Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

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This book came highly recommended by many people and when I read the blurb I was intrigued. What followed was horror disguised as romance. Maybe I’m special – or have seen and experienced real life – and that is why I can see the dark truth hidden in this story geared towards young adults who will not recognize it, but I feel I have a duty to let others know what this story is really about: domestic abuse.

Abby is our main girl and she is someone who I tried very hard to like. She has a secret past that has her hiding (don’t all romances have someone with a deep, dark secret?) and wary about starting a romantic relationship. So, she runs off to college to make a fresh start. Unfortunately, this particular place of higher education is actually just an extension of high school and the book reads like it. In the same manner of the majority of young adult romance, the bad boy sees her and immediately must own her. The sad part is that she barely puts up a fight. She allows this man to control her and dictate how she lives her life. Time and time again, he abuses her and she forgives without fail and lets him walk all over her again. She never lacks for excuses for his bad behavior.

Travis is the campus bad boy who looks like Adonis and acts like Narcissus, only with a heavy dose of hidden insecurity. He’s a street fighter and takes a new woman, or three, to his couch every night. (Important Note: Even he subconsciously recognizes that his behavior is despicable, which is why he refuses to have sex with these desperate groupies in his bed. The filth stays on the couch and possibly in his blood. A smart woman would have him tested before ever going near him.) That is until he spots Abby. Like a dog with a bone, he’s not giving up on this stunning little lamb. When circumstances provide the opportunity to stay in his apartment and then ridiculously never leave, he forces her into his bed – “just to sleep”. Don’t be fooled by his noble declaration. He goes out of his way to make her uncomfortable in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the living room, on campus, literally everywhere. She stubbornly stays in his apartment, even though he allows her no privacy and crams the emotional abuse down her throat. He also throws temper tantrums like a drunken toddler and doesn’t see the harm in that. For some inexplicable reason, he cannot understand why she is hurt by what he does and instead lashes out in anger, which happens a lot, and you can guess how he behaves when another man enters the picture.

What could have been an interesting, yet unoriginal, story was deeply disturbing. From the get-go I recognized Travis for what he truly was and found Abby’s inability to accept it and blindly falling for his tricks appalling. One of the most memorable moments was when they had a squabble and instead of acting like a big boy, he races off to a bar, where he gets wasted, and then brings home not one, but two, women and then proceeds to have an orgy loud enough to wake the neighbors. Abby’s response is to lay in HIS bed and cry and listen to the hours of moaning and screaming going on in the living room with the man she is falling for. Needless to say, he apologizes and swears it meant nothing, so she lets it slide. This hefty book continues in this fashion and never gives up in its quest for a happy ending. But, in reality, how can a man who refuses to fully acknowledge his abuse for what it is and a pitiful woman who condones his despicable behavior ever have a happy ending? The author made it seem like happily ever after, but it’s honesetly a story that millions of women live and regret deeply every day – smothered by an obsessive husband who keeps her on a tight leash and makes her believe she doesn’t deserve better.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – It is supposed to be a romance and is meant for young adults, but I would never advise my own daughters to read it, no matter how old they are.
  • Level of sexuality – Very high and at times repulsive. Nothing like listening to a raging orgy of wasted people rather than having the self-worth to walk right out the door, to make your stomach churn.
  • Is there graphic language? Heaps.
  • Did I cry? No, but it was touted as a spectacular “good cry book”. I have no idea why.
  • Did I laugh? Not at all.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, apparently there is a second book, which is the same story told from Travis’s perspective.
  • Level of character development – I didn’t see much. The main characters were unlikable and weak. Weakness is not a bad thing and is a necessary element for a good story, but they didn’t overcome anything and evolve, which would have made them relatable and strong characters. The side characters were just as sorry. It seemed that nobody was ready to be an adult, but they were taking on the responsibilities that come with college living – booze, illegal fighting, lots of sex with random strangers, and the occasional class. I’d toss the petty gossiping into the mix, but that felt more high school and actually suited them just fine.

When this book arrived in the mail I couldn’t wait to tear into it. In the beginning, I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, but I had high hopes that things would turn around. The book is massive, and my patient wait for them to become something better turned into dread over the fact that this book is a statement for women, telling them that it’s okay to accept a hot man’s abuse and scary obsession. What could have been a powerful testament to a man turning his life around and a woman loving and helping him change, turned into a how-to book for abused women. While the writing is undeveloped and immature – think more along the lines of something for a sixteen-year-old – it is the message that forces me to give this ⭐️ dismal star. There are thousands of people who love this book, but the likelihood of them being a reader who completely overlooked the nasty truth is extremely high, and I’m relieved to see that there are also thousands of women who know how damaging this book is. If you’re looking for a strong heroine who matures into someone you can respect, read Gone with the Wind. If you want someone who will eventually end up wearing long sleeves to hide the bruises, this is the book for you.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble

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Dead Haven: A Zombie Novel by Flint Maxwell

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Dead Haven is another zombie story, but there’s a little more to it than just killing dead guys who won’t stay down. It starts with Jack Jupiter, who hates his home town and growing up there had been the worst time of his life. Unfortunately, his mother dies and he is the only one to arrange her funeral. In actuality, it’s nothing more than a burial. Fortunately, Darlene, the woman he loves more than anything or anyone, is present and helps make the ordeal bearable.

