Review: The Center of the Storm by Ann Simko

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Title: The Center of the Storm
Author: Ann Simko
Format: Digital ebook
Page Count: 210 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 16+

Warning: Parents may decide that they want to read this book first because it does deal with sensitive issues such as cutting, abuse, and suicide.

Summary: This story was written in the first person.

Dodge Landry receives a phone call from his mother in the middle of the night. She’s calling about Storm. Dodge is going to take his son Christian with him. Chris is fifteen and has the typical teenager attitude – especially when the parent wakes them up early.

We learn that Dodge and Chris both have something in common. They were both in the foster care system. Both of their backgrounds were almost similar. Dodge and his wife, Anna, have adopted Chris. And Dodge is hoping to use this trip home as a bonding experience.

Kate and her husband, Mike Landry, own a horse farm which is located in Pennsylvania. As we read this story, we learn that Dodge was just like Chris when he was around the same age. He also had an attitude about him. They also had something else in common as well which you will find out as you read more of the story.

Ann seamlessly moves between the past and the present. The reader will not get lost as she transitions back and forth. She’ll also have you reminiscing about your own attitude and behavior at that age. If you or your child is an animal lover, this story may also pull at your heartstrings.

This is a story that any teenager should read. It may give them a better understanding of why some people are the way they are. It may also help in discussing what they are feeling – what they don’t think they can put into words. It may also help a parent in trying to understand a troubled teen. Maybe it’s a story that both parent and child can sit down and discuss together.

Maybe this is a story that you can relate to – maybe you have personally been touched by some of the issues that Ann covers. She also shows how cruel some people can be. Some scenes may reflect what you and your parent went through during some of your rough times.

Ann writes one scene between Kate and Dodge – typical mother and child stuff. And as I’m reading the scene, I can almost hear my own mother saying the exact same thing. Then in the next breath, Ann has you almost in tears. Then there’s another scene between Dodge and Mike and Ann has me almost in tears again. Plus I’m back to reminiscing about growing up in my household – me, my three brothers, and my parents.

When I first saw that it covered some sensitive subjects, I was not sure that this was a book that I was going to like. I went into reading this book with some preconceived notions. Ann totally changed my mind. By the time I finished this book I was so glad that I was given this chance to review it. With students getting out school for the summer, this is the perfect time for them to sit down, read it and then discuss it with you. They may even want to read more of her work after they are finished.

Buy: The Center of the Storm

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

Review: Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace by Eric Wight

by Gangplank Gigi, guest reviewer

Title: Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace
Author: Eric Wight
Format: Kindle ebook
Page Count: 96 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Summary: Frankie Pickle has a secret life inside his imagination (this aspect is in a graphic novel format). Frankie draws all over his math test as his imagination leads him, but he is given an extra few days to re-take it. Over those days, he is so busy he doesn’t have time to do any studying, but he finds out that his parents have been teaching him math through the things he does in life (such as baking with his father.)

Why I started this book:

I read this book to my 6.5 year old grand daughter after reading it for myself. It was bought on my Kindle.


  • This book is a good one for boys, because it is about Frankie.
  • He happily passes the re-take, even if he still uses his imagination.


  • It was very difficult to read the graphic novel portions on the Kindle. It was black and white both on Kindle and on iPad. (Probably because I bought it as a Kindle ebook versus through the iPad store.) The graphic sections are much easier to read on iPad.

Buy: Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace

Rating: 3 Treasure Chests

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My Top Five Inspirations for Writing My First Zombie Story with Pippa Jay

My Top Five Inspirations for Writing My First Zombie Story with Pippa Jay

  1. Warm Bodies. I can totally and completely blame this for starting me off on zombies. I’ve never been a fan of horror, and if I had to name my top fear in horror it would be zombies. Oh, okay, I admit it – number one would be the Alien. But zombies come a too-close-for-comfort second! Or did.Thanks to the cuteness and humour of the Warm Bodies film (and the beautifully lyrical writing in the book by Isaac Marion), I became a convert. I won’t be watching World War Z or Night of the Living Dead any time, but a Warm Bodies sequel or something along similar lines will definitely get me watching.
  2. Sir Terry Pratchett. When I said I hated zombies, I meant the classic horror film, Hollywood variety. Anyone who has read any of the Nightwatch books by Terry Pratchett will be familiar with the somewhat tragic figure of zombie Reg Shoe. Or maybe you know Baron Samedi from Witches Abroad or the recently deceased wizard WindlePoons from Reaperman. And you’ll know that these aren’t the moaning, lurching brain-eaters more familiar on the big screens. These are more the original form of zombies – rather sad figures dragged back from death either because of something left undone in their former life, summoned back to seek revenge, or simply left behind when Death hung up his scythe and retired. Or maybe you know the zombies in Piers Anthony’s Xanth books. These are more the type of zombies that I love. Still mostly the people they were in life, but unable to rest, often not by their own choice. It was researching this old mythology that set me writing the kind of zombie story that probably isn’t so well known to zombie devotees.
  3. Music. This is always a big influence in everything I write. It can affect the feel or tone of a story, or lyrics can inspire a title or story idea. For Restless In Peaceville, I had a couple of tracks from Warm Bodies, but mostly a lot of Linkin Park, plus an album by Dead By Sunrise, a band fronted by Linkin Park’s singer Chester Bennington.

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The Little Things Give You Away was one of my favourite LP tracks, and one that would have fitted right in on Warm Bodies!

  1. Louisiana. Just after seeing Warm Bodies, and comparing the Hollywood zombies to those I’d met in other books, I got curious about the whole mythology and started out reading it up on Wikipedia. Then I got into a discussion on Facebook about it, and someone mentioned Louisiana voodoo. I was hooked! Not only did it lead me off into yet more interesting research, but it gave me the perfect setting for my story (even though I knew nothing about it and have never been there). Fortunately for me I have several friends who live in or near there, or were born and brought up there. Together with my research, their feedback helped me shape a location that otherwise I could only visit via the internet and Google maps. And now, thanks to my husband’s interest in books set in Louisiana, we’re actually in the process of planning a holiday there!
  2. Curiosity. Well, if I hadn’t been curious about why I’d encountered such different kinds of zombies, I wouldn’t have gone looking for the answers and got so completely enthralled by the whole concept. The research was a ton of fun, and although this was the hardest book I’ve ever written, it’s also the one I’m most proud of. I learned so many new things and found out what I can write if I challenge myself.

So, have any of these things inspired you to write something outside of your comfort zone?

I’d love to hear from you.



RestlessinPeaceville_200x300Welcome to Peaceville, population 2067 and rising…from the grave…

Luke Chester has had enough. He’s the school geek, the girls laugh at him, he’s lost his dead-end job at the pizza place, and in the midst of the world’s messiest divorce his parents don’t even know he exists. An overdose of his mom’s tranquilizers and a stomach full of whiskey should solve all his problems…

But they don’t. Instead, Luke finds himself booted out of the afterlife for not dying a natural death, with nowhere to go but back to his recently vacated corpse and reality. How the hell is he going to pass for one of the living without someone trying to blow his brains out for being one of the undead?

And it just gets worse. He’s got to fight his own desperate craving to consume the living, evade the weird supernatural hunter who’s having a field day with the new undeads rising, and there’s this creepy black shadow following him around. Add to that the distraction of female fellow undead Annabelle burning to avenge her own murder, and clearly there’s no rest for the wicked. Jeez, all he wanted to do was R.I.P.

Buy: Restless In Peaceville

Sunrise by Scott J Abel

Sunrise by Scott J Abel

People often ask what inspired me to write a novel. I’d already been a successful teacher, coach, and college administrator, but I didn’t become a published author until the age of forty (not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you). But I always answer the question with the same two words: Stephanie. Meyer.

Yes, I owe my writing “career” to Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight saga. I hadn’t read the books, but my wife and I saw the first Twilight movie when it came out just to see what all the hype was about. After the movie ended, I turned to my wife and naively said, “This was based on a bestseller? I can do that.” After all, every Barnes and Noble bookstore was just constantly filled from floor to ceiling with books. So, apparently anyone can write a novel, right? I mean how hard could it be?

I quickly learned the lesson of “look before you leap.” I knew nothing about the craft of writing fiction, and I cringe at the thought of my first draft that I sent to agents and publishers in those early days. After countless rejections, a profound thought occurred to me: maybe it’s me and not them.

So I began to study the craft. I read books on character development, deep points of view, emotion beats, and the subtleties of dialogue. I joined a critique group of authors and editors.

Over time my writing got better, much better. And along the way I found what works for me: writing in the pre-dawn darkness at my kitchen table with a steaming cup of coffee and my iPod. Coffee and music are non-negotiable. Have to have them. In addition to the caffeine jolt, I’ve found that the right music can really help with the flow of writing. If I’m writing an action scene with some great conflict, then I’m amping it up with “Let the Sparks Fly” and “War of Change” by Thousand Foot Krutch. Those songs give me a total adrenaline rush and really help me feel the actions of my characters. For romantic scenes, there’s nothing better than “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star and The Sunday’s cover of “Wild Horses.” If I’m trying to tackle a difficult, emotional scene, I’ve found nothing works better than instrumental movie soundtracks. My personal favorites are “That Next Place” by Thomas Newman and “Let Me Sign” by Robert Pattinson (yes, THE Robert Pattinson from Twilight). And last but not least, if I’m writing a scene in which my really cool villain, Seth, is making an appearance, then there’s only one song that works – “Black” by Kari Kimmel.

So, after five long, humbling, arduous years later I’m finally a published author. Thanks, Stephanie Meyer.



Scott works in state government and is the author of several short stories and the recently published young adult paranormal romance novel, Sunrise. He lives in the suburbs of Austin with his wife and two precocious daughters – who enthusiastically assist him in his search for the perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

Scott can be contacted through his blog at


Sunrise-200x300Eighteen-year old Parker, big brother, and high school quarterback, dreams of glory on the football field. But on the night of the shooting, his entire world shatters. In a chilling span of sixty seconds, a mass tragedy wreaks havoc upon his life, family, and community.

Although hailed a hero, Parker is horrorstruck to discover an incident from his past was the motive for the killings and that he was the intended target. When someone threatens to get the one that got away, Parker finds himself hunted. Help comes from an unexpected source…an angel named Marie.

A spunky, impulsive guardian, Marie is dedicated to saving Parker at all costs. When confronted by a sinister nemesis who covets Parker’s soul, a desperate struggle is waged over Parker’s fate. With time running out, Marie must face her growing, but secret affections for Parker that she can no longer ignore. Affections that will force her to make the ultimate decision—sacrifice herself and all that she believes, or lose Parker to the darkness forever.

Buy: Sunrise


Philip Hoy, author of The Revenge Artist

Queens of the Jungle: Re-Appropriating Symbols of Masculinity in YA Literature

Symbolically, animals play an important role in The Revenge Artist, and one especially reoccurring animal symbol in the book is that of the lion.

The symbol of the lion is introduced early on in the story when Evelyn’s art teacher, Ms. Shipley, gives the class a presentation on prehistoric cave paintings. Evelyn is captivated by the images, especially those of the lions leaping across the ceiling of the cave. Even more so, Evelyn is empowered by the idea that the cave painters were not painting pictures of past hunts, but using their artistic abilities to influence the success of future ones. “The hunters hunted, but these cave artists had another job,” Ms. Shipley explains. “They could see the future and they could make it happen.”

Symbols are such powerful storytelling devices because they utilize a common language of imagery, emotion, and understanding that can often communicate volumes with only a single word or phrase. Just as effectively, symbols can convey negative biases and reinforce gender stereotypes without a reader always consciously aware of the messages being sent.

Traditionally, lions are symbols of power and authority because of their dominance in the animal kingdom; however, because it is the male lion’s role to protect the pride while the females hunt, the lion is often viewed as a symbol of masculinity. As a result, such lion-like qualities as strength and courage are reinforced as exclusively male attributes. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Evelyn is attracted to the symbol of the lion. She is drawn to these lion-like qualities in others and she aspires to them herself. This becomes evident in her art, in her female role models, and in her choice of friends.

It is not surprising then, that when the students are asked to paint self-portraits using the theme of masks, Evelyn chooses the image of a little girl wearing a plastic lion’s head, “standing alone in a field of grass, barefoot and wearing a sun dress. Her arms are raised in the air and her little fists are curled like cat paws.” The image celebrates her femininity, while at the same time revealing her inner strength and courage. She is delicate and powerful, gentle and ferocious. As conflicts between Evelyn and her bullies escalate, she struggles with these two sides of herself. And as Evelyn attempts to find her balance, the painting will go on to include the disemboweled corpse of a boy wearing a zebra mask, and eventually an angry mob of villagers with torches and pitchforks.

Hopefully, the lion symbolism in The Revenge Artist manages to undermine some of those gender stereotypes about what girls can and can’t be and maybe even openly challenge them a bit. It is Evelyn’s fiercely protective friend Karen that is probably the most outwardly lion-like character in the story. When the girls decide to venture out from their usual lunch spot behind the art rooms and brave the main food court, Karen quickly puts one particular sexual harasser in his place by verbally emasculating him with a very explicit insult traditionally—and anatomically—reserved for the boys. In the jungle that is sometimes high school, Karen definitely shows herself to be one of the dominant animals.




TheRevengeArtist_600x900Evelyn Hernandez is a high school junior who reads Shakespeare for fun, sews her own dresses, and keeps a sketch journal of her daily life. When varsity quarterback Garvey Valenzuela breaks her heart, she sends him to the emergency room with a busted hand.

Add black magic to her résumé.

The Revenge Artist is the story of a bullied teen who embarks on a dark journey of revenge when she discovers she has the power to make bad things happen by drawing them. The novel explores the emotional pain, isolation, and self-hatred caused by bullying and cyber-bullying in particular as it follows the self-destructive path taken by one teen attempting to defend herself from bullies.

Evelyn is temporarily empowered by her ability to hurt others, “Don’t you know? I’m a witch… a real, honest to God, black-hearted, evil witch!” and this is what keeps her from seeing that her true power comes from her loyal and caring nature, the love and support of her friends and family, and most of all, her intelligence and creativity.

Buy: The Revenge Artist

The Vengeful by Chantel Fourie

Writer’s block and worldly distractions:

I’m probably the wrong person to be asked about writer’s block, because I’m one of those lucky people who rarely go through it(Yay me!).My problem, however, is distractions. I get distracted pretty easily. That’s why I had to move all my writing to a Tablet–free from worldly evils. Just the slightest thought of friends playing a game without me, anime updates, chats (ooh, a message *reads*),would get me to minimize or even close my writing documents. As a writer, it’s not easy to stay focused. You get those days when you would do anything not to write–when even cleaning the house sounds like fun (uh, yes, guilty). That’s when you need to prioritize your life and ask yourself how much you really want to be an author.

Now where was I… Oh yes, writer’s block! (See? Distractions are evil!) Even though I don’t get writer’s block as much as many other writers, I know how frustrating it can be. Here’s what I do: I simply write something else. When my mind hits a blank on one scene, I move on to the next project. That’s right. It’s easier having a few ideas than keeping to one story at a time. And what happens to the page I struggle with? Well, normally while I’m busy with another book or doing something else, an idea will suddenly hit me and I’ll jot it down before I forget (or get distracted… ahem).

Here are a few tips from my point of view:

1:            I’m not about to tell you to set a specific time of day to handle all your writing, because let’s face it… There will be days when you are busy and wouldn’t be able to make the exact time. And then it will be so convenient just to skip the writing part for the day entirely. Bad writer, bad! If you want to take writing seriously then you will have to set a daily writing goal for yourself. Set a minimum word limit and write it at your own pace during the day. Stick to it no matter what!  Don’t listen to your deceivious mind telling you of all the awesome things you could rather be doing. Decide now. Do you want your mind to be the hero that help you write or that sneaky villain always plotting to keep you from your goals?

2:            Find something that will motivate you. I have a little to do list RPG on my tablet that rewards me for completing tasks during the day, and takes back experience when skipping them. I’m not a person for routines, but as a gamer, this is kind of fun and a motivational way to see what I get done during the day, at which aspect of my life I’m lacking, and where I’m making progress. What’s your motivation?

3:            Don’t let writer’s block get you down. Keep an open mind. Ideas are everywhere, just waiting for you to discover them.

4:            Read. Never stop reading. As my second language, English isn’t easy to master. But even if it’s your home language(lucky devils), I’m sure you need to work just as hard. Unless you read and learn from others, you will never get better.

5:            When all else fails… Just sit down and get started. That’s the hardest part, really. Let the words create their own story. Even if it’s just a bunch of random junk, you can always go back and break down the sentences, smooth them out, build them better and more defined, and eventually they will turn into something amazing.(Inspiration from endless world building with George.)


Thank you for reading! Below is a blurb of my novella, The Vengeful. Enjoy!


The Vengeful-200x300In a world where vengeful creatures battle humans, knowing who to trust could be the difference between losing his brother and saving the human race.

When Zack ends up in an alternate dimension and loses his brother to the Vengeful, the last thing he expects is that one of the soul-seeking creatures would save his life.

Vale, a Vengeful with human capabilities, needs his help to retrieve an orb from the last remaining human settlement. In return, he promises to help Zack save his brother and take them back to their own world.

In the settlement, he learns the truth about the Vengeful and the orb’s power. But it is only when he meets Shiro, the human leader, that Zack begins to have doubts. Can he trust Vale to keep his promise, or should he believe Shiro instead?

The fate of the human race rests on his choice.

Buy: The Vengeful


Chantel Fourie is a YA author, specializing in Fantasy and Paranormal fiction. She lives in Despatch, a quiet town in South Africa.

Since a young age, she has treasured books and spent many afternoons at the local library. Even after the librarians suggested the adult section, she kept loyal to the Young Adult shelves.

Her first novella, The Vengeful, is published with Lycaon Press. She is currently working on various short stories and novellas, including the sequel of The Vengeful. When she is not writing, she is most likely absorbed in a world of fiction or playing online computer games with her friends.

You can find her on Twitter @darkwrld1021