Friday, May 22, 2015

Counterfeit Youth / Narbeh Avanessian

Reviewed by: Michael Thal

Genre: Science Fiction

Approximate word count: Availability
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: YES Paper: NO
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Graduating from Pepperdine University with a Masters in Business Administration in 2012, Narbeh Avanessian became the Product Marketing Manager at Digital Extremes, a Los Angeles firm. Avanessian enjoys his downtime writing science fiction and studying video games.


Alexander the Great is said to have uncovered a healing “river of paradise” in the fourth century B.C. Juan Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth in Florida circa 1474. Throughout history man has been seeking the key to immortality. Thus is the premise of Counterfeit Youth.

By the tender age of 18, Jackson Riley had witnessed the early deaths of his parents. The multi-billion dollar heir of a major corporation became obsessed in finding the secret of longevity. However, once he went public with his scientific breakthrough, the bedlam began.

Narbeh Avanessian takes readers from Jackson’s early days in 2036 as he faced his father’s battle with lung cancer to 2052 when privately funded researchers studying Jackson’s blood and DNA uncover the secret Alexander the Great and Ponce de Leon couldn’t find.


Counterfeit Youth is well written and edited. The premise of the story held this reader’s interest from beginning to end. The two areas of weakness in this novella were character dialogue and character development.

Too often the dialogue seemed forced and unnatural. Jackson Riley’s obsession, a kind of madness, was told to the reader, not shown. Girlfriend Nicole wasn’t three-dimensional and felt like a stick-character. When Nicole returned after leaving Riley 14 years later, her words and reaction to Jackson’s success didn’t follow her behavior. This reader perceived her to be a deeper character, but the author neglected to bring that out in dialogue and storyline.

However, the plot was compelling, the page-count around 70 pages made this novella a worthwhile reading experience.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Dwarf and the Twins-Snow White and Rose Red/ Katharina Gerlach

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Fairy Tale/ Fantasy/ Romance/ Young Adult

Approximate word count: 15-16,000 words

Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
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Katharina Gerlach was born in Germany in 1968. She and her three younger brothers grew up in the middle of a forest in the heart of the Luneburgian Heather. After romping through the forest with imagination as her guide, the tomboy learned to read and disappeared into magical adventures, past times or eerie fairytale woods… For a while, reality interfered with her writing but after finishing a degree in forestry and a PhD in Science she returned to her vocation. She likes to write Fantasy, Science Fiction and Historical Novels for all age groups.

At present, she is writing at her next project in a small house near Hildesheim, Germany, where she lives with her husband, three children and a dog.”

Learn more about Katharina Gerlach on her website or follow her on Facebook.


When Martin helps a pregnant woman to flee from the king’s men, he doesn’t know that the twins she bears will change his solitary life forever. What if the Brother's Grimm misunderstood the dwarf in the original tale of ‘Snow White and Rose Red’?

The book includes a bonus story and the original fairy tale.”


Who doesn’t love retold fairy tales? I love the imaginative way Katharina Gerlach told this story. With an evil greedy King slowly destroying his kingdom and his fairy godmother. You don’t remember a fairy godmother in this tale? Well there’s one in this story and she plays an important role. Many years ago she gave Martin a magical beard, and he has used it well to save his hide many times.

When Martin, our dwarf in this story, sees Adele, quite pregnant with twins, running from the King’s search party he hides her with his magic. They have just killed her husband. Here she gives birth to two girls and she asks the dwarf to name them. He names them after the two rose bushes he finds the next morning. He pricks one finger of each baby and imbues the rose bushes with magic to protect the girls and Adele. He plants the roses outside their cave home to hide the entrance. He names the girls Rose Red and Snow White.

Martin can see the King’s son following in his father’s footsteps unless he can intervene and show him his father’s true character. This is where Ms. Gerlach spins her version of the girls growing up and Adele’s late night talks with Martin. It’s enthralling and magical. Kids will love this retelling as much as adults.

This book also includes an extra story, Snow White’s Father, which is a little more closely related to Disney’s version of Snow White, but with an interesting twist. It took me a second or two to wrap my head around this version because my mind hadn’t made the transition to the new story. Snow White is only the nickname given to Princess Anna by the seven dwarves. I had to laugh-out-loud at the last sentence of this story. :D I was also pleased that the Katharina Gerlach included The Original: Snow White and Rose Red by the Brothers Grimm at the end.


The Dwarf and the Twins: Snow White and Rose Red is Book 1 of the series Treasures Retold. I think all three stories in this novelette could be shared with young children.

Format/Typo Issues:

I noticed no proofing or formatting issues.

Rating: ***** Five stars

#Free for your #Kindle, 5/21/2015

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.

