visit Schafer’s website.

Description:

“It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.

Then came my mother's psychosis.

I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.

My mother's illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.

But I did. That was how my mother - my real mother - raised me. To survive.

She, too, was a survivor. It wasn't until last year that I learned that she had died - in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.”

Appraisal:

After I finished reading this memoir I was scanning the suggested questions for book club discussion section that follows the main story. One of those questions jumped out at me: “How would Lori’s experience have differed had she had a more extended family?” As I was reading Lori’s story I kept thinking how much different her experience might have been. With a father who was out of Lori and her mother’s lives and no other family close, either emotionally or geographically, she had no support and was on her own to figure things out.

I found On Hearing … to be an interesting and enlightening read. For those who have never (or even those who have) dealt with a family member who suffers from a mental illness, it should be eye opening. There are lessons to be learned about the role of family (in this case, by the relative lack thereof), and the ability we humans have to find a way to survive.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars