Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jeffrey Baer, A crescendo to the soul for this reader.

A Song Apart

By Jeffrey Baer

A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman

Have you ever felt like a total outsider? In A Song Apart, Jeffrey Baer provides readers with a glimpse inside the tough exterior of an insensitive music industry including the unpopular choices and a bit of romance. Kevin Derow is different compared to other college students. While wearing teen sensation Shannon Kistler‘s rock band shirt, Kevin finds himself in the most awkward position as she drives by and embarrasses him.  Fate would have them meet again where Shannon gives Kevin her phone number. Yet, the new couple have many obstacles both personal and from those who support each of them. A Song Apart is a novel of redemption and having the chutzpah” to change.

Jeffrey Baer has extraordinary talent with character development. In A Song Apart the reader is not weighed down with too much back story. Simultaneously, the author writes convincing characters. This made the novel’s pace enjoyable and gave a clear understanding of each character’s social, economic, religious, and family history. For example, Kevin’s membership at the Jewish Society introduces the reader to Kevin’s social circle and establishes the external conflict that he must resolve with his friends Avi, Yaakov, and Menachem.  

Jeffrey Baer lives in Coney Island with his  girlfriend Karen, whom he has known for 22 years. In addition to writing fiction, he composes songs using software. Jefferey enjoys old school R&B as well as 70s pop. He also sings and plays guitar, bass and drums.

With attention to details, the author continues to use his character development as a bridge to the misinterpreted behavior of Kevin and Shannon.  By comparatively displaying Shannon’s choice to stretch her body in sensual poses on the subway car, the misinterpretation of her actions by paparazzi and Paul Spungen, provide the reader with much foreshadowing as to the results of the uncovered payola scheme.

A Song Apart is written from a first-person narrative. An emotional tone is present several times in the novel as the topic of Autism and Asperger's syndrome become part of the topic. Particularly, I was tremendously touched as Kevin speaks with young Sam when he wrote, “Did Shannon make me different? I immediately thought of possibly having Asperger’s Syndrome, but I couldn’t discuss it with someone who didn’t understand his own condition.

 “Oh-no, I don’t think so. People don’t make each other that way, it just happens, you know?” 

This is a very emotional and powerful connection Jeffrey Baer has with his book. The author admittedly uses his own diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome as his muse in A Song Apart. My favorite quote in the novel is 

 “love doesn’t follow any rules, it just happens. And when it does, we have to be thankful because it may never ‘just happen’ again.”  

It is this raw natural ability and special insight that Jeffrey Baer gifts the reader that makes his novel, A Song Apart a perfect read for ages 15 to 99. A Song Apart has my highest recommendation for debuting author Jeffrey Baer, It is a crescendo to the soul for this reader.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey Baer and invite you to listen.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My 50th Book Review!

The Reaches – The Storytellers Quest #1

By Alan McCluskey

The Reaches – The Storytellers Quest by Alan McCluskey is the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy young adult series that draws readers into a world of cataclysmic events in dream realm state. The reader is immediately captivated with Professor Rafter, head of the theosophy department at Avan University, and his top student Sally. I immediately found myself looking up the definition of theosophy. This not only intrigued me but had me wondering how the author could create a plot around the hidden knowledge or wisdom that offers the individual enlightenment and salvation.

Visit Alan's Goodreads Page

Alan McCluskey did not disappoint at all. With the use of dreams, the author has Professor Rafter explain and invite several students into this mystical dimension. Professor Rafter explains this as, “if you venture beyond the Dream Realm, then you might discover the Reaches, a world in many ways like our own, but in some ways astoundingly different.” As a matter of fact, I really thought it was brilliant of the author to not only explain this to the reader by context clues but tie in the title of the novel. The Reaches was charmingly original and yet it provided hints of a dark fantasy world for which I was hoping.

Alan McCluskey Has A Passion For Art!

 The author teases the reader with fragments of the two worlds but does this subtly. For example,  “The fragments retained much of the magic and excitement of the original dream.” The reader becomes captivated by both worlds and it is often hard to know which one is the better.

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I found the writing style courageous in thinking outside of the box. It's fast paced and at times kept me at the edge of my seat. The characters are well developed and plausible. Alan McCluskey touches a bit on gender issues but it is not the main theme nor does it distract from the story. The character Keira is in love with 20 year old Sally. An internal conflict is established early on as Sally is transported to the dream world with a young man. This is where the author often sneaks in bits of wisdom for the reader such as,

"It's also about integration: owning up to the parts of yourself, however much you might not like them. In the Real there are so many taboos that people are completely fragmented. That's the joke of it. They cling rigidly to the idea that they are one unique person, while they are busy hiding parts of themselves they can't accept."

I have read previous works from the same author and found that this novel had much more profound thought. The characters are much more dynamic with identifiable central conflict. For example, Jenny does not like psychiatric institutions and an empathy for Jenny is created as she remembers when, “As a little girl she had heard voices and could see people that her parents said were not really there.” The author really surprised me with some of the experiences Jenny goes through and her emotions really hit home with me personally. The author does a great job of taking the story to a deeper level, beyond the typical teen angst and romance. This book may be written for teens, but I am well beyond those years and thoroughly enjoyed The Reaches.

The Keeper's Daughter (The Storyteller's Quest) Photo taken at the botanical gardens in Basel.

I appreciate the sensory language the author uses to describe places and events. For example, “The chalet was perched on a ridge surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It must have been summer time because there was no snow on the ground around the chalet itself. Edelweiss grew in clumps of white stars scattered across the prairie. Deep blue gentians were pushing their way upwards here and there” I could actually picture this scene in my head.

Secret paths logo comes from part of Alan's work with his daughter Zoé McCluskey who's an architect, on the design of a complex building. The Lodge, in the third book of The Storyteller's Quest, The Starless Square.

 I also liked how the protagonist, Brent is constantly wandering as if lost between the two worlds. It is then that we go back to Professor Rafter and he states, “The doubting man is always the first on the path to discovery.” I am so glad that I have discovered the works of Alan McCluskey. He is a member of one of my favorite writing group called The Geneva Writers Group! Alan lives in Switzerland with his wife and his son in a picturesque village that lies between a lake and the mountains. I highly recommend his novel, The Reaches. Make sure you check out this talented author and listen to my radio interview with him.

Friday, December 27, 2013

It’s the season. We share what we highly recommend to read!

Santa and the Border Collie 

by Angelo Dirks, Leland Dirks   

A book review by Ginger Dawn Harman

What Santa drives a red AMC Gremlin and rings a bell in front of an art museum? This short has more than a bit of V8 muscle power and will warm your heart in true Angelo and Leland emotional style! Once again the Collie and author team has created a memorable tale that will produce many happy wags and smiling faces. The gentle wisdom is poignant and provides insight to how much one can overlook the magnificence of the Christmas season. How true the words are the author pens,

 “It made me sad to consider how few of them had smiles on their faces. Just another day of obligation on the holiday calendar.” 

 This story provides the insight for all to remember the true gifts that are available and that we can each contribute.

I highly recommend! Download today!

Leland Dirk’s story has a satisfying pace and a consistent book readability.  The Young homeless boy is confronted with an identifiable eternal and external conflict in which he has learn to trust a complete stranger. However, as the story proceeds he will also be confronted that not every stranger has his best interest in mind. 

Angelo and Maggie via author

 I highly recommend Santa and theBorder Collie by Angelo and Leland Dirk. A special gift to all readers that left a smile on my face and cemented the phrase “It’s the season. We share what we’ve got.” on my heart.


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