Seven Point Eight: The Second Chronicle by Marie Harbon

Second Chronicle Final Kindle CoverSeven Point Eight: The Second Chronicle by Marie Harbon is the second installment in the Seven Point Eight series. Although this book can be read as a stand-alone because the first few chapters allude to the first novel, readers may be less confused about what they are getting into if they start with The First Chronicle.

The story is about three main characters—Paul, Max, and Tahra—who have begun a project in 1967 having to do with astral projection and other dimensions. Each person has his or her own agenda, some good, others not as noble. This installment begins after the seeming failure of the project, as twelve psychics’ souls are trapped in a multitude of different worlds. Tahra, who was guiding them on their journey, must now search the ether, bringing each person back, each one changed by their experience. Tahra must also deal with the repercussions to her own psyche, as she discovers powers and instincts previously unfamiliar to her.

This futuristic pilgrimage is juxtaposed with Ava and Sam’s journey in 1994. Ava knows nothing of her past, only that she suffers from hallucinations and appears to have advanced healing powers. Twenty-seven years after the OOBE project, what does Ava’s DNA have to do with anything? And why does she feel drawn to Sam?

From the front cover to the very last page, Harbon takes the reader on an intricate journey across universes. The cover itself sets the stage with dramatic colors and a science fiction feel. The editing and formatting aid the reader in understanding the plot. There are so many different characters and worlds and timelines, that italics and scene breaks are crucial to knowing who is talking when and in what reality it is happening.

Do not begin this tale without the desire to be swept away for hours. The in-depth characterization, intricate plot, detailed worlds, and mysterious intrigue require complete attention. One moment the reader will find herself on a world with mechanical elves and in the next moment mapping genomes in the twentieth century.

Effed Up by Russ Woody

EFFED UP CoverEffed Up by Russ Woody is a first-person narrative starring Robert and his dysfunctional family. The reader enters Robert’s life as he is getting up-close-and-personal with a woman named Becky, who is apparently turned on by trauma scenes. While Robert is trying to block out the juxtaposition of pleasure and disgust and enjoy the moment, he receives a phone call that his mother is in the hospital. From Robert’s reaction and subsequent actions, it is clear that he despises his mother and is not close with his siblings or his father.

Through present moments and past recollections, Robert paints a clear picture of his effed up family. His mother is a manipulative, psychopath, his brother is a loser stoner, and his sister is a raging alcoholic. The only sane one, he thinks, is his father, who he doesn’t even know well because his mother never allowed the spotlight to be shown on anyone but herself. In the wake of tragedy, Robert must piece together the kind of man his father was, thus learning more about himself.

Effed Up is so humorous, it will make the reader laugh out loud. The characters are so absurd, so flawed, and yet so real, that the story is both completely fantastical and chillingly realistic.  As much as the reader will laugh, she will also cry—tears of outrage, sorrow, frustration (at how dense Robert’s family is about their ridiculousness), and finally, joy. There are aspects of the characters and moments in the family dynamic that are guaranteed to ring true to everyone at one point or another.

While situations may be drastically different, the emotions Woody invokes about love, family, and friends will resonate with readers from all walks of life. In the end, the story is about one man’s journey to finding himself and learning what true family means.

True Feel by Ted Bernal Guevara

True Feel Cover 

True Feel by Ted Bernal Guevara is a crime novel staring a reporter, Marion Rafino, who is confined to a wheelchair. While he is investigating a string of murders across several states, he comes across a young stripper, Credence, who seems to be the prime suspect. There is a picture of her at the most recent crime scene, and Marion must balance his love/lust for the girl with his suspicion of her involvement.

Guevara spins an intricate mystery for the reader. Every person involved in this investigation has a rich backstory and connections that are unforeseen. Credence has numerous stripper friends, who all have a story to tell. Moreover, Marion interviews several witnesses, relatives, acquaintances, etc. Guevara definitely does not skimp on the details. In addition to the murder case, the romance between Marion and Credence is an interesting one, with the age-difference, social gap, and physical limitations.

However, the format of the novel makes it hard to appreciate the depth of the storyline. There are so many narrators that the reader may find herself confused and frustrated at times. Every friend of Cadence has a real name and a stage name, and they are sometimes used interchangeably with no explanation. Some chapters, it is obvious who is talking, and in others, it does not become clear until halfway through, and the reader must return to the beginning to understand what is being said.

True Feel is a novel with an interesting concept and an intricate plot idea, but it could have been executed better. The reader may find it difficult to become immersed in the story, as she will be trying to decipher whether it is past or present and who is narrating. This confusion makes it hard to appreciate the “aha!” moment when the perpetrator is finally revealed.

Split at the Root by Catana Tully

Book Cover (3)Split at the Root by Catana Tully is an intricate study of self-identity, social influences, and familial ties. The first story Catana can remember is one Mutti, her German mother, tells about her “birth.” Mutti tells Catana that she floated down the river on a leaf, and that, in that moment, Mutti knew Catana was hers to keep. This is just one of many “fairytales” that Mutti tells Catana about her life (and her history).

Catana was born to Rosa, a Black woman, in Livingston. However, she was raised by a White, German woman, who called her “Mohrle,” or “little Moor.” Catana grows up in a White household, treated as a privileged White. As such, she is uncomfortable around people of color and even begins to hate her birth mother. Throughout her life, she struggles with issues of race, identity, and prejudice. Mutti refuses to acknowledge the deeper issues, preferring to mold Catana into a likable, competent woman, who has “the right frame.”

Catana decides to flout her education and become an actress. Along the way, she meets Fred, and they fall in love and marry. All her life, Catana has been surrounded by White people. She knows next to nothing about her birth mother and even less about her father and the rest of her biological family. On a trip back to her birth village, she begins to get hints that Mutti may not have been telling her the whole truth—words like “stolen child” are thrown around in context to Mutti and Catana’s relationship. As Catana digs deeper, she uncovers secrets about her heritage and her upbringing. Along the way, she must confront her racial identity and all that goes with it.

Tully’s memoir is extremely detailed. She begins with her first memories and continues to the present day. By the end of the tale, it is as if the reader is a part of the family that Catana is trying to piece together. Her story is emotional—full of love, laughter, and even fear. The reader will watch Catana grow up and find her own identity. The story is impossible to put down as Catana attempts to unravel the complicated mystery that surrounds her biological family. It takes many years for her to learn the truth and just as long, maybe longer, for her to know herself. It may be a memoir, but at points, it reads like a detective novel. Even though it is one woman’s life and history, it touches on important racial, societal, and personal identity issues.

Above by Mackie Burt

ABOVE-CoverAbove by Mackie Burt is a novel that speculates what happens after death. The journey begins as Callie Lane stands over her gravestone listening to the mournful comments of family and friends. Before she realizes what’s happening, she is pulled into a world where everyone around her is dead. She is reunited with her grandmother, her neighbor, and her dog as well as making some new friends.

Hardly given the time to adjust to her situation, Callie is told that Above is a lot like school…and life in general. She is expected to take classes to learn how to be a Guardian. She must learn from her mistakes and continue to grow if she is to survive death.  But why is she the only one having flashes of a life not her own? And why does her family keep pulling her back when everyone else has to fight to see theirs?

Burt spins an intricate, beautiful, and emotional tale. The reader will find herself completely immersed in the world of Above, completely invested in each and every one of the characters. Just like Callie, the reader will wonder until the very last page why certain things are happening, how certain things will play out, and what it all means. This story is full of wonder, sorrow, and joy. In the end, the reader may even find herself hoping that Burt’s idea of life after death is accurate; it doesn’t seem so bad, after all!

Appointment With Death by David J. Dundas

AppointmentAppointment With Death by David Dundas is a crime thriller with an interesting premise. The main character of the novel is Mike Murphy, who becomes a cop in the small town of Silverton despite his parents’ disapproval. The first chapter draws the reader in, showing snippets of Murphy’s time in training and significant busts he makes as a rookie. At the end of this fast-paced and interesting chapter, Murphy is promoted to detective. Upon making detective, Murphy stumbles onto the case of his career. There is a killer out there murdering prostitutes and gouging out their eyes.

In an attempt to add suspense to the story, Dundas switches back and forth between multiple points of view. In the space of a chapter, the reader encounters thoughts from Murphy, other officers, reporters, and of course, the killer. This is a wonderful technique, but it is executed poorly. Instead of adding mystery and suspense, it merely creates confusion because there is no rhyme or reason to the point of view changes. Moreover, there are no transitions between the changes. In one paragraph, the reader could be watching Officer Reyes being paranoid in her apartment, and in the very next paragraph, it could be a week later and now the reader is watching the killer select a victim. Point of view switches happen as often as every paragraph and can be extremely confusing to the reader.

The plotline of this book is acceptable. As a crime novel, it does its job. The reader will be left wondering who the killer is until almost the very end. For the reader who loves mystery, this story will be a treat. The characters show real promise. Detective Murphy is extremely likable and the reader will want him to succeed. However, there are so many different characters that it makes individual character development sparse. Dundas does some things very well, such as creating an elaborate town and a crime mystery that’s hard to solve, but his writing style falls short of excellent in some areas. If the reader can push through point of view and sequence of events confusion, he or she will still enjoy the overall story.