Book Reviews

Book Review: When You Found Me by Shana Norris

When local YA author Shana Norris announced that she was releasing a standalone that focuses on the day-to-day life of an epileptic, I was super excited to read the book, as I knew the author was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2015 and would bring a authentic voice to the story. It was an absolute honor to be selected as an early reviewer for this novel!

WhenYouFoundMe

Highlights:

Epilepsy Representation

Being that the author has first-hand experience with epilepsy, the representation of the condition in the novel is first-rate. I’m acquainted with another person with epilepsy, and the portrayal of the seizures in the novel is spot-on. Being that epilepsy is more common than most people realize, it’s fantastic that this main character can be someone teens with this condition can relate to.

Down Syndrome Representation

Like with the representation of epilepsy, the novel also includes a character with Down Syndrome. I can’t attest that the portrayal of Down Syndrome was accurate, as I don’t personally know anyone who has it, but I appreciate that the character was portrayed as confident, strong-willed, and capable of doing anything she set her mind to.

Sean, Tamika, and Sasha

The stand-out characters in this novel for me were Sean (Harper’s love interest), Tamika (a friend), and Sasha (Sean’s younger sister). All three of these characters had exuberant personalities that jumped from the pages.

Lowlights:

Portrayal of Churches

Though the novel does not bash Christianity or churches, it portrays most members at Harper’s church as nosy or overly curious about epilepsy. I believe this is a 100% accurate portrayal of some church members, but not all of them. I would also have loved to see Harper put her faith in God to help deal with her frustration with epilepsy, but instead she skips church services to not have to deal with the nosy people.

By the end, her negative feelings toward the nosy people are put to rest, but we don’t see Harper grow in her faith either. I would like to note that the novel is not categorized as Christian YA, though, so church is portrayed more like a setting.

Harper

Though I liked the way Harper’s epilepsy was portrayed, I struggled connecting to her. I’ve read four other works by this author and have connected more to those main characters, so I think it was just Harper’s angst against her diagnosis that hindered my connection to her.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars

I received an ebook copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. A positive review was not required to receive the book.


That’s it for today, Arrowheads! Are you an author of clean YA or middle grade novels looking for book reviewers? If so, check out my Contact page to see if your book will be a good fit for this blog! 🙂

Later, Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Secrets Between You and Me by Shana Norris

After enjoying Shana Norris’s first installment of her Stolen Kiss series, The Boyfriend Thief,  last year, I recently read book two, The Secrets Between You and Me. This installment is a companion novel to The Boyfriend Thief and follows the main antagonist, Hannah Cohen, as she spends the summer in the mountains of North Carolina. I ended up enjoying The Secrets Between You and Me more than the first book, and can’t wait to share my take on Hannah’s story with y’all!

SecretsBetweenYouandMe

What I Loved

The Setting

This novel is set in the mountains of North Carolina in the city of Asheville during the summer. The characters explore The Biltmore Estate and climb Chimney Rock, both locations which I’ve visited before on vacation. As a native of NC, I feel the author perfectly captured the beauty of the western part of our state, and it was fun to revisit the mountains through the eyes of her characters.

Hannah’s Character Arc

The main character, Hannah Cohen, is first introduced to readers as the “mean girl” in the first book in the series, The Boyfriend Thief. In this installment, readers get to learn the history that created Hannah’s frigid front, and watch her overcome her controlling lifestyle through the help of the new friends she meets in Asheville. I have never before read a more redeeming character arc, and I appreciate that Norris took the time to show readers that villains can always turn their lives around.

Jude Westmore

Jude, a teenage resident of Asheville, becomes Hannah’s love interest. Jude also has a well-developed, troubling past, and I enjoyed watching him come out of his shell around Hannah. Due to his unique personality traits, Jude quickly became one of my favorite love interests in YA fiction.

Battling the Image of Perfection

The main message in this novel is that we should not put on a front in order to seem perfect, especially if we are dealing with harsh circumstances such as addiction, depression, etc. The story shows how both adults and children deal with the consequences of faking happiness and hiding personal problems, and I feel this is a message many young adults need to hear as mental health issues are becoming more prominent in our society.

Overall, I would love to read more about Hannah and Jude, and am eager to check out the third installment of the series soon! 🙂 Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars.


That’s it for today, Arrowheads! If you enjoy fantasy novels, Shana Norris also has a YA mermaid series that I’ll be checking out soon, called Swan Landing. Check back here on Fridays for more book reviews!

Later Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Book Reviews

Book Review: Losing London by Joey Jones

Good afternoon, Arrowheads! Several months back, my cousin-in-law (pretty sure that’s a made up word, but anyway 😋) told me about a new author who is similar to Nicholas Sparks in that he writes romance books based in North Carolina. So of course, being the hopeless romantic North Carolinian that I am, I was completely down for trying one of his books. And. I. Am. So. Glad. I. Did. Get ready to hear me rave about the heartbreaking love story that is Losing London by Joey Jones!

LosingLondon

Okay, so now that I’m emotionally stable (since this book is quite honestly the saddest story I’ve ever encountered), I can at last write a review.

At first, I was a bit wary. I mean, what if the book ended up reading like a cheap imitation of Sparks? Well, I’m ecstatic to inform everyone that Joey Jones is a brilliant, talented author who wholeheartedly deserves to be ranked in high esteem on his own merit.

In comparison to Sparks, Jones chose a setting in eastern North Carolina, in the town of Emerald Isle and wrote a romance; however, the author’s description of the more heated romance scenes aren’t described in detail as much as some of Sparks’s novels, and he uses much cleaner language. I don’t recall seeing a cuss word in the entire book, which is rare for romance geared at a general audience.

One aspect I liked most about the book was its subtle message of Christianity. Although Losing London is not marketed as Christian fiction, the characters’ relationship with and thoughts on God are inspiring. I also loved the fact that while the couple stumbles into sin, the characters later realize the error of their ways and make efforts to do what’s right in the sight of God. It was endearing to see a romance novel address this topic!

Now that I’ve rambled on for a few paragraphs about vague components of the novel, let’s get to the real review!

What I Loved:

The Characters:  Even when Mitch was struggling spiritually at the beginning of the book, I fell head-over-heels for his characterization. Mitch Quinn is the epitome of a gentleman (minus one scene, but he redeems himself later). His selflessness and love for his adopted daughter, Hannah, made him a stand-out male lead that I won’t soon forget. Although Harper made me ill because she chose to withhold information from him, I could understand why she chose to do so. The secondary characters also brought life to the novel.

The Plot:  This author knows how to formulate a brilliant plot and execute it in a way that leaves the reader both emotionally ruined yet begging for more. About halfway through I thought I had figured out the ending… nope. Nope. Not at all. I wasn’t prepared for all that one bit. 😭 And even though the plot shattered my heart, it was still amazing.

Literally Everything:  I apologize for being so vague in writing this review, but there are so many aspects I feel need to be kept quiet as to not spoil anything for other readers. But truly, to me, this is one of those books that are difficult to pinpoint just why you love it so much. There’s no real specific thing… just everything. ❤️ Although I did ADORE the mentions of bowling, Snoopy, and teddy bears. Those are my life. 😂

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars (An entire galaxy of stars)


Thanks for stopping by, Arrowheads! Be sure to check back here on Mondays for special character interviews this month with characters from my soon-to-be released middle grade novel, Speak Your Mind!

Later Arrowheads,

-Allyson 😀

Adventures with Allyson!

Hurricane Florence

Good afternoon, Arrowheads. You may or may not have heard about the hurricane that recently wreaked havoc on the Carolinas: Hurricane Florence. You may or may not know about the small towns that have been completely devastated. You may or may not know that the catastrophic floods in some areas surpassed that of Floyd (1999), the most devastating flood in the area to date. (Watch here to get an idea of what Floyd was like).

You may or may not care about any of this. But I do. These are my people. This is where I call my home. These are my friends, family, former classmates, and coworkers.

We are NC Strong.

These are some of the horrors my sweet state has faced over the past week.

HurricaneFlorence

Before the Storm

Hurricane Florence was initially a Category 4 hurricane, making it comparable to Hurricane Hazel from 1954. Although Florence was not projected to make landfall until Friday, September 14, Eastern NC began to make preparations much sooner, as we’re well acquainted with how much damage these storms can cause.

On Tuesday of last week, a mandatory evacuation was proclaimed for one of our surrounding counties. A rumor was also going around at work that our county was under a mandatory evacuation. Knowing that Florence was heading to us as a Category 4 hurricane and that we were being told to leave scared the mess out of me. Though my hometown’s closest neighboring town is prone to catastrophic flooding (and I live in between what I call my hometown and the flooding town), my family’s home did not flood in Floyd. But, with all the hysteria going on, I was beginning to assume it could flood if Florence reached land at full force.

The drive home from work Tuesday resembled a scene from an apocalyptic movie. As I drove east back to my hometown, heavy traffic travelled west. My entire county rarely has typical traffic jams (unless a tractor is involved 😉), so seeing the west-bound traffic backed up a mile at the stoplight in the town where I work gave me goosebumps. The further I traveled, the more traffic emerged. People were driving by pulling campers and tiny houses.

Once I reached my hometown, I began to have a panic attack. Businesses and houses were boarded up with plywood, something I rarely see on Main Street even though we often receive hurricanes and tropical storm threats. All I could think about was the rumor of the mandatory evacuation of our county. All I could imagine was our house flooding and all our belongings, especially photos and videos from my childhood and of my deceased grandparents, being ruined. Bawling as I entered the house that afternoon, Momma assured me that our county was only under a mandatory evacuation for flood prone areas, and that all the traffic I was seeing was from the Onslow county citizens leaving Jacksonville, whose population as a city outnumbers my county. To say I was relieved is an understatement!

The Wrath of Florence

Florence soon downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by the evening of September 13th. This wasn’t just some fluke in the weather pattern that caused it to do so; the amount of prayer and faith Eastern NC placed in God to calm the storm is the only fathomable possibility I can think of. I can attest to that, because I saw it first hand.

I can’t imagine what would have happened if Florence had struck as a Category 4 instead. The wind and rain started that evening, and our electricity went out around 11:00 pm. My sister and I played board games and made our beds for the next few nights on the living room couches.

Florence made landfall on the morning of Friday, September 14th. Through Facebook and local TV stations that we were able to watch through the assistance of an inverter, we watched the storm devastate coastal towns like Wilmington, Jacksonville, Topsail Island, New Bern, and Myrtle Beach (SC). The wind and rain beat down on our house, and a few tree branches fell in our yard, but we were fine throughout the storm. However, because we didn’t have a generator to power the refrigerator during the storm, we began to worry about our food. That night, we had grilled cheese sandwiches and fried bologna sandwiches, prepared on a small gas grill in our garage, the garage door open for the fumes.

The one thing that ate away at me was that Friday, September 14th–the day Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas–was also my baby sister’s 20th birthday. I absolutely hated it for her. Like usual, she opened her birthday presents, but the storm greatly overshadowed the excitement she had been stowing for her birthday plans. That night, in the powerless kitchen, we placed a candle in a piece of cheesecake from Piggly Wiggly and sang Happy Birthday to her.

img_1274.jpg

I’m sure it’s a birthday she’ll never forget. By the end of the night, she was back to her old self again: recording a Snapchat of herself trying to sound like Goofy when he falls. 😂 At the time, we were without power for 22 hours.

Things began to take a turn for the worst on Saturday, the 15th. We woke up to hear that just about every town around us was flooded. We live 30-45 minutes away from the coast, so a lot of the rain Florence brought attributed to freshwater flooding in our area. Boat rescues began in nearby towns. The highway I take to work flooded over, and at the time of writing this post, it’s still flooded over. Not even a mile away from my house, half the road washed out. But, we’re still blessed. We’re still able to get to town.

To make matters worse, around lunch, my boyfriend texted me saying his momma had passed out. After his daddy managed to get her to the hospital (yes, despite the flooding) they found out she had a mild heart attack. Knowing I couldn’t be there with him or her during the hurricane brought me to tears. Thankfully, God has taken care of her through this time and she is in stable condition, though she still requires surgery. My boyfriend stayed home with the rest of their family, to ensure their generator kept working. At the time of writing this post, he still hasn’t been able to see her yet; he’s wary that the roads are beginning to flood over on the way to the hospital and that he won’t be able to return home.

Sunday morning (the 16th), I woke up to find that the USA Today posted an article about my small hometown, describing how we were (at the time) stranded on our own little island of sorts due to the floodwaters restricting us from travelling to all other towns. We are now able to travel to some nearby towns, but at the time of writing this, I’m still unable to get to work, which is only 25 minutes away.

Our local shelter–the elementary school–was in need of food for 250 people, though I’m not sure how they received food because our town and surrounding areas still didn’t have power. My family drove around town that morning, and one of our two gas stations in town was backed up, traffic waiting all the way down Main Street to get gas and waiting for the store to open. The store didn’t even have power. They were working off a generator.

While my island of a hometown was faring well under the circumstances, our neighboring town, Chinquapin, was not. Sunday was when the Cape Fear River began to rise, the flooding becoming even worse than that of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Matthew of 2016. I’ll let this picture speak for itself:

Chinquapin

What you’re looking at is the small town of Chinquapin, NC, home of about 2,000 people. The picture came from my cousin’s Facebook page, and the building circled is the church my uncle preaches at. The flood waters are up to the ceiling of the church. Since our grandparents passed away, this is often where we have family get-togethers for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Click here to watch a more detailed video of the flooding Chinquapin suffered in Hurricane Florence. [Viewer Discrepancy: This video contains explicit language in the background commentary. The video can be watched on Mute to avoid this.]

But more than that, Chinquapin is the the home to some of my former high school classmates, my cousin’s extended family, and two band members from my daddy’s bluegrass group. Chinquapin is home to a variety of churches, and good, hardworking Christian people. Chinquapin is not being recognized on the news like it should because of its small size, but its story deserves to be told.

Sunday night, after approximately 70 hours, our power was restored. We’re very blessed for this short timeframe. Some of our family and friends’ power was restored after ours and was then disconnected again, along with their water. Others still haven’t had power restored at all. Many don’t even have a place to call home anymore.

I don’t know why God allowed Hurricane Florence to happen. This storm has caused more devastation to my area than any other hurricane I can remember. Thousands of His people have lost everything. But we’re still blessed. Hurricane Florence could have very well made landfall as a Category 4, but God spared us the worst. Even through these difficult times, His presence is still known. He’s still making a way.


Please keep Eastern North Carolina in your prayers, but especially the towns and cities listed below:

  • Chinquapin
  • Kinston
  • Jacksonville
  • Richlands
  • Hallsville
  • Fayetteville
  • New Bern
  • Wilmington
  • Topsail Island

Among numerous others. Let’s also not forget our neighboring states of South Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, and Virginia that were also affected.


Please Consider Donating to Hurricane Relief Through the Links Below:

Samaritan’s Purse

American Red Cross


Thanks for reading, Arrowheads. Keep us in your prayers.

-Allyson 😀

Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction Friday: The Carolina Golden Neuse

Good afternoon, Arrowheads! Over the past few weeks, I’ve been getting back into writing Flash Fiction stories. When I first began Authoring Arrowheads last year, the Flash Fiction Friday posts were some of the most popular ones; however, I soon ran out of ideas and wanted to work on finishing Speak Your Mind instead of dedicating time each week to write more short stories. Now that Speak Your Mind has been sent to my editor and beta readers, I’m taking some time to explore some new flash fiction ideas, such as today’s crazy tale: The Carolina Golden Neuse!

**A Quick Background on This Story**

The Carolina Golden Neuse is loosely based on a true story that happened in my family about 5 to 7 years ago. The characters in this story are not based on the real family members this happened to (though I’ll admit I was involved in the original story XD ) The legend mentioned in this story is fictitious as well. I named the “beast” after the Neuse river that runs in eastern North Carolina.

The Carolina Golden Neuse

CarolinaGoldenNeuse

The tale of the Carolina Golden Neuse began as innocently as any other Saturday morning. My younger sister, Auden, and I were diving into a pile of leaves, while Grandma Adeline had ventured over to the field to inspect how her sweet potatoes were coming along. A shocked, “girls, come here!” and we were at her side.

“What is it, Grandma?” Auden drawled, her southern accent strong for her seven years.

“Don’t y’all see that bird out yonder?” Grandma whispered, pointing across the field at a large, golden figure shuffling towards the woods.

“Ain’t that a turkey?” I asked, squinting to get a better look.

“No,” Grandma dismissed, her features etched with fear. “I heard the legend when I was a youngin. That right there is a Carolina Golden Neuse. They’re extremely rare, and prone to attack. Legend has it, they sneak into farms and kill every animal in sight… and the farmers.”

I eyed my grandma, skepticism brewing. She’d always had an overactive imagination. Just weeks before, she’d sworn she’d seen tiny red Martians dancing in her front yard, when all along it was a flock of Cardinals.

“Well, if it’s rare, we need to get a picture then,” Auden chimed in, as a gust of wind picked up. The creature bolted toward the woods, stirring up dust in its trail.

Grandma clutched her heart. “Absolutely not. Girls, go inside and get your brother to come run this thing off. My insurance ain’t gonna cover ‘mauled by psycho bird’!”

Silencing our rebuttals, Grandma ushered us back into her house, meeting our older brother, Rider, in the kitchen. Decked out in camouflage from head-to-toe, Rider had come in from turkey hunting earlier that morning.

“Rider go out there are shoo off that beast,” Grandma demanded, shoving her worn broom in his hand.

Rider stood warily from his chair, startled by her tone. Before exiting the house, Auden grabbed Grandma’s disposable camera from her overflowing bookshelf, whispering to Rider, “Get some good shots. I bet they’ll be worth a bazillion dollars.” Rider shook his head as he hopped down the back steps, muttering under his breath.

Watching from the window, Grandma’s breath hitched as Rider began his trek across the field. About fifty paces from the bird, Rider pulled out the camera and snapped some photos for Auden, as well as some of the field.

“Tracks! It left tracks! We’re gonna be rich!” Auden cackled, answered with an angry “Shhh!” from Grandma.

As Rider approached the bird, it soon took notice and charged in his direction. Holding the broom in a swinging position, he struck the bird as it drew near.

“Oh mercy, I can’t look!” Grandma shrieked, covering her eyes. “My poor grandson!”

I stepped in front of her to get a better look. Rider was in no peril at all. In fact, he was dragging the creature by the foot back to the house, a triumphant beam on his face.

“Ugh, he killed it!” Auden pouted, turning from the window. “Now everyone will hate us.”

“I’m calling Channel 8 News!” Grandma hauled off to locate the phonebook. “All of Linwood County should know the terrible Carolina Golden Neuse has been slain!”

The wind surged as Rider peeled open the back screen door, the creature in hand. Tossing it on the floor, he burst out laughing as he walked to the living room. “Here’s your beast, Grandma!”

Inching closer, I stared at the remains of the Carolina Golden Neuse. Its golden feathers appeared more metallic up close. Hesitantly, I reached out to poke the bird, and its skin deflated beneath my touch. Holding it out at arm’s length, I facepalmed myself.

“A golden unicorn balloon? Grandma, hang up now!”

With a quick click of the receiver, Grandma paced back into the kitchen, arms folded across her chest. “No one needs to know about this. Y’all hear me?”

“Too late!” Rider snorted from the recliner, flipping channels on the television. “You’ve already booked an exclusive on Channel 8.”

© 2018, Allyson Kennedy. All rights reserved.

I can already picture the amount of people thinking my family’s insane. XD Ah, well. I did it for the blog! 😛

If you liked this flash fiction story, feel free to browse through the archives and read over some blasts from the past! For longer works, my debut novel, Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl is available for free on Kindle Unlimited and through KOLL, and available for purchase for only $0.99 on Kindle. 😉

-Allyson 😀