Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Gritty but Ultimately Good

cbr_logo2The 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

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 few review followers on Goodreads, so being reviewed by him will mean tremendous exposure. I am grateful for his interest and look forward to hearing what he thinks of the book.

Review: Booker was an interesting protagonist

Portable

Bridget at portable pieces of thought doesn’t give reviews a rating, and while her assessment of Box of Rain didn’t earn her “One Brilliant Book” sticker, it also didn’t get labelled “A Total Failure” or “Meh.” So I call this one a win.

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

 

I liked especially the characterization – as three-dimensional as you might wish. Jo Sullivan, working for a local newspaper, had also other problems to deal with; contrary to some of her fictional sister sleuths she didn’t live and breathe just to solve crimes and drink coffee. Not even that particular crime, concerning a boy who strived to overcome all odds and earn his degree.

Also Booker was an interesting protagonist to follow. He wasn’t idealized, he wasn’t a ‘saintly saint’ but a real human being with a darker side.

via Review: Box of Rain (a Street Stories suspense novel) by Debra R. Borys | portable pieces of thoughts.

Review: “An absorbing read”

LisaDuvall

Lisa Duvall gave Box of Rain 3-stars on her blog and on Goodreads, but ranked it with 4-stars on Amazon.com, so since she had nothing but good things to say about the book, I’m counting it as a 4-star win.

 

“It was an absorbing read with realistic characters and plenty of twists and turns. It also tackled homelessness in a caring, sensitive manner. I recommend it.”

via I Feel So Unnecessary: Box of Rain 4-stars

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Download the e-book today!

 

Review: “An important story to read”

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 foster home and the like is about survival, not living. Kids do what they have to do, they’re faith and trust in people always tested, which often leaves them bitter, cynical and afraid. Rarely is one able to count on another person while living this type of life. When one does, it may