The Picture of Cool by Laurie Boris

Dead(ish) by Naomi Kramer

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, May 20, 2015

Turn Me / Cabrina Claire

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Erotic Romance/New Adult/Contemporary Fiction

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

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


Cabrina Claire grew up reading and began to pursue her writing career in earnest after her children were born. Before that, she dabbled in various cubicle-related jobs, learned how dirty other people’s laundry can get, and was hired as an au pair, then as a winery hostess.

Her one constant love, stories, has carried her through a unique life full of its own entertaining subplots. Cabrina lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family and the fluffiest dog you’ve ever seen.”

For more, visit Ms Claire's website or like her page on Facebook.


Visual artist Victoria Thursday is desperate for a muse to inspire her next project, until a chance encounter with the devastatingly handsome owner of a Pearl District ballet company turns her head. Tall, sculpted, and incredibly flexible, Seth Valenza embraces his physicality in a way Tory has never known. He possesses such skill and confidence in every move that Tory is pulled body and soul into his embrace.

Captured by his wild grace and sensual abandon, she longs to trust him. But if their complex relationship shatters, both her career and her heart will, too.”


Victoria Thursday’s preferred medium is clay. It’s been over a year since she has sculpted in that medium though. Ever since she applied to join the Rose City Artists, Miss Gentrifex, her benefactor, has been requesting specific projects from her for application into the co-op. Portland’s elite were invited to her art showings, all of her pieces involved various aspects of sexual poses and expression. Tory has been so wrapped up in these projects that she put her own sexuality aside.

Now that she has gained membership as an exhibiting member of Rose City Artists she is emotionally drained and has lost her inspiration to create. She has thirty days to submit an idea for a new show and she needs a new muse. She thinks she may have found one in a ballet dancer who owns his own theater company, Seth Valenza. He is tall, virile, and devastating handsome. Tory is totally captivated by him and his dance moves.

Tory is more insecure than her character lets on and she overthinks everything. The story is told through Tory’s eyes and the reader gets to spend a lot of time in her head. We see her obsessive behavior up-close and she tends to hold onto things that are outside of herself for inspiration. I am not sure if this is artistic or autistic behavior to be honest. The sex scenes between Seth and Tory are hot and graphic. Tory is sure she has found her new muse. However, Seth is busy preparing for his own opening show and doesn’t have extra time for Tory at the present. When Seth asks for time to devote to his show, Tory is over-whelmed with her insecurities. There is a bit of a cliffhanger as Tory is devastated with the fact that she may be losing her muse and what affect that will have on her career.


Turn Me is the first book in the Shattering Thursday series.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on an advance copy and I can’t gauge the final product in this area.

Rating: **** Four stars

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beauty and Chaos / Michael Pronko

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Travel Essays

Approximate word count: 40-45,000 words

Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: YES Paper: YES
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A native of Kansas City, Michael Pronko has lived in Tokyo for fifteen years.


The largest city in the world teems with chaotic energy and serene, human-scale beauty

Want to know the real city? Writing about Tokyo for over 15 years, essayist and professor Michael Pronko opens up Tokyo life and reveals what’s beneath the gleaming, puzzling exterior of the biggest city in the world.

Whether contemplating Tokyo’s odd-shaped bonsai houses, endless walls of bottles, pachinko parlors, chopstick ballet or the perilous habit of running for trains, the 45 essays in Beauty and Chaos explore Tokyo from inside to reveal the city’s deeper meanings and daily pleasures. In turns comic, philosophic, descriptive and exasperated, Pronko’s essays have been popular with Japanese readers for more than a decade.”


These essays were originally written in Japanese and published in Newsweek Japan for a Japanese audience. Describing these as “travel essays” would probably seem strange to that original audience, yet once the author translates them to his native English for a non-Japanese audience, this label fits. As with any good travel writing, Beauty and Chaos explores what is different about or makes a particular place unique. Many of these essays look at something the author has noticed, often with his theory as to why Tokyo has this particular idiosyncrasy, that while sometimes obscure (indicating where blossoming cherry trees might be found at the right time of year on otherwise typical maps), says something about the city and its culture.

What stood out for me when taking these essays as a whole is not just how unique Tokyo is when compared to other cities, but how different Tokyo is from itself. I’m thinking specifically of the contrasts and sometimes contradictory faces of the city, which is captured perfectly in the title, Beauty and Chaos. An entertaining and insightful read that I enjoyed much more than I anticipated.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Monday, May 18, 2015

10 Things Your Exes Can Teach You About Love, a guest post from Cabrina Claire, author of Turn Me

1. People pretend even with the ones they love

We all want to be the best versions of ourselves, but sometimes we rush those versions too fast and end up faking things we can’t pull off. Is he really a world-famous surfer? Is his uncle really That One Guy from That One Show? Is his love real, or is this all some long con? If our gut is trying to tell us something, we should listen. Ain’t nobody got time for fakery.