Jack hasn’t heard from his older brother, Norm, in a very long time and he’s fine with that, seeing that Norm had been their mother’s favorite. As the older brother, he had enjoyed being a constant trial for Jack while they were growing up. To make matters worse, he considers it unusually bad luck when Norm calls and says he’ll be at the burial. Jack is not ready to confront his brother and insists he leaves. Norm, after all, is not the one who took care of their mother and it aggravates Jack to no end that Norm will appear and act as the favored son, once again.

After the funeral, Jack figures they’ll have to eat eventually and heads off to the nearest mom and pop grocery story. He prefers to keep a low profile, but sooner or later he will be recognized as the successful zombie author he is. At the store, he is noticed by an old school bully who asks Jack about his success. He decides that belittling his former tormentor is the best way to handle the situation and announces that he’s disgustingly rich, and this once upon a time bully proceeds to beat the stuffing out of him. Jack limps back to the motel where Darlene waits. She tries to soothe his battered ego, but this is the final straw and he elects to work out at the gym owned by an old school friend, even though he despises working out.

This is where the zombies make their debut and where said bully’s father happens to be at the same time. You have probably guessed he is going to cause Jack all sorts of trouble, because he is a gem much like his son. As a group, they decide to sit and wait for rescue. Except Jack is not in agreement. He is terrified for Darlene and wants to get back to her. It’s amazing what a group of petrified people will do. Argue is first and foremost. They also look to Jack, since he’s a well-known author of zombie tales. That belief won’t get them far, as he has never actually encountered one and never expected to. This is an opportunity for Jack to show what he is made of. When pushed to lead, he doesn’t turn away, but attempts to lead a cantankerous, frightened group of people through the zombie apocalypse. Although Jack is a disappointment to himself, he actually comes across as someone who will do what needs to be done. All in all, he is not a letdown for the reader nor the book.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Science fiction for teens and adults who enjoy those scamps we lovingly refer to as zombies.
  • Level of sexuality – There is some sexual activity, but it does not drive the story so much as it defines the relationship between Jack and Darlene.
  • Is there graphic language? There is some, but not to an extent that it had my attention more than the story.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? I had to smile sometimes just because of Jack’s opinions.
  • Is this part of a series? It is book one of the Jack Zombie series.
  • Level of character development – Jack continued to mature as a leader and a man in love with Darlene throughout the entire book.

I will be honest here and say that although I liked this storyline, I read the sequel and found it to be a more interesting book. For book one, I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. Start here and keep going.

Available here on Amazon

In Broad Daylight – A Jess Harding Novel by Seth Harwood

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This is a fascinating story. Jessica Harding is a FBI agent hot on the trail of a serial killer. Five years ago, she was in Anchorage, Alaska, chasing this same nightmare. It was her first time leading an investigation that contained crime scene after crime scene, and too few clues. After months, the scent grew cold and she was re-assigned to California. Now, the killer is back and so is Agent Harding.

This time around she has enough experience to put on a strong front for the benefit of her male colleagues, showing that she knows exactly how she will move this investigation forward. She’s sure something important was missed the first time around and she wants to backtrack as she moves forward, but not everyone thinks that’s a good plan for success. As Jess enters each scene, looking for the slightest psychological whiff of her murderer, she is disturbed to feel him so close. Some scenes raise the hair on the back of her neck, as she recognizes his games. He enjoys throwing off the hunters with meaningless words, phrases, or sentences written with the victim’s blood. He begins to list the names of his victims at the scene and soon Jess finds her own name added to the list. She decides not to report this fact and, although it gives her chills, she is determined to bring this monster down. Once again, the crime scenes start to add up.

Jess is a great character with a lot of drive for her job. It’s the most fulfilling part of her life. I appreciate that she is quietly aggressive and careful to protect her position, hopefully without offending. Also, she has the ability to make a friend when it’s not easy for her and not at the top of her list of priorities. I enjoyed the suspense and the portrayal of Jess as only human, instead of Wonder Woman. Jess is the main player, but there are others in the story that are interesting, even when they only have a small part. There is plenty here to mull over as the story moves on, and the suspense is high. There are a couple of ‘eww’ murder scenes, but the book is well worth the time and anyone who loves catching the bad guy will appreciate this one.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – This is suspense for adults. I don’t know if a teenager would have the patience to wait out an investigation.
  • Level of sexuality – There is some sex. Overall, it definitely is not what drives the story.
  • Is there graphic language? The author conveys the character’s thoughts and actions with very little graphic language. Thank you.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Did I cry? No. I felt some sadness and anger for the victims. Their deaths were violent and meaningless.
  • Is this part of a series? Not that I can tell.
  • Level of character development – The characters were great. I didn’t at any time think someone needed adjustment to make this storyline work any smoother.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Available here in paperback at Barnes & Noble

The Eye of Hermes by William Howard

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Yannick DcCullen is a blue and green Trionyx – seven-foot-two, spikes down his back and razor-sharp claws on paws and feet. Buddash Kyo is a Cranitian – skin cheddar-hued and large saucer-shaped eyes on either side of his oblong face. He has his own personal body armor – a scaled protective layer from the back of his head to below his ankles. Then there is Legate Prime Buzz, Diabolox, Dr. Rabun, and Sobek Bokhan, just to name a few. The names and species just kept coming. I only had a vague sense of the storyline, because I was overwhelmed by so many players. Also, there were several goals, individually, involving many characters.

What it comes down to is that these are bugs. Big bugs. Humans barely have a place in this plot and it turns out bugs are just as greed-driven as humans, and just as murderous. If they are not plotting to rob one another, they are plotting the demise of some equally nasty bug. Almost each chapter is a bombardment of some bug fighting other bugs, discussion of their ability to fight, and the body type needed for surviving fights. I was fascinated by the fact that you never want to kill a bug outright, because it immediately births a whole slew of more bugs. Incapacitation works much better, so the best way to handle bugs is to whack off appendages.

This story obviously involved a lot of brain-power from the author and, unfortunately, an awful lot from the readers. I was half-way through the book before I started recognizing who was up to what and why. Sadly, part-way through, the editing broke down and there are several confusing sentences sprinkled about. I decided by the time I neared the end of the book that I was liking the story. However, it took too long for me to appreciate it and the editing did muddy the writing. Is this a good story? I think it can be and some readers may enjoy this buggy tale. If you want to dive deeply into this, bring a roadmap and take notes. However, if you are just plain interested in what bugs may be thinking, this is the book for you.

Oh, don’t ask what the Eye of Hermes is. I barely know myself.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – I’m going to call this sci-fi and the reading age is anybody who likes bugs.
  • Level of sexuality – There were some pleasure bugs, but overall I don’t think they’re too interested in that kind of stuff.
  • Is there graphic language? Some, but it was all spoken in Bug-ese and easily ignored.
  • Did I cry? Are you kidding? These are bugs!
  • Did I laugh? After I finished the book. After all, it’s about bugs!
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – What can I say? Bugs.

I give this ⭐️⭐️…Bugs!

Available here on Amazon

 

Featured Author: David Z. Hirsch

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David Z Hirsch is the pen name of Maryland physician and author of Didn’t Get Frazzled. He graduated from Wesleyan University, received a medical degree from NYU School of Medicine, and completed an internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins Bayview. Despite all that, he has never stopped writing and, even more surprisingly, scribbles quite legibly. If you’d like to read his official (fictional) bio, check out his author page on Amazon. It is completely and amusingly absurd.


  1. When did you start writing? I’ve always enjoyed writing but it wasn’t until college that the idea of writing a novel burrowed into my brain and refused to budge. After medical school, I decided to get serious about completing a novel and spent the next decade or so working on it. That project ultimately failed, but I learned quite a bit in the process and started a new novel that would eventually become Didn’t Get Frazzled.

  2. What is your inspiration? Moments that are surprising, emotional, or surreal inspire me. They tend to be the most fertile soil for fascinating stories.

  3. How did you come up with your stories? Many of the stories are based on my own experience, although the book is a work of fiction (despite the assumptions of several reviewers!) While I felt obligated to be true to the emotions of my medical school experience, I allowed imagination and flights of fancy drive the details.

  4. Where is your favorite place to write? I write at my desktop computer at home. Not very exciting, I know, but I’ve tried writing in more exotic locals and learned that I focus better at home.

  5. Do you plan your stories before starting? I create a basic outline to prevent the story from lurching into a ditch but otherwise let my characters have free reign. One of the great joys of writing is to let your characters surprise you.

  6. When did you first consider yourself an author? While I’ve always felt like a writer, I never really felt like an author until I saw my book on Amazon. Holding the paper version was pretty cool, too.

  7. Do you see writing as a career? Writing is my avocation. I know that’s blasphemous to say among writers, but I take my writing as seriously as everyone else. I’ve just accepted the financial limitations.

  8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Figuring out the genre of my own book, apparently. I’ve promoted Didn’t Get Frazzled as medical fiction or commercial fiction and then I win an award in the Humor/Comedy category.

  9. What was the hardest part of writing your book? First drafts. Once I have something on paper – no matter how feeble – I enjoy editing it to a shine.

  10. Can you share a little of your current work with us? My current novel is a magical fiction middle grade novel called Jake, Lucid Dreamer, which I plan to publish under my actual name (secret identity to be revealed!) It couldn’t be more different from Didn’t Get Frazzled. I realize that this is the opposite of what marketers recommend in building a brand, but I have to write what I’m passionate about or else why bother? I’m looking at an early 2018 release and I cannot wait to introduce Jake to the world.

  11. Do you have advice for other writers? Follow your passion and persevere against all odds. If you’re going to fail, you might as well fail doing what you love. And hey, if you don’t fail, even better!

  12. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers? Thank you, thank you, thank you. Being able to share my joy, rage, and laughter with complete strangers is the beautiful and fundamental wonder of novel writing.

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Read our review of Didn’t Get Frazzled by David Z. Hirsch, M.D.