Review: Gritty but Ultimately Good

I was nicely surprised this morning to find a tweet from Chicago Book Review linking to a review of Box of Rain.

The Chicago Review of Books posted an awesome review this morning of Box of Rain. Click the link at the end to read the whole wonderful thing, but here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Box of Rain is the third in a series of “Street Stories” suspense novels focusing on the gritty side of Chicago. In this briskly paced story, Debra Borys weaves together two narratives: one about a young black man falsely suspected of murder and on the run from police, the other about a reporter on the case as she grapples with her father’s dubious past.”

This quick-paced, sometimes dark, but ultimately good-hearted novel aims for light entertainment with a straightforward message, not unlike the spirited Chicago detective novels of Sarah Paretsky.

“The characters are lightly but clearly sketched in their precarious situations and there are several nuanced angles to the story. For instance, not all of the people striving to help these young men are thoroughly “good.” Many show traces of both compassion and stubbornness or even ruthless greed. The young men themselves are far from perfect. The police show both concern and callousness. The reporter has more than her share of doubts about the young men; she is not their unfailing champion. Personal problems leave her irritable and sharp-tongued—a possible hindrance in her investigation. All this adds up to poor odds for a young man mired in a major criminal case.

This quick-paced, sometimes dark, but ultimately good-hearted novel aims for light entertainment with a straightforward message, not unlike the spirited Chicago detective novels of Sarah Paretsky. Box of Rain will not surprise those familiar with the problems between young black men and law enforcement. But with its tightly knit plot and a few good twists, this novel may be recommended for YA and general readers curious about how unconscious biases can lead to vicious cycles of distrust.”

From Chicago Book Review:  Gritty but Ultimately Good-Hearted

 

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Review and Interview Planned with John Byk of Writers Alive

Download the e-book today!I’m excited and flattered to be invited to be invited to interview again.

BOX OF RAIN: another STREET STORIES suspense novel

ScreenShot

John Byk of Writers Alive has been on my mailing list since he did a podcast interview of me for the release of Painted Black back in 2011. When he received my latest notice about Box of Rain being released in print later this month, he contacted me to ask if I would be interested in doing another interview.

JohnBykExclusive podcasts with some of today’s most famous and compelling authors

Of course I said yes!  My 2011 appearance on his show was fun and an invaluable opportunity.  He was a great host and made the live interview–which was my first ever as a published author–a great experience. I expect this one will be as well.  I’ll post here whenever we get a date set up.

In addition, John offered to do a review of Box of Rain.  In his role as an author interviewer, he has picked up quite a…

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Review: “An important story to read”

This is why I write this series, reactions like this one:

“Box of Rain is an important story for us to read. It’s an inside view of life unfolding in the shadows of our world, providing a new perspective about the challenges good people face trying to survive and live in spite of the circumstances they were born into. The odds are usually against them. Heck, society and even their own kind are usually against them, but still some of them take every ounce of courage and every bit of energy they have to fight against the odds and break the cycle in the hopes of changing their lives for the better.”

BOX OF RAIN: another STREET STORIES suspense novel

MJ

I am so blown away by M.J. Joachim’s comments in her Box of Rain review that I can’t pick only some of her post to quote and had to paste the whole thing. But I do encourage you to visit her site. She has a lot of great content you’d enjoy.

“Capturing a sense of reality in the dangerous prospect of living on the street, engaging in the abstract sense of hope through a sense of safety confounded by betrayal, Box of Rain stimulates and intensifies a journey saddened by hardship, lies and futility. It’s not easy breaking the cycle of negative circumstances and situations in one’s life. Even when one works confoundedly hard to do just that, life has a way of ripping the rug out from under you.

Surviving is not the same thing as living. Life on the street, in gangs, bouncing from foster home to…

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Glowing Review @ Windy City Reviews

Starza Thompson had lots of good things to say about Box of Rain at Windy City Reviews: “Box of Rain is a chilling murder mystery filled with exciting twists that make the reader question every character, while opening the readers’ eyes to the plight of homelessness in Chicago.”

Windy City Reviews is an online publication put together by the Chicago Writer’s Association.  One of their reviewers, Starza Thompson, agreed to give Box of Rain a read and gave it a glowing reivew.  Some highlights from her post are below, but I hope you will click through to read the whole thing.

Download the e-book today!
Download the e-book today!

Box of Rain by Debra Borys captures the fundamentals of a good murder mystery, all while weaving information about Chicago’s troubled youth into the story. This novel is a thrilling page-turner that delves into issues about family, gangs, homelessness, and trust.

When an author is trying to shed light on an issue, a cause, or a problem in society, they can sometimes be a bit heavy-handed in delivering the message, often losing the literary part of the novel in the process. This is not the case with Box of Rain.

The issue of homelessness is expertly woven throughout the book, causing the reader to think about homelessness without it being the primary purpose of the story.

The murder mystery comes first, taking the reader on an exciting journey, all while highlighting the hardships that many Chicago youth face. Box of Rain is an excellent gateway for readers who normally wouldn’t read a story about social issues to learn about homelessness without realizing it.

 

Via Windy Cindy Reviews

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5-Star Review by Author Dayna Leigh Cheser

The first of what I hope will be many 5-star reviews for Box of Rain.

“The characters are very real, the pace is good, and the suspense is great. Ms. Borys tells a wonderful story while teaching us about life in the Chicago projects.”

BOX OF RAIN: another STREET STORIES suspense novel

DaynesiteAuthor Dayna Leigh Cheser selects only one book per month to showcase on her blog.  For January, Box of Rain not only made the cut, but also received a five-star rating.  Here is the first post which includes the review.  Part two of her showcase will happen Jan. 26.

Download the e-book today! Download the e-book today!

Who killed Rico? And, why?

And, what about others who have disappeared over the years?

In a weekly newspaper office, Jo works to finish her work, ignoring calls from her mother. Jack visits her there, asking for help with a client who wants to escape the projects – Booker T.

Unable to deal with her father being charged with a crime, Jo is stressed when her parents come to town for her father’s cancer treatment. Meeting her mother in the hospital cafeteria for Mother’s Day doesn’t end well, so she meets Jack – and all @#$% breaks…

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4-star Review @ Long & Short Reviews

“Mystery lovers are certain to find Box of Rain to be a gripping story, not only filled with excitement, but one which deals with some very real current issues.”

via Cyclamen at Long & Short Reviews.

BOX OF RAIN: another STREET STORIES suspense novel

LongandShortLong & Short reviews is a prolific review site with multiple reviewers with a host of styles and tastes. Luckily, Box of Rain fits into the category of 4-star approval! Here’s a bit of what they had to say–click through the read the whole article and see whatother books they recommend.

Download the e-book today! Download the e-book today!

The characters in this novel are incredibly real. Thankfully, I’ve never been in a situation such as Shorty’s and Booker’s, but I felt as if I were an integral part of it. Jo Sullivan, a reporter, is the third main character, and certainly her personal life is not much easier psychologically than the boys’. She may not be living on the street, but the drama in her family life is more than sufficient to cause her to take up Booker’s cause not only as a distraction from her own problems but also as a way…

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The First Review is In

Download the e-book today!“A fast paced murder mystery. I loved the setting in Chicago, the descriptive details are very accurate. I liked Booker, he was a determined young man, determined to make something good out of his life, despite his horrible upbringing. The plot was very good and original, I like that in a book. Overall I feel that those who love murder/mystery will enjoy Box of Rain.”

-Sheri Wilkinson for Juniper Grove 4-stars

BOX OF RAIN: another STREET STORIES suspense novel

And it’s a good one.  4 stars from Sheri A. Wilkinson for Jaidis Shaw’s blog site Juniper Grove.  Sheri is actually a local reviewer, from Princeton, and posted her review on both Amazon.com and Goodreads.  Jaidis will be posting it to her website on January 21.

Thanks to both Sheri and Jaidis.  Here’s the review:

Download the e-book today! Download the e-book today!

Booker T brooks and his cousin Shorty Davis grew up in the ghettos of Chicago. They lived in a foster home with a kind and caring woman, Mrs. C. When one of the boys discovers a severed head in a dumpster he soon becomes the number one suspect in the murder. Report Jo Sullivan is dealing with her severely ill father who had cancer and is undergoing radical treatment. She decides to look into this case. Something doesn’t seem right to her and she is determined to find out…

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“A chilling and tension-drenched thriller”

A review by a Chicagoan who knows what the streets are really like–now this is a great review.