2. Your comfort zone isn’t always your friend

Sometimes in a failed relationship, no one sacrifices. Sometimes we’re both too afraid to step in a new direction, even for someone we care about. And sometimes it’s not him, it’s you. If you have hard borders on some part of your life, maybe it’s time to take a good look at why. Then you’ll know whether it’s worth taking the risk of something new when the next guy comes along.

3. Sacrifice is not the same as compromise

We’ve all done it: sacrificed something we loved for someone we loved. We spent an entire week at Christmas with his uptight, overly conservative family. We got the implants he insisted we needed to be the girl he wanted. We didn’t take that dream job because he got Jealous Face every time we talked about working in the city. But compromises are two-way streets, where we work with someone who’s willing to work with us. Where discussion takes the place of demand. And we know now which we want.

4. You can’t make people love you the way you want them to

Wishing and hoping can’t change another person’s heart or mind. For the most part, we’re all pretty set in our ways by the time we survive our teen years, and that includes the way we see love. Dragging a man to the Renaissance Faire won’t make him more romantic, and no star in the sky will make our cubicle-farm workplace-romance stalker less creepy.

5. Don’t rush into family connections

It’s complicated enough dealing with a new relationship. But what if his sister goes into business with our brother? Or his divorced mom starts batting her false eyelashes at our perma-bachelor uncle? The more ties between our families, the messier it gets when our relationship breaks up. We’ll keep seeing him here and there, and it’s just awkward for everyone involved. Lesson learned!

6. Life has worse disasters than a breakup

Breakups hurt. Sometimes they hurt for a very long time. But there are worse things. Breakups don’t give you a sudden food allergy to your favorite mochaccino. They don’t run over your cat on a foggy morning just as you’re leaving for a job interview. They don’t fire you for being one minute late. They don’t drop your elevator thirty floors and then strand you inside all weekend. You hurt. But you could be hurting a lot worse. Perspective is good.

7. The best thing for you can be letting go

Remember how miserable you were during your last sucky relationship? And how much better you felt once you were free of it? Like unhooking that too-tight bra at the end of the day and throwing on a silk cami. Or nothing at all. You were free to be yourself, and free to find a better match. And so was he. Don’t prolong what isn’t working; you’re only keeping both of you from finding a more comfy match.

8. You don’t have to hate them

We’re supposed to hate our exes, right? Isn’t that a rule? Not always. Sometimes we need to part ways with a genuinely decent person, or someone who taught us a valuable lesson or skill that made our lives easier. That’s worthy of gratitude, even if we keep it to ourselves.

9. No one is The One

You’ve broken up. It’s done. He wasn’t The One. But if he wasn’t a perfect match, then you weren’t either. And that’s okay.

10. You are complete

Someone who isn’t there when you need them to be really lets you down. But he also gives you the opportunity to find out how strong you are on your own. You can do more than you think. Because you’re strong enough on your own power.

Get your copy of Turn Me, Cabrina's latest book, from Amazon US, Amazon UK, or Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Welcome to Groove House / Jill Meniketti

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Satire

Approximate word count: 115-120,000 words

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


As the manager of her husband’s rock band, Y&T, Jill Meniketti has a unique perspective on the world of rock and roll.

For more, visit her website.


Lock up your grandmothers! . . . When rock's former biggest rebel loses everything, he's forced to call in favors from all the rock star royalty whom he'd burned his entire career.

With a trashed comeback tour, creditors on his ass, no record deal, a health issue he doesn't even know how to spell, and nothing but a few bucks from the sale of his last guitar, Mike Mays is destitute for the first time in his rock star life. He's forced to crash his estranged, uptight daughter's tidy world, and when she kicks him out, to couch-surf halfway around the world at a ragtag farmhouse in Tuscany called Groove House--home to a pack of aging ex-rock stars, who aren't thrilled to see him.

Mike creates chaos at every turn, bulldozing everyone in his path. His raunchy offstage antics snagged headlines back in the '70s and '80s, but can the aging bad boy bluff his way out of his worst bungle yet and actually stage a comeback?”


Anyone who even half-heartedly follows the books I review could have predicted I’d jump all over this book as soon as I saw it. I’m a sucker for novels that somehow tie into the music business. The characters in Groove House, especially the protagonist, Mike Mays, are satires and reflect the worst of what you might imagine from an aging rock star who once was and now only has been.

There are two main story threads woven together to form Mike’s story. The first is reconnecting with his estranged daughter and forming a relationship with his grandson who prior to this didn’t even know Mike existed. The second is the story of “Groove House,” an Italian villa populated by other rock stars now past their prime. This second story line was entertaining, although I’ll admit to groaning when I realized it was probably heading toward the clich├ęd “let’s put on a show” resolution. The first story thread, however, redeemed the second, with its exploration of the consequence of decisions, the importance of family, and a reminder that things aren’t always as they seem.


Adult language. These characters are rock stars, not priests. What else would you expect?

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars