Trudy Knowles

Westfield, MA

Retired professor. Five kids. Four grandkids. Author of The Kids Behind the Label: An Inside Look at ADHD for Classroom Teachers. Co-author of What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know

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In the Gap

This book provides interesting insights into the lives of people who believe strongly in the power of prayer. The main character, Tyler, is imperfect as he strives to be true to himself. What is wonderful about him as a character is that he never claims to be perfect. In fact, he tends to see himself as a fraud yet always striving. His visions and dreams are described vividly and one gets a true sense of the terror that he feels. Despite his terror, he continues to do what he is called to do.

This book provides a powerful look at the forces of good and evil as they work in our lives. It also focuses on the power of prayer to heal and demonstrates how prayer can be a transforming force in our lives.

The scene with Meredith at the park is particularly graphic and well-done. Descriptions throughout the book are strong.

The author definitely has a sequel here.

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More Than This

I love the structure of this story, how the voice moves from one person to the other. You really understand young high school love, how the heartbreak seems so permanent, how the truth is often misunderstood, how feelings are so incredibly intense. I think this short story could certainly be turned into a novel that middle and high school students would love. It's their lives you are talking about and you've nailed their feelings.

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Well-written story

Triple Date is a well-written and fun story. It’s predictable in that you know where the relationships are heading. It’s unpredictable in that you don’t quite know how the couples will get there. It was fun to watch the unfolding of this seemingly complicated situation.

I love how the author deals with the idea of letting go. Both Cora and Chess learn to let go of both their children and their parents. Only when they do that can they jump into life themselves. The author gives an accurate depiction of the feelings parents go through when they “think” they know what’s best for their kids only to find out that their kids need to figure that out themselves.

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Deadly Secrets

HR Kemp has written a powerful story that touches on universal themes we can all relate to: political corruption, the abuse of power, human rights.

The story constantly surprises up until the very last chapter. Throughout I found myself going through a range of emotions: anger, surprise, fear, sadness, relief. Just when I thought I figured it out, the author put in another twist.

The story looks at the importance of speaking out against injustice even when it’s hard. Characters in the novel often had to search within to find the courage to do the right thing. The author does a nice job getting into the conscience of the characters as they struggle with the truth.

I also felt a deep sadness reading this book. While I don’t know the politics of Australia, currently the political culture in the United States is divisive, everyone seems to be against everyone else. Greed and fear drive decisions. People look out for themselves and fail to feel the pain of those not like them. This book touches on all these issues and, sadly, it is an authentic look at contemporary life.

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Up So Floating

Up So Floating is a love story that shows us that love often comes when and where we least expect it. The young girl in the story, Aria, longs for connection. Abandoned by her mother and father for years on end, she finds this connection with relatives and friends she grows to love, with all their faults.

The relationships Aria develops with her uncles are unique and she loves each of them in her special way, grounding them in her love, waking them up to life. The relationship of Kiev and Aria is particularly beautiful. She accepts him exactly as he is and their love is transformational. Kiev becomes her safe space. She becomes his. Aria’s relationship with Eloisa also grounds her, the gardens become a place of refuge.

The author’s use of language allows us to feel the deep emotions that all the characters struggle with in their perfect imperfections. Listen to this beautiful language:

“The transformation of dark thoughts to light is a quiet miracle done in private.”

“Community is for spreading the secrets around, letting others hold the burdens so they can be carried off.”

“Faith is the table or wall you lean against when you can’t hold yourself up.”

“Sometimes you’ve got to ground yourself first before you take flight.”

“Where do small birds go in the night to hide, to remain safe? Maybe darkness is faith personified.”

“What was once a loosely organized interconnection of rubble has intertwined to become a complex organism of pulsating love.”

The book is filled with such language. In the end, this love story pulsates with connection and faith.

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DEAD OR ALIVE

DEAD OR ALIVE offers an interesting and unique look at numerous existential questions. What is real and what is fantasy? Are we dreaming or is this real? If given a chance, would we relive our lives? What would we do for love? Are we scared of growing old?

There are some interesting ideas that emerge from the novel. For example: If we had no dreams we would be forced to confront reality and be able to create and grow. On the other hand, people need their dreams. I love the line, “Imagine, dreams and the persons within the dreams becoming real.”

There is a love story intertwined in this fantasy. The protagonist realizes he needs people in his life to make it meaningful.

Scenes are vivid but at times move from one to another without being developed completely or advancing the plot (I’m thinking of the scene when they are surfing). Sometimes the transitions from one scene to the next are too quick. (For example: the slide to chaos and violence comes very quickly – it could use more development).

The writer has a good first draft but could use editing to look for sentence structure, use of capital letters, punctuation and spelling, use of numerals instead of the written words for numbers, etc. (Example: The sentence, “Parker and I finished the Whiskey, and slurred out the words, “let’s go Clowns, off to the cemetery.”)

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