Bend Me, Shape Me

Starza Thompson over at Windy City Reviews gave Bend Me, Shape Me a long and marvelous review today. Below are some of my favorite excerpts, but I really hope you will click through to read everything she had to say.

Bend Me Shape Me takes a deep and fascinating look into the world of teen homelessness in Chicago. Through the eyes of Snow Ramirez, Jo Sullivan, and Leonard Goldenhawk, author Debra Borys shepherds the audience on a terrifying journey of homelessness, mental illness, family problems, and murder.

"Nicely done" “Page-turning tension”

This novel was chock full of nail-biting scenes and page-turning tension, making it very hard to put down. Throughout the book, Borys does an excellent job of painting a realistic picture of homeless youth and the struggle they have with mental illness, family, trust, and more. From the very first page of this novel, the audience is pulled into Snow’s story…

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“Often chilling, always entertaining”

It’s good to know Painted Black is still pulling in new readers and admirers.

Painted Black

5 star review Timing is everything.  During October, reviewer Angie Mangino is giving away her print reviewer’s copy of Painted Black in a contest on Facebook.  Then today, I received notice that Gary Stout posted a review of Painted Black on Amazon.  A five-star review, no less!  So after you read HIS five-star review, go to Angie’s Facebook page to read HER -five star review, and then comment in her post to possibly win your very own print version of the book.

Here’s What Gary had to say:

5.0 out of 5 starsOften Chilling, Always Entertaining, October 5, 2013
This review is from: Painted Black (Kindle Edition)

Borys has written a story from the streets of Chicago. She has developed consistent characters, used excellent imagery, and captured a glimpse of youth viewpoint of life on the streets and lost innocence. It’s easy to get behind the plot and want to follow along…

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“An experience you can see, hear, and smell”

A big thumbs up for the book and my writing, but a thumbs down for the cover again. Next time, we hire a professional cover artist–I promise.

Bend Me, Shape Me

IndieHeart

I knew from an email Jill at IndieHeart sent me two weeks ago that this review of Bend Me, Shape Me would be a good one.  Jill has experience working with troubled teens and so her accolades are high praise indeed.  Please click through to read more, including a brief overview of the main characters that you should find interesting.

I found most of the characters in Bend Me, Shape Me to be well drawn. Alley is the perfect picture of a boy with fetal alcohol syndrome. Snow, who has been diagnosed as bipolar (like many traumatized teen girls with legitimate anger) is a strong and compelling character. You will find yourself pulling for her from the beginning.

The author also brings a high degree of craft to the elements that make the story an experience you can see, hear, and smell; she has a talent for both descriptive language…

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“Nicely done”

While some might think 3.5 stars isn’t that good of a rating, it seems like high praise indeed from someone who admits she doesn’t really enjoy crime fiction. Thanks, Tanja!

Bend Me, Shape Me

Tanja from Bosnia didn’t think Bend Me, Shape Me‘s plot twist related to the government was necessary, but does say that it was logical and the book was nicely done.  She also prefaced her review on Jacitamati by admitting crime fiction isn’t really her preferred genre.  3.5 stars from someone who doesn’t usually enjoy suspense novels?  I’ll take it!

Being a reader makes you discover different things about yourself. For example, I’m huge fan of tv-crime shows and I watched who knows how many CSI and Criminal Minds episodes but when it comes to suspense or crime books I tend to avoid them. They simply don’t do it for me, but maybe I will discover some book that will change my mind. This one was a nice and interesting read but it didn’t bring that epiphany, nor did I expect it to. It wouldn’t be fair to set my…

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“I was drawn in”

This is the only 3-star review I’ve ever received, but I find it wasn’t as painful as I thought it might me. You might say I also am “satisfied and disappointed at the same time.”

Bend Me, Shape Me

Pankhearst

I find it interesting that on the same day I receive a review complimenting how strong the characters are portrayed, I also find another which says the opposite.  The Pankhearst Reviewposted a review on August 14 that I found only because I was bored and did a Google search for “Borys” and “Bend Me, Shape Me.”  Despite the fact that the reviewer felt disappointed with the character depth and thought the ending seemed rushed, he did have a few good things to say and ended his commentary with: “”It’s weird reading a novel and being satisfied and disappointed at the same time.”

This is the only 3-star review I’ve ever received, but I find it wasn’t as painful as I thought it might me.  You might say I also am “satisfied and disappointed at the same time.”

If you’re looking for a quick, easy read with an…

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“Well presented and completely engaging”

I love strong characters and am so glad Jo and Snow show such signs of strength.

Bend Me, Shape Me

IAmIndeed

I am, Indeed gave Bend Me, Shape Mea 4-star review and had some great things to say, particularly about Snow and Jo as characters.

Snow’s “determination to protect her brother and survive against horrific odds is a testament to her strength.”

“Jo is pretty amazing and the careful nurturing of the budding relationship that she is building with Snow is well-defined and presented with a solidity that feels both possible and realistic.

I hope you will click through to read the whole review, but here is another little taste of the a 4-starry goodness:

There must be something in the air or some odd convergence of planets: I’ve had a group of books that I have read lately that, at least tangentially, deal with characters that are “less than” in society’s eyes. Bend Me, Shape Me is no different. Debra Borys deals with the issue of underground teenaged runaways…

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“Realistically portrayed while still being suspenseful”

Bend Me, Shape Me

The review for Bend Me, Shape Me is not yet posted at IndieHeart Reviews, but I did receive an email today from their reviewer that got my work week off to a great start.  With inspiration like this, how can I not dig deep into the third Street Stories suspense novel?

I finished “Bend Me, Shape Me” on Friday, and I hope to have a review written by next week. I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed the book. I spent 10 years as a Family therapist specializing primarily with violent teens (and juvenile sexual offenders) in both Phoenix and my current rural Ohio location, and I was so pleased to see your characters so realistically portrayed while still being a suspenseful novel with an interesting storyline.

As you might guess from that, my review will be on the good side!

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“This book…prompted…further research about homelessness”

MJLast week I posted a link to a review of Bend Me, Shape Me by M.J. Joachim.  While she had many good things to say about the book, she concluded at the end not to add the book to her Recommended Reading list.  While I was disappointed, I was happy with the many things she did like about the book.

Snow and Jo were not done with the reviewer, however. Recently MJ wrote this note on a review she did for a John Grisham book:

Note:  I added an update to my recent Bend Me, Shape Me review. This book touched my heart and prompted me [to] read and conduct further research about homelessness. Consequently, I published another book review for Danielle Steel’s book, A Gift of Hope, today on my Effectively Human website, and have added Bend Me, Shape me to my Recommended Reading List.

[Emphasis above added by me]

She then included a slight nod to Bend Me, Shape Me in her Danielle Steele review.  I am thrilled that my name and my novel has been mentioned (however incidentally) in association with big time names like Grisham and Steele.  More importantly, since grabbing hold of readers’ minds and making them think even after the book is finished is one of the ultimate goals of my Street Stories series, I am gratified at this turn of events.

Here is M.J.’s description of what made her change her mind.

BOOK REVIEWER’S NOTE: I wanted more. My book reviewer’s lens clashed strongly with my desire to be Effectively Human. What I found was an unyielding desire to learn and understand the plight of homelessness in our midst. From the moment I finished reading and reviewing “Bend Me, Shape Me,” thoughts of homeless people and the struggles they face have been ever present in my heart, mind and soul. For this reason I’m changing my mind and adding “Bend Me, Shape Me” to my Recommended Reading List. My opinions shared in this review have not changed from a reader’s point of view. However, I would be remiss if I overlooked what the images of homelessness and life on the streets shared in this book, have done to my heart.

As a side note, I’m currently working on and researching some new articles relating to homelessness for my Effectively Human website. I expect to publish a few more in the not too distant future.

via M. J. Joachim’s Writing Tips: Book Review: Bend Me, Shape Me by Debra R. Borys.

[Emphasis added by me again]

“An important testimony”

Not as glowing as the previous reviews, but enough goodness to keep me happy.

Bend Me, Shape Me

MJM.J. Joachim did a thoughtful review of Bend Me, Shape Me last week that I almost missed.  While she did not add the book to her Recommended Reading list, she had many good things to say, including the excerpt below.  Click through to read the entire commentary.

Let me know if you agree with some of her conclusions.  I love learning if there is something I can do better for next time.

This is a story that begins with an intensely strong opening chapter, one that startles readers, awakens their senses and captures their attention. Happy endings, albeit nice, seem to soften the blow and dismiss the horror of what life must be like for homeless teenagers on our streets, especially in rough cities like Chicago.

Bend Me, Shape Me is an important testimony for the plight of homeless people, prostitutes, addicts etc. My heart opened wide as I…

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“Suspenseful, enlightening and well done”

The reviews are starting to add up, and they’re all sounding pretty positive!

Bend Me, Shape Me

Kimberly Costa gave Bend Me, Shape Me 4-stars and some high praise.  Here are the highlights of her review, but I encourage you to click through to read the whole review and followup comments.

I am delighted I agreed to read and review this novel. Borys offers fascinating characters, a look at inner city homeless children and combines it with a suspenseful mystery that kept me flipping the pages. This is the second book in the Street Stories series but each work is a standalone. Three word review: suspenseful, enlightening and well done.

Snow is a powerful character who has been apart of too much darkness for a girl of eighteen. She is street wise and has spent her youth protecting her brother Alley and drowning her sorrow in pills. Snow and Alley are half Native American and left the Washington Yakama Reservation with her mother and father. Their life…

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“Borys is quite the master”

Reviews like this one make me do the Snoopy dance.

Bend Me, Shape Me

DarianWilk

4star reviewDarian Wilk continues to love my Street Stories suspense series.  Here’s her review of Bend Me, Shape Me.  She is also offering a contest to give away a print and e-copy of the book.  Follow the link to enter.

This is the second book in the Street Stories series by Debra Borys, the first, Painted Black, I also had the privilege of reviewing.

The focus again is on the lives of young homeless kids living on the streets. Kids, especially those trapped in this type of life, should be able to trust those in positions to help them – like psychiatrists. But something feels all too wrong. Snow’s roommate commits suicide. Again Jo Sullivan is the one who steps up to help those without a voice. True to Borys style you get a very surreal feeling of what life on the streets is really like. It’s…

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“Gritty, Riveting”

With the paperback version of Bend Me, Shape Me releasing later this month, there should be more reviews to read soon.

Bend Me, Shape Me

4star reviewA.C. Haury at Bibliophile Book Reviews had great things to say about Bend Me, Shape Me, and gave it 4-stars!  Not bad!  And just in time for the release of the paperback version expected out July 22.

“Bend Me, Shape Me” by Debra R. Borys is a gritty, riveting, and intriguing eBook that delves right into the dark and often twisted underbelly of inner city life. This is a well written book that definitely delivers a punch. I didn’t give it five stars, because as someone who lives in the inner city it is hard to shock me, but for readers who are not as familiar with the innerworkings of less than desirable folks and groups that seem to congregate in urban settings, “Bend Me, Shape Me” is definitely going to deliver a jolt. I’m looking forward to Debra R. Borys future works – She’s definitely an author to…

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Scales Review

ScalesHopefully you remember Acacia Awai from her guest post she wrote for me a little while ago.  Well, I finally got around to writing a review for her romantic fantsy novel, Scales, which I posted on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.  Here’s what I thought of the book.  If it sounds like your kind of book, I encourage you to get a copy and decide what you think.

Scales Scales by Acacia Awai

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I should have read this sooner! I’ve had this book for a while but I kept putting off reading it because I was so busy and also it’s not my preferred genre. I’m not much into romances and I’m picky about my fantasy/sci-fi/alternate reality kind of stories. Joss Whedon spoiled me that way I guess—too many writers and/or directors don’t live up to my standards any more.

But this book has something uniquely special about it. For one thing, it’s set in Hawaii and the tropical sensuality of the place really adds a certain aura to the story that is enticing. Awai sure knows her home state. For another, whoever would have thought of Dragons like the ones Awai creates in her Scales series? Especially dragons like Hatch Lancaster! Completely unexpected and like nothing you’ve ever read before.

At times I grew a little impatient with the love story between Hatch and Blue, but I blame that on my personal disinterest in romances in general. I’m a mystery/suspense gal so if things get too kissy, kissy I’m all “Get on with the story already.”

Awai handles both romance and suspense with a fun and riveting flair that keeps you reading till the end. It’s good to know there are two more books coming in the series, because with an iceberg tip this entertaining, you just know you have to see what the whole glacier looks like. (Ach, iceberg metaphors about a book set in Hawaii—what am I thinking?!)

View all my reviews