MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Pantheon, Rome by Lisa Shea

Table of Contents

2014 BellaOnline Ebook Awards


2014 BellaOnline Ebook Awards Winners

2014 BellaOnline Ebook Awards

The BellaOnline Ebook Awards celebrate the talent, creativity, and determination of today's small press and self-published authors. These skilled writers often take on the task of researcher, creator, editor, marketer, and designer, all while hectically juggling jobs and family.

From science fiction to mystery, from spirituality to humor, these books show us the breadth of stunning literature which exists in our modern world of self-published and small-press works.

BellaOnline is proud to celebrate these writers' achievements and to promote the results of their heartfelt efforts!
 
Best of BellaOnline - Women's Literature


Lost and Found at the Bowl-O-DromeLost and Found at the Bowl-O-Drome

by Christine Beauchaine


The year is 1962. Eleanor Wilson is a product of an upper-middle-class childhood in the tony part of Connecticut. Her parents have assumed, ever since she could toddle on two feet, that she will marry their friends' wealthy, society-savvy son. Eleanor's life is an endless, mindless cycle of debutante balls populated with shallow snobs. Her mother's highest priority seems to be choosing the exact, proper hue of shoe to match her dress.

But this is a time of John F. Kennedy and the Peace Corps - of Civil Rights and changing expectations. Eleanor has been squelching her inner dreams for her entire life. Sometimes it takes just that one small step to start on an entirely new path.

If those around will let her.

Lost and Found at the Bowl-O-Drome is set in the sixties, but it's a message that nearly every woman in the world in our modern times can relate to. It's a tale about societal expectations and listening for your inner voice. It's about finding the strength to hold true to what you know is right for you. It's about standing up to the many around us who wish to tell us what is best for ourselves, and to know when to forge a new path.

It's about realizing that, while lying might be all-to-easy, in the end it's not the choice which will set one free.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Mystery and Thriller


A Monsters GameGold Award: The Monster's Game

by Maud Muller


A timely story about violence, poverty, race, and greed set in the gritty streets of Detroit. Alamanda Tyler grew up poor in Delton, Mississippi. Her dreams of escaping to become a journalist dump her into writing sensationalized gossip for Reveal Magazine. When a poor, black child is killed in Detroit, nobody blinks an eye - but when the next victim is a rich, white woman, suddenly tires are rolling.

Alamanda is drawn into the investigation, overcoming old prejudices and coming up against ingrained stereotypes. From the police to her own media organization, from the families of the victims to the community around them, the swirl of characters and attitudes makes this a powerful window into the issues we face in our modern society.

A Monster's Game is a fiction story - but its issues and concerns could easily be read about in any modern-day city newspaper.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Red Asscher - Living in FearSilver Award: Red Asscher - Living in Fear

by P.C. Chinick


This World War II story features Anya Pavlovitch as a U.S. intelligence operative working in a Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Her Russian roots come back to haunt her, and her own co-workers aren't always keen to have a woman in the field with them. When lives are on the line, she has to find the strength to handle situations she never dreamed of.

Red Asscher does a wonderful job of transporting us back in time and into a vastly different culture. It examines the challenges of the war coupled with the extra burdens placed on women. All in an exotic atmosphere which shines with intrigue.

Available on Amazon.com
 
China JewelBronze Award: China Jewel

by Thomas Hollyday


A classic Clipper Ship race is set to run between the historic port town of River Sunday, Maryland and Canton, China, now known as Guangzhou. Jim Cutter knows it'll be enough of a challenge managing the US entry against the cut-throat antics of their competitors. What he and his girlfriend, professor Kate Marbury, don't realize is that the history of their ship traces back through slavery, murder, robbery, destroyed lives, and unrequited love - and that it's all about to boil back up to the surface.

China Jewel is a modern murder mystery with roots which delve through centuries of buried grief. There are overlapping layers of discrimination, deception, and prejudice which haunt and echo through to current days.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Science Fiction and Fantasy


The Keepers of EireGold Award: The Keepers of Eire

by Jordan Bernal


Devan Fraser might have been born in the US, but her family's connection to Ireland runs deep. So when her parents are tragically killed, she embarks on a trip to seek out her heritage. What she doesn't know is that her ancestors intertwine with a secret group of dragon-riders, sworn to protect Ireland from harm.

When she meets Dublin street-rat Christian Riley, they immediately recognize kindred spirits in each other. Together they must find their destiny and help bring an end to a serial killer's tormented activities.

The Keepers of Eire is a wonderfully, intricately layered journey through the streets of Ireland and the many sacred sites which pepper its green fields. The characters are rich, multi-faceted, and believable, their strengths and weaknesses weaving into a tapestry which bring this story into vibrant life. One gets a real sense of the layers of history, the relationships in the families, and the decades-old histories between characters which make this an immersive epic in the tradition of Dragonriders of Pern.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Gathering StormSilver Award: Gathering Storm

by Cecily Magnon


Ellie Amalfi was on the brink of a perfect life when her mother vanished at sea. Now Ellie struggles to find solace in her daily routine. But her life is turned upside-down when she realizes that her mother was part of a hidden conflict between angels and demons, between good and evil.

Ellie's soon in a battle far larger than she could have imagined, and the truths about her own family become unraveled and revealed. She realizes that she's far from alone, and that she has more strength than she ever imagined.

Gathering Storm creates a coming-of-age story steeped in history and tradition. Groups the Bible discusses, from the Anakim to Nephilim, are revealed not to be ancient fables but real, living powers in our modern-day world.

Available on Amazon.com
 
The Squonk and the Horned BeastBronze Award: The Squonk and the Horned Beast

by Kevin Paul Saleeba


Putnam was a runt, and he should have been slain at birth. That was the way of his tribe. His mother sadly but deliberately put him out into the forest. But when Putnam returned, night after night, she knew it was a sign. She raised him the best she could, despite the disapproval of their clan and the torture he endured from the others.

When Putnam finally leaves home to explore the world around him, he finds deceptions and prejudices. But he also realizes that those who might seem to be enemies can end up as the one who appears in your hour of need.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Spiritual and Self


The Real Brass RingGold Award: The Real Brass Ring

by Dianne Bischoff James


Many stories of achieving goals make it sound easy, as if any person could lay out a golden path and simply waltz to the end. But with The Real Brass Ring we see a more authentic view from a woman who invested ten long years to reach her goal.

Dianne was in her late thirties and had it all - a good career, a caring husband, and a pair of happy children. But deep down inside she knows that it's all a farce. She doesn't like her job. Her husband is more of a roommate than a partner. How could she model healthy behavior to her girls when she felt miserable every day?

What ensues is Dianne's explorations of a variety of well-known self-help systems. She quotes Jack Canfield and Gregg Braden, John Gray and Iyanla Vanzant. The experiments don't always end up well. Dianne achieves the house of her dreams, but she can't sell the old one because it's haunted. Her marriage breaks down and the man she turns to is an alcoholic. Still, each step helps her learn, grow, and build on her strengths.

By the end she's found what really works, has built a new, strong life, and is content. The real-life journey is well worth following.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Pagan Know YourselfSilver Award: Pagan Know Yourself

by Ro Longstreet


While this book is directed at pagans, it's a wonderful voyage of self-exploration that just about anybody could benefit from. It's structured as a series of one hundred questions which guide the reader through examining their beliefs and learning what is important to them.

For example, one question is, "How do you view your body, your personality, and your soul?" By pondering this and journaling the answer, readers can build insights into their life and find ways to build their spirituality in a way which makes sense to them.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Who Needs Church?Bronze Award: Who Needs Church?

by Thomas A. Lenz


Aimed squarely at Christians, Who Needs Church? examines the nature of a worshipping community and how it can help strengthen each member of that group. Author Lenz begins by discussing what the Bible says about believers and the Church. He reviews the history of assembling to worship. But then he goes into why, in our modern culture, having that community is more helpful than ever before.

He talks about how important it is for people to help each other with hurdles, to be attentive to other's needs, and to have a safety net for those who have issues. He discusses options for home-bound people, so they do not feel lonely and neglected. A good review of how much a "village" can mean for each of us whether we're Christian or not.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Self-Help and Improvement


Digging Out - How to Help a HoarderGold Award: Digging Out - How to Help a Hoarder

by Lori Phillips


In our capitalistic, materialistic, buy-buy-buy world, it's no surprise that hoarders exist. We're trained from birth to want the latest toy and newest cell-phone. Couple that with the wild economic issues we've faced, and you end up with people who cling to whatever they have, just in case they need it at some point.

Lori has seen it first-hand. She and her husband moved in with an aunt who had towers of stuff, piles of possessions, and who insisted she really did need those bags full of plastic forks.

Digging Out provides an up-close, personal look at the mindset of a hoarder. Lori provides practical, actionable advice on how to, step by step, get the situation under control. Even if you don't have a hoarder currently in your life, give this a read. It's a fascinating exploration of a situation that's all too common in our modern world.

You never know when the information might come in useful.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Distance Learning Is It Right for You?Silver Award: Distance Learning: Is It Right for You?

by Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger


Did you know that you can take free courses from MIT, Yale, Brown, Stanford, and Duke? That you could take them in your pajamas from the comfort of your living room? Distance Learning steps you through what the options are, how to prepare for success, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Distance Learning covers everything you'll need for success. What the expectations will be. How to optimize your life so that you get as much done in as little time possible. She even covers tips about time management and organization so that you can thrive in the online atmosphere.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Exercise BasicsBronze Award: Exercise Basics

by Terri Johansen


We all want to be healthy and feel our best. We know that regular movement is a part of that. How do we begin? Exercise Basics steps us through what we should do, with clear explanations and helpful tips.

From cardio to flexibility to strength-training, Exercise Basics describes what they're about and how to approach them. Readers learn how to accurately judge their starting situation and then track their progress. There are tips on safety and time management, on saving money and finding motivation.

Available on BellaOnline.com
 
Humor


Put Down the Damn Toilet Seat!Gold Award: Put Down the Damn Toilet Seat!

by Andrea Partee


You can tell by the title that this isn't going to be a gracious, quiet, Erma Bombeck-style gentle wandering through life. It's going to involve swearing, frustration, body functions, and chaos. But for many people, that's the way life is and it's refreshing to hear one's not alone.

Andrea Partee doesn't hold any punches, but it's all real. Moms know. Kids are fascinated by things like poo. Kids wonder if fish tanks are really all that sturdy. Kids decide they absolutely must pee at the worst time possible. And there's two things moms can do. They can have a mental breakdown - or they can roll with it. They can realize that, after all, these things happen, and life goes on.

Andrea takes us through childbirth, divorce, dating, empty nesting, and more. Through it all, she shares a story that has echoes in all lives. Life is imperfect. It's full of compromise. And, with a bit of humor, we make it through with a smile at the end.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Aging with Humor and GraceSilver Award: Aging with Humor and Grace

by Andrea Partee


In Aging with Humor and Grace, Andrea Partee picks up where she left off - although, technically, she wrote this one first. In either case, the same skewering wit is there, tackling wrinkles and nose hairs, grey hairs and changing perceptions of life. Aging is going to happen. Our bodies are going to change. Either we can smile about it or we can try frantically to stop the sands of time - which will rarely be effective. Andrea reminds us that the most beautiful part of a person is a smile, and she relays her stories in a frank, down-to-earth way that brings them to life.

So often in our youth-obsessed culture we strive to hide anything age-related in a dark closet, never to be spoken of. Andrea lifts the lid on all of life's foibles and reminds us that we're in this together.

Available on Amazon.com
 
Must See Movie MistakesBronze Award: Must See Movie Mistakes

by Isla Grey


We all know that laughter can be the best medicine. Sometimes it's fun to watch a comedy. And then sometimes it's fun to smile at the silly mistakes being made in the movie! Must See Movie Mistakes tackles these foul-ups with witty commentary and great, detailed instructions of what to watch for.

If you're a Mamma Mia! fan, keep an eye out for hair dryers that magically change color! Sleepless in Seattle has popcorn that teleports from hand to hand. Cowboys and Aliens has whiskey that vanishes. There's even a bunch of Lord of the Rings references. You're warned if something is a spoiler or not, so you know not to read those for your very first watching of a movie.

Available on BellaOnline.com
 
Kudos to All Self-Published and Small Press Authors


Competition was quite fierce in all categories of the BellaOnline Ebook Awards. Often it was quite challenging to winnow down exactly which ones would be featured! We want to whole-heartedly applaud every person who entered. The stories were poignant and powerful, thought-provoking and tender. Each one transported us into another world, one rich with detail and ambiance.

There were fascinating stories about child-savants who struggled against prejudice from their elders. Tales of innocents long-shielded from the truth, who struggled to reconcile the world they had known with what was discovered. In one novel, a mother treasures one brother while callously rejecting the other. In another, a foster-care girl struggles to hold herself together despite overwhelming odds.

There were courageous spies desperately striving to save the world. Intrepid treasure hunters tracking down clues. Loyal friends seeking to right wrongs. Alternate dimensions and alternate timelines.

In the end, we could only choose three per category, when others clamored for attention as well. We wish the best of success to each author. We hope our feedback will provide insight into our reading process and help the authors polish their works to even greater levels.

Together we help each other learn, strive, improve, and succeed!





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