Sunday, December 13, 2015

I Love My Pet Elephant

Author Lauren Micchelli dedicates this children’s book to her brother Pete, whom she considers one of her best friends, and sports illustrations by Thomas Barnett. Like many children’s stories, the narrative is in rhyme, with an ABCB pattern retained throughout the book. The narration is first-person, with the female protagonist never given a name, although that the author names the titular pet elephant Pete like her brother hints that she herself might be the narrator. Following every stanza is an illustration depicting the story’s action, the first featuring the protagonist upon Pete’s trunk in her likely backyard.

Pete can fly, as well, by flapping his ears, and has a diet similar to humans aside from the typical pachyderm courses of leaves and peanuts. Whenever she bathes the elephant, moreover, he does the same in return, the respective visual indicating that she’s not annoyed at all by a shower from Pete’s trunk. The narrator, after school, which is not depicted in the story, simultaneously snacks and rides Pete upon returning home. The girl likes to ride bikes as well, and attempts to get Pete to do so, although he proves too massive for a bicycle. The narrator additionally enjoys tire swinging and swimming, claiming that Pete looks cool when wearing sunglasses in the pool.

The narrative concludes with the narrator’s claim that she and Pete love sledding after a snowfall, loves sleeping upon his head while he slumbers in her bed, and that, being her best friend, she loves to see him whenever she wakes, the final illustration depicting her giving the pachyderm a kiss. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable, lighthearted story that children will be certain to enjoy, although it does somewhat derive from the Disney film Dumbo, and brings to mind the episode of The Simpsons where Bart temporarily receives a pachyderm companion. Even so, this children’s book is more or less ideal to those used to rhythmic juvenile tales.

Author's Bio:

Lauren Micchelli is a newly published author, having penned her first book in 2014. She has since continued the Snootzytime Adventures of Maddie and Murphy series, and went on to publish A Day Of What Ifs and I Love My Pet Elephant.

Impressively, she was the recipient of New Book Award 2015 for I Love My Pet Elephant.

​Lauren Micchelli grew up in West Caldwell, New Jersey and currently resides in northern New Jersey.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Thread That Binds

This piece of feminine literature contains a chapter structure similar to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, where each division is narrated through the perspectives of one of many characters, although in this book’s case, the point of view is strictly first-person. The first character introduced his Sherice, who works at an OBGYN clinic and has a child with husband Chase nicknamed Little Roo, her real name Mollie. Her specific duty at her clinic is sonography, and loves her occupation in showing expectant parents prenatal images of their babies, quickly crossing paths with a pregnant French immigrant, Sylvie.

The second introduced character is Joanne, who indicates that in the Deep South, women are expected to be married by their twenties, and notes that she grew up in a trailer with older brothers, further having a homosexual friend named Marty who doesn’t care much for Republicans and bisexuals, and works for a procurement company. Saturday is her favorite day of the week, which she considers her only day of freedom in the week since she attends church on Sundays. Joanne had a good friend in college, with both realizing that they were the only ones in their sorority unmarried and without children.

As mentioned, Sylvie is a Frenchwoman, married to an American soldier named Jonathan, and indicates her troubles dealing with America’s healthcare system compared to the universal structure of that in her homeland. Their initial income is $300 month, with the cheapest health insurance policy available to them running $250 monthly, with Sylvie being ineligible for government age due to her citizenship in a foreign country, and is in the second trimester of her pregnancy. Jonathan and she visit a supposed free clinic to the south, only to discover that they have to pay more for care than their monthly income allows, with said clinic supposedly never turning away military families.

Introduced in part two of the story is Payton, niece to Marty, who works part-time at a gymnastics school and too is pregnant. The final introduced character a ways into the novel is Gloria, who has an unhappy marriage with Hal and detests the stickiness of the State of Georgia. Overall, this is an enjoyable work, with the alternating perspectives keeping the narrative fresh, alongside some occasional twists. The rare political references and discussion of healthcare place the story in the first decade of the current millennium, perhaps even that before, and aside from the consequentially-dated nature of the story, it’s still very much enjoyable and recommended.

Author's Bio:

Originally from Winchester, England, Alice’s plans to read law at a British university were disrupted when she fell deeply in love with Georgia, USA, while studying abroad. After moving all over Georgia, Alice has finally settled in Athens and has no plans to go anywhere else.

She is a single mother to a three-year-old girl and a 65 lb hound dog. She likes coffee, wine, and anything edible with the words ‘salted caramel’ in its description.

At the time of publication, Alice is a 24-year-old history student working full time in a law office, and writing fiction at every stolen moment. She hasn’t slept in approximately two years. Her first published novel, The Thread That Binds won third place in World's Best Story contest.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Travel Adventures of PJ Mouse

Author Gwyneth Jane Page dedicates this children’s tale to her children, and acknowledges individuals such as Robert Wiersema for getting her started, Ashley Patton for computer assistance, and others for self-publishing aid. Preceding the main text is an illustration of a globe with a distorted view of North America, which is the setting of the story from rodent protagonist PJ’s perspective. The narrative itself opens with the titular mouse falling into a puddle, the initial illustration depicting him under a bench while drenched, having plummeted from a girl’s bag. Fortunately, PJ is discovered by a girl named Emily and her mother and taken home to get cleaned up.

After PJ becomes tidy, he learns of his savior family’s trip across Canada, with illustrations depicting a truck with a trailer. Occasionally peppered in the text are tidbits about the various locales the family and their mouse companion visit, including the Rocky Mountains, the family visiting a glacier in the mountain range as well, several images depicting PJ plummeting into a chasm and supposedly rescued by tape, though in the accompanying picture it looks more like a belt. They visit the Canadian prairies, go swimming in a lake, and proceed to Niagara Falls, with pictures denoting PJ floating up with manmade bubbles before plummeting.

The clan’s next destination is Quebec, visiting an old quarter of Quebec City, with occasional French phrases thrown in, the trip to Canada’s opposite coast ended in Nova Scotia. When they return home to Victoria, British Columbia, several images of flowers and one of fireworks end their trip, with a concluding encounter by PJ with the family cat. Despite the occasional visual incongruities, this is an enjoyable children’s book that younger audiences will likely eat up, and is mildly educational as well, always a plus for youth literature. The book would receive a sequel, with others in the work, too.

The author dedicates her first PJ Mouse sequel to her mother and family, not to mention an elementary school in her hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, which endorsed her first story. As with its predecessor, the second adventure depicts protagonist PJ’s view of the story’s setting, in this case Australia, an airplane flying to the location, specifically Queensland. The narrative opens with PJ, who has a passport of his own, and his adoptive family taking a plane to the land down under, with their excursion in the country commenced by a visit to the theme park Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, which is indeed a real place.

Illustrations show the family and their pet enduring several excursions in the park, such as a water ride, a shark encounter, and a ride known as the Tower of Terror, with no relation to the Disney Parks venues of the same identity. PJ further tries his hand at boogie boarding, and discovers the various wonders of the coral reef, meeting a friendly tortoise named Mr. Turkin who helps him back to his family when he becomes lost. The rainforest is the clan’s subsequent destination, where PJ meets another talking animal, in this case a lorikeet, who too assists him in his return back to his owners.

The travelers further explore the wonders of egg-laying by a tortoise that happens to be Mr. Turkin’s wife, with she and her fellow female turtles afterward returning to the sea before their scion ultimately are hatched. Their final excursion consists of 4 x 4’ing on Australia’s beaches, after which they return home, and PJ has a talk with the family cat about the trip, the feline having been left behind. There is the incongruity of a character called Star Bear, due to his red and yellow stars and sunglasses, being hastily introduced in the concluding chapter, but otherwise, this is an enjoyable sequel that those who liked the first book will undoubtedly enjoy.
Author's Bio:

Gwyneth Jane Page (Jane), who holds an MBA from Simon Fraser University, has called many countries home. She grew up in such places as England, Peru, the USA, and the Caribbean, and has also lived in Australia and Canada. She now resides in Victoria, BC with her husband and four children. The PJ Mouse books are based on Jane's family trips with the real stuffed animal, PJ, who was found by Emily, Jane's youngest daughter.

Megan Elizabeth, Jane's second oldest daughter, has lived in Canada and Australia and travelled extensively with her family-and PJ. Having been artistic since she was a little girl, illustrating the PJ Mouse books has enabled her to combine her love of travel with her love of art. Megan completed her studies at VanArts and is now building her career as a professional photographer as well as an illustrator. She currently resides in Victoria, BC with her family.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Question

The full title of this thriller by R. Breuer Stearns, which is dedicated to Katie, always in the author’s mind, and is preceded by a Buddha quote about how all we are is the result of our thoughts, is “If you could have THE answer to only one QUESTION what would you ask?” The writer further asks who would attempt to prevent the reader from asking said inquiry, and to what extremities they would go. This thriller delves into a new form of contemplation which is forceful enough to resolve the universe’s important mysteries, mayhap resolve the great unknowns of Earth’s major religions.

THE QUESTION also crosses genre into the adventure genre, with readers potentially hoping that this work of fiction is somehow true. The setting is present day, with the story’s publication date being May of 2015, and contains various settings in locations such as the State of California; Washington, D.C.; Paris, France; Shanghai, China; New York; and even Afghanistan. The target audience is high school students and adults, given mature sexual and violent material, and is further pitched as a work of “scientific fantasy,” and in general wants readers to think and be curious about the great unknowns of society.

THE QUESTION stars a diverse cast of characters such as the fast-swimming Jake, the football-loving Nate, and surgeon Dr. Sidney Wexler, who all become embroiled in a new form of thinking called Unity, when two people simultaneously see the answer to a complex question in their minds, and an event known as Unity Day gradually draws near when the whole world will be engaged in this scientific discovery. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable novel that crosses various genres and deals with issues such as terrorism, although the many acronyms that the story uses aren’t regularly defined throughout the text, their meanings easy to forget. Even so, this is a good book this reviewer would certainly recommend.

Author's Bio:

R. Breuer Stearns is an investor and author.

Mr. Stearns graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover (1970), Harvard University (AB, 1974), University of Chicago (MBA, 1977), and DePaul University College of Law (JD, 1979). He rapidly ascended on Wall Street in the 1980’s, serving as Managing Director, Mergers & Acquisitions at Lehman Brothers and Head of Investment Banking (North America) at UBS Securities.  While living in New York, he founded “Terrific Teachers, Inc.,” a foundation dedicated to identifying and rewarding the best of the best of the city’s public high school teachers.

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Stearns launched a private investment bank in the former Soviet Union.  He spent the early 1990’s seeking to marry emerging science, primarily emanating from Russia’s Defense sector, with Western capital.  During this period, Mr. Stearns made a small fortune, albeit from a larger one.  The venture provided a remarkable lesson in hubris, a tremendous reservoir of internal strength, and first-hand source material for Mr. Stearns’ first book, Winning Smart After Losing Big (Encounter Books, Beijing University Press).

Subsequently, Mr. Stearns served as Chief Financial Officer of The Dial Corporation, Chief Financial Officer of Columbia/HCA Corporation, Chief Financial Officer of PacifiCare, Inc., President and Chief Operating Officer of Vascular Genetics, Inc., and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Quepasa Corporation (QPSA:Amex).

Mr. Stearns is a Founder of VestaPoint Capital LLC, a family of investment funds focused on real estate development.  He lives in Arizona with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a horse.  He travels extensively and is intensely curious.

Connect with the author:   Website