Under the Radar Friday is a Friday blog feature here at Oops! I Read A Book Again where I invite a person to share five books they think are under the radar. The goal is to promote books we utterly love but are unjustly unpopular. Here's an avenue to pimp them out! To learn more about this feature, click here.
So if you've noticed, I wasn't able to post for UTRF for three weeks! March definitely kicked my butt and I'm sorry that this very new feature suffered. Don't worry, I'm still kicking my own shins for failing on keeping up
Anyway, now that I'm back, I have an author who'll share her favorite under the radar reads. Let's all welcome, SUE DUFF!
About Sue Duff
Sue has been writing since high school but never became serious about it until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned on the word processor to combat the boredom. A couple years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black, was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest. By day, she’s a dedicated speech-language therapist in an inner city school district to pay the bills but her life as a writer is her true passion and the creative outlet keeps her sane.
Sue is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The Pikes Peak Writers. Her creativity extends into her garden and the culinary arts. She is the second oldest of six girls with an avid reader mom and her dad, the family’s single drop of testosterone in a sea of estrogen. Fate thought it hilarious to give her a son but maternal instincts swing both ways and she didn’t break the little bugger. She lives in Colorado with her miniature dachshund, Snickers and hears from her son, Jonathan whenever he needs something.
~~~Let's get some awesome recs, shall we? Take it away, Sue!
Burn Out by Kristi Helvig
Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns "red giant," but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.
Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone--her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun--one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.
When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora's fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father's request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.
I enjoyed Kristi’s book for a variety of reasons. Her world building was fluid and believable, right down to the tunnel/cave dwelling and the above ground giant cactus with sword-length spikes. Her protagonist, Tora, was spunky and fun with a twist of Laura Croft thrown in. The teen could be kick-ass, yet Kristi made sure she stayed true to her age in spite of her hostile environment. When she stole James’s t-shirt, I laughed my head off. The novel is jammed with action and mystery and I found myself guessing alliances right up till the climax. Looking forward to book #2 thanks to her twist at the end of book #1.
Kristi is a newbie author that has survived a folding publishing house and a buy-out from another, because they recognize her worth and talents!
Curses! A F**ked Up Fairytale by J.A. Kazimer
Not your typical fairy tale, Curses tells the twisted tale of RJ, a disgraced villain forced into doing good when the villain’s union puts him on leave. He’s a bad boy who can’t say no, especially to Asia, the not-so-ugly stepsister to Cinderella.
Cinderella’s been whacked by a devious bluebird and the crosstown Fairy-Second Street bus. Asia wants to know whodunit, and RJ might want to help her even if he wasn’t cursed.
"The redhead’s lips curved into a frown, which only added to her beauty. She looked like sin, the dirty kind with plenty of sweat and saliva."
This novel offers a not-seen-anywhere-else spin on the popular “fairy tale.” I laughed so hard while reading this in my doctor’s waiting room, that a woman and her daughter asked for details. Julie’s humor is at the core of this irreverent morsel, the first in a short series, but it also offers mystery, a quirky, if not queasy romance and pop culture references that would bring a grin to Joss Whedon’s face. Think of it as Shrek for grown-ups with characters that “only a godmother could love.”
Julie is an accomplished hybrid author. Her Fairytale series was traditionally published but she has branched out into the self-pubbed arena with a series of mysteries and other tales!
Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius
They all thought he was gone. But he was alive and trapped inside his own body for ten years.
In January 1988 Martin Pistorius, aged twelve, fell inexplicably sick. First he lost his voice and stopped eating. Then he slept constantly and shunned human contact. Doctors were mystified. Within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair-bound. Martin's parents were told an unknown degenerative disease left him with the mind of a baby and less than two years to live.
Martin was moved to care centers for severely disabled children. The stress and heartache shook his parents’ marriage and their family to the core. Their boy was gone. Or so they thought.
Ghost Boy is the heart-wrenching story of one boy’s return to life through the power of love and faith. In these pages, readers see a parent’s resilience, the consequences of misdiagnosis, abuse at the hands of cruel caretakers, and the unthinkable duration of Martin’s mental alertness betrayed by his lifeless body.
We also see a life reclaimed—a business created, a new love kindled—all from a wheelchair. Martin's emergence from his own darkness invites us to celebrate our own lives and fight for a better life for others.
If you work with people with severe disabilities, or know someone who is a caregiver to them, they should read this book. I’m a speech therapist with a specialty in working with augmentative and assistive communication devices (AAC). This story is a masterpiece of what it feels like to be trapped inside a broken body and unable to communicate. The story of how his parents were divided about how to deal with his illness, the relentless hope that drove his father to care for him and the way his mother focused her energy on the only thing she could control, Martin’s sibling, felt so real to me.
It took an empathetic therapist to recognize Martin was in there, and to find a way to unleash him. But I chose to showcase this book because the rest was all Martin’s doing, to overcome extraordinary odds and write a book about his experiences.
Song of the Beast by Carol Berg
Brutal imprisonment has broken Aidan McAllister. Once the most famous musician of his generation, celebrated as a man beloved of the gods, his voice is now silent, his hands ruined, his music that offered beauty and hope to war-torn Elyria destroyed. Even the god who nurtured his talent since boyhood has abandoned him. But no one ever told him his crime. To discover the truth, he must risk his hard-bought freedom to unlock the mind of his god and the heart of his enemy.
I chose to showcase this novel for Carol’s writing. I found so many favorite lines throughout each chapter that I stopped copying them all down. The opening page was pure magic in capturing the mood, the drama and the period. I knew I was hooked before turning the page. Her blend of tragic and humorous characters was perfection. The mystery around Aiden and why he was tortured kept me riveted to the story and the ending with Laura was perfect.
From what I understand, this was one of Carol’s first novels. She has gone on to write many more, and has several different series under her belt. She is a successful, traditionally published author that continues to fly just under the radar.
Sticks and Stones by Shawn McGuire
Everyone has a dark side. Mandy’s just moved in with her.
The last time sixteen-year-old Mandy Matteo broke a rule, her sister died. Since that day she has done only what is expected of her, but life as a goody-goody has made Mandy so boring her friends have all but abandoned her. And she’s given up on ever getting Ethan, the boy she’s liked forever, to notice her. Desperate, Mandy makes a wish to simply be happy.
Enter Desiree, a hippie from Woodstock serving a fifty-year indenture as a Wish Mistress (aka a genie). Years of only granting and never receiving her own wish have left Desiree bitter. Arranging for Mandy to right her biggest wrong – the exact thing Desiree would wish for – only makes things worse.
Still, Desiree does her job and grants the wish and happiness arrives for Mandy in the form of Lexi, her childhood imaginary friend come to life. Magical wishes have conditions though: Once started, the wish cannot be altered or revoked. Also, once Mandy is truly content with her life again, Lexi must go back to where she came from. However, the longer Lexi is alive the more she loves being alive, and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay that way.
This is the first book in a three book series. I loved the tag line and the premise hooked me. The novel began a little slow, with the whiny, almost cookie cutter feel of the teens. A common problem for the genre (the early pages of Twilight irked me the same way) but, let’s face it, teen angst is a cliché for a reason. Once the unique plot appeared and the fantasy kicked in with the intriguing “wish maker,” though, I couldn’t put it down. Mandy and Desiree were well developed characters and by the end of the book, I felt part of their goup. My favorite line from the book: “Sticks and stones might break bones, but bones heal.” A message worth spreading, wouldn’t you agree? Be sure to pick up the sequels, as Shawn’s story telling only improves as the series progresses.
Shawn is one of the swelling numbers of self-pubbed authors who have a story to tell and are courageous and ambitious enough to make it happen.
Thank you so much, Sue! Everyone, don't forget to visit Sue's website and sign up for her email list! Stalk her on her social media accounts too: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads!
Title: Fade to Black (The Weir Chronicles #1)
Author: Sue Duff
Illusionist Ian Black has a talent for keeping secrets. College student Rayne Bevan has a gift for uncovering them. She suspects that the popular performer's skills extend beyond the stage and that he's the area’s mysterious and elusive defender of the innocent. In her efforts to uncover the truth, Rayne is swept into the hidden world of the Weir, a magical race who struggle to prevent Earth from self-destructing. Her inquiries expose Ian to those who would kill for his connection to the planet, and as he fights to keep Rayne, and those closest to him safe, they discover a force behind the Weir’s raging civil war—a traitor bent on launching Earth’s Armageddon.
Title: Masks and Mirrors (The Weir Chronicles #2)
Author: Sue Duff
Ian Black’s commitment to safeguarding Earth has come at a price. His career as an illusionist is at a standstill and attending to the planet’s needs has distanced him from his best friend, his guardians, and the woman he loves. When presented with an opportunity to perform, Ian seizes the chance. But moments before he takes the stage, Ian encounters the mysterious Jaered and a rebel force fighting to protect Earth alongside the Weir.
Jaered is determined to stop a malevolent Weir from releasing a drug capable of wiping out the last vestiges of their race and plunging Earth into self-destruction. But when Jaered is willing to sacrifice an innocent child to obtain the drug for himself, Ian risks everything to uncover the secrets of the rebel forces and their true intentions for Earth’s survival.
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