Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brandon Gray's "ORISON"

Book Nook Review of 
Orison
by Brandon Gray


Orison, Brandon Gray’s YA sci-fi fantasy, was an award-winning book coming out of the gate. Gray submitted his unique tale of colliding human and dryad worlds through Amazon’s grueling Kindle Scout platform where it was selected for publication. And for good reason. Good fantasy requires intricate world-building, and Gray weaves a complex story line through the fascinating world he creates where humans and dryads interact, fall in love, and yes . . . have fits of jealousy and rage.

The King family grew wealthy when their plantation’s harvests far exceeded their neighbors’. But something happened to end the mutually beneficial arrangement between the Kings and their dryad neighbors, sending a curse upon the land and into the family.

The current heir to the King land is Branson, a self-centered, irresponsible party-boy whose past is riddled with sorrow and sin.  His most recent binge leads to an accident that destroys the tree housing a powerful dryad spirit. Tradition now requires Aurianna, the shunned granddaughter, to make an oath to avenge her grandmother’s murder by killing Branson. But before she knows who the killer is, Aurianna finds wounded Branson and tends to him, creating an inner conflict that threatens to destroy her world and his.

A powerful attraction draws Branson and Aurianna to one another, and down a destructive path for both, but there is one voice Branson listens to above his own libido--that of Abraham--the aged family friend/handyman whose own life and land seem mysteriously blessed. Abraham understands both worlds, and he opens Aurianna's and Branson's understanding of the forces at work in their lives, understanding that helps them to see the choices before them, and to accept the consequences of those decisions.

Brandon Gray delivers a powerful story while raising thought-provoking questions that challenge main character Branson’s do-what-you-want choices and values. The topics are hard-hitting at times, and though Gray handles them with respect and care, this is not an MG read.

For this reason, Brandon Gray, aka Braden Bell, wrote Orison, his first YA novel, under a pen name to make that distinction with his faithful readers. The much beloved author of the MG series, Middle School Magic, has been heralded for writing books that reflect and speak to his target audience. It is not by accident or merely good marketing. Bell/Gray—teacher, director, father, PhD—loves young people, and he continues to write books that make them think.

Orison’s measured beginning builds to a page-turning sprint as the dryad and human story lines converge. This reviewer could not foresee the final twists, and was extremely pleased to see that Orison is book one of a series.

I was thoroughly engrossed by this unique, powerful book, and recommend Orison, and all Gray/Bell’s books, to thoughtful readers who love beautiful writing. In fact, Bell’s books are my go-to gifts for my own grandchildren, and Orison’s powerful themes add another volume to his masterful collection.

 If you have middle school-aged youth, get them Bell’s brilliant Middle School Magic series, but Orison will entertain and provoke thought in readers from savvy teens to adults. It's available on Kindle. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cover Reveal: ON THE CORNER OF HEARTACHE AND LOVE by Rone-Award Nominee Lisa Swinton!

Talented Rone-Award nominee and friend, author Lisa Swinton, is dishing up another sweet romance. I've watched this one unfold, and it may be my favorite book by this talented author. Put it on your wishlist. Due out in September!

On the Corner of Heartache Love
Cover Reveal!

Coming September 2016!

About the Book

After three years, Maren Summers is elated to finally have her dream wedding to her dream man, Kevin Bryant. In her sights is the promotion to Weddings she’s worked so hard for at the newspaper. Happily ever after is within her grasp…

Until Kevin jilts her at the altar, elopes with another woman, and becomes her boss. Devastated by the twisted turn of events Maren moves in with her best friend and notices the not-so-homeless guy on the corner, Zane Whitfield. As his heart-wrenching tale unfolds—his vow to wait a year on the corner for his lost love—Maren sees his compassionate human-interest story as her ticket away from 
Kevin, weddings, and her heartache.

But as the New Year approaches, is Maren headed for heartache again when Zane's lost love returns, or has time changed more than one heart?

About the Author

Lisa Swinton caught the romance buy early by way of fairy tales and hasn’t been able to cure it yet. She feeds her addiction with romance novels, films, and chocolate. A doctor’s wife and busy mom of two, she enjoys putting her musical theater degree to use at church and in community theater. She enjoys researching her family tree, painting her house, and baking. She loves to travel and all things Jane Austen. In her next life she’d like to be a professional organizer.
You can visit her at:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

BUXTON PEAK BOOK ONE: WHO IS IAN TAYLOR?

WHO IS IAN TAYLOR?

Author Julie L. Spencer is determined to let everyone know the answer to this question. In fact, she's created a movement to spread the word. And the answer????


 Ian Taylor is the main character in the first book of the Buxton Peak series by Julie L. Spencer, and it launches today, June 21st 2016.

Buxton Peak Book One: Who Is Ian Taylor? is the beginning of a love story that forces Ian Taylor to let go of those who use him, embrace those who love him for who he truly is, and find strength in his music when everything around him falls apart.

   From Julie:
   "I love my story and can’t wait to share it with the world! -Julie L. Spencer

   Follow the link above to attend the launch party for Buxton Peak Book One: Who Is Ian Taylor?  And also check out her first novel, The  Cove on Amazon in paperback or Kindle. Have you read The Cove? What’s your opinion?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Talented Rone-Award nominee and friend, author Lisa Swinton, is dishing up another sweet romance. I've watched this one unfold, and it may be my favorite book by this talented author. Put it on your wishlist. Due out in September!

On the Corner of Heartache Love
Cover Reveal!

Coming September 2016!

About the Book

After three years, Maren Summers is elated to finally have her dream wedding to her dream man, Kevin Bryant. In her sights is the promotion to Weddings she’s worked so hard for at the newspaper. Happily ever after is within her grasp…

Until Kevin jilts her at the altar, elopes with another woman, and becomes her boss. Devastated by the twisted turn of events Maren moves in with her best friend and notices the not-so-homeless guy on the corner, Zane Whitfield. As his heart-wrenching tale unfolds—his vow to wait a year on the corner for his lost love—Maren sees his compassionate human-interest story as her ticket away from 
Kevin, weddings, and her heartache.

But as the New Year approaches, is Maren headed for heartache again when Zane's lost love returns, or has time changed more than one heart?

About the Author

Lisa Swinton caught the romance buy early by way of fairy tales and hasn’t been able to cure it yet. She feeds her addiction with romance novels, films, and chocolate. A doctor’s wife and busy mom of two, she enjoys putting her musical theater degree to use at church and in community theater. She enjoys researching her family tree, painting her house, and baking. She loves to travel and all things Jane Austen. In her next life she’d like to be a professional organizer.
You can visit her at:

Monday, May 30, 2016

MEMORIAL DAY: "THE BOYS OF IWO JIMA

This story has been circulating around the Internet since it was written in 2000. It was written by Michael T. Powers, who is also an author with stories in 29 inspirational books including many in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and his own entitled: Heart Touchers "Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter." To preview his book or to join the thousands of world wide readers on his inspirational e-mail list, visit: http://www.HeartTouchers.com.



THE BOYS OF IWO JIMA


Each year my video production company is hired to go to Washington, D.C. with the eighth grade class from Clinton, Wisconsin where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.


On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave men raising the American flag at the top of Mount Surabachi on the Island of Iwo Jima, Japan during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, "What's your name and where are you guys from?


I told him that my name was Michael Powers and that we were from Clinton, Wisconsin.


"Hey, I'm a Cheesehead, too! Come gather around Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story."


James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, D.C. to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good-night to his dad, who had previously passed away, but whose image is part of the statue. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, D.C. but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night. When all had gathered around he reverently began to speak. Here are his words from that night:


"My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called Flags of Our Fathers which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game, a game called "War." But it didn't turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of twenty-one, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out; I say that because there are generals who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen years old. (He pointed to the statue)


You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken, and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph. A photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection, because he was scared. He was eighteen years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.
The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the "old man" because he was so old. He was already twenty-four. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, "Let's go kill the enemy" or "Let's die for our country." He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, "You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers."


The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, "You're a hero." He told reporters, "How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only twenty-seven of us walked off alive?"


So you take your class at school. 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only twenty-seven of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of thirty-two, ten years after this picture was taken.
The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky, a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, "Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night."


Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.


The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Kronkite's producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, "No, I'm sorry sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back."


My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually he was sitting right there at the table eating his Campbell's soup, but we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press. You see, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died, and when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.


When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, "I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. DID NOT come back."


So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time."


Suddenly the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero in his own eyes, but a hero nonetheless.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Nook Review: "THE LOST KING" by H. B. Moore

This fast-paced sequel to Moore’s “Finding Sheba” delivers two exciting reads in one. H.B. Moore uses her mastery of the Middle East and its culture to take readers on two heart-pounding, interwoven adventures.

Undercover agent Omar Zagouri is called in when a prominent Egyptologist is murdered and priceless scrolls are stolen that may upend the religious world. But Omar has his own concerns. His love interest, Mia Golding, is missing, and torn between duty and love, he bends and breaks rules to find Mia and the scrolls.

Another dramatic turn occurs when two prominent scholars—Farrah Samra, a professor of Egyptology, and handsome royal-blooded Dr. Kale Naji—are kidnapped. Kale has old history with Omar and Mia, and it isn’t good, but the heat turns us between he and his kidnapped colleague, and that is very good.

Woven through the book is the story of Hatshepsut, the female Pharoah who authored the missing scrolls. Torn between dual loves—power and the future pharaoh, Thut, who stands in her way—hers is s story of great love, squandered opportunities, and regret. Moore brings different but equal passion to both story lines, weaving them seamlessly.

The pacing is different between the stories, and that back and forth accentuates each. Moore’s writing style puts the reader in the action. You are breathless as you rip through pages with no break until Hatshepsut’s next chapter begins, and then your heart pounds through scenes of passion and power.

Moore’s research, as always, is first-rate. I always leave her books feeling enriched and enlightened. I’m awed by the detail, particularly in Hatshepsut’s world. Ancient Egypt comes alive and you are there.


I didn’t read “Finding Sheba” before picking up “The Lost King,” but H.B. Moore brings new readers up to speed quickly and in a satisfying way. But after reading “The Lost King,” you’ll long for more of Moore, so pick up “Finding Sheba” first.

Friday, May 20, 2016

INTERVIEW with AWARD_WINNING AUTHOR SARAH CREVISTON LEE



Sarah Creviston Lee is one of the very talented authors I get to brainstorm with in my critique group. Her debut novel, "The War between Us," is historical fiction with a most unique take on World War II. Sarah won the very prestigious Historical Novel Society's Editor's Choice Award.

Sarah is a woman of many talents, but today we'll focus on her writing. So Sarah, have you always wanted to be a writer?

Pretty much! I distinctly remember deciding that in first grade. As a prize for our writing, we earned these blank, white hardback books to write in and my imagination took flight. I was in love!

Tell us a little bit about your new book, and what inspired it?

The War Between Us, is set in WWII six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It’s the story of a Korean American young man from California who gets stranded in a Midwestern town on his way to DC to live with his uncle. He faces a lot of prejudice and violence because most people believe him to be Japanese. He’s befriended by a local girl whom he eventually falls in love with. The story delves not only into the Korean American wartime experience, but the consequences of a cross-cultural relationship.

My book was inspired by a couple things. I enjoy watching Korean dramas and I love studying about WWII. Eventually, my mind met in the middle, and I wondered what Korean Americans did during the war. Research didn’t take long at first, because there wasn’t much to find. As a historian, this was really thrilling. It’s so hard to find a topic in WWII that hasn’t been written about. As I had already fallen in love with the Korean culture, knowing that their story had yet to be told in historical fiction form was just the motivation I needed to write their story.
A further inspiration were the lives of my Great Aunt Elaine and Uncle Harry Chan. Aunt Elaine married a Chinese man, Harry Chan, in the 1930s and doing research on them and their unique relationship brought a lot of emotional depth to my story.  I am so grateful to have had that as a muse. 

Tell us about your other projects.

The War Between Us is my only published work at this time, but I’m currently working on four other stories! One is a modern-day paranormal romance, one is a modern sci-fi/fantasy, another is a historical fiction/fantasy, and the final one is a sequel of sorts to The War Between Us, though the main characters will be different. 

You're a busy wife and mom. What inspires you, and motivates you to write?

A lot of things in life inspire me. Sometimes it’s as basic as something I’m curious about, a strange situation, or an interesting way of seeing the world. What motivates me to write is my own deep desire to express myself and to communicate with others. I love being able to share my thoughts with the hope of inspiring others or getting them to think about something in a different way. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor?

Right now, I’d have to say that I really admire Jonathan Stroud and Sarah Sundin. They both write in a way that amazes and inspires me. Stroud has published a fantastic paranormal fantasy series that is so unique and clever which I really seek and hope to emulate in my own creativity. Sarah Sundin is an incredible historical fiction writer who weaves in amazing historical detail that leaves me in awe. I really aspire to that in my own historical fiction, though I have a long way to go!

My writer’s group is my collective mentor. They are a talented bunch of ladies and I really respect their ideas and opinions. I feel lucky to have their expertise to draw from!

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Is music playing? What surrounds you?

When I wrote as a teenager, I usually wrote in bed, or at a desk in school when I should have been paying attention in class. It hasn’t changed at all! I still write in bed or at a desk at the library when I go out alone a couple nights a week. I always have music playing and that is a big part of my writing research – finding music that sets the mood or speaks to the emotion of the scenes I’m writing. I find it to be a great inspiration and motivator, and besides that, it helps me focus. I’ve found this has a subconscious benefit as well – when I hear those particular songs, I’m immediately placed in my story and the emotion of that moment I was writing. It’s an awesome trigger to kick-start my writing if I’ve been away from it for awhile.

Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing?

Oh man, yeah! Some women eat chocolate or ice cream when they’re down, but I watch movies. I love watching a lot of BBC shows or mini-series, historical dramas or Korean dramas. My favorites are North & South, Persuasion, Nicholas Nickelby, My Love From Another Star, Pinnochio, and Rooftop Prince. I’d have to say that the emotions behind the stories are great motivations for me. For instance, ‘Pinnochio’ is a Korean Drama that deals with corruption in journalism as well as the power the ties of family hold. It’s such a gripping story, and I just relish stuff like that! It’s great fuel for my writing.

How has being published changed your life?

Well, it’s made it a bit more stressful! Haha! But in all honesty, it’s a bit surreal. I’ve wanted to be published since I was a girl. To have this finally happen is such a humbling feeling. It makes me so happy to have the privilege of sharing my writing with others and to hear that they enjoy it! I’m naturally an introvert, but being published has helped me open up a little more and have the chance to talk to them about a topic I love and am passionate about. 

Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.

Yes! I have a free e-book offer going on from May 27th to May 30th found on Amazon. I have two blogs my author blog: http://sarahcrevistonlee.blogspot.com and my history blog at http://history-preserved.blogspot.com


So, my “I’ve made it” dream is when I see someone waiting for a flight, holding my book in their hands, and I walk up and offer to sign their copy. What’s yours?


It’s a bit wild, but my “I’ve made it” dream is to have a book of mine featured in one of Diane Rehms’s book review sections on the radio. It would be awesome if The War Between Us made that happen, because it would be amazing if more people could hear about and discuss Asian American wartime experiences. 

You can pick up a copy of this wonderful book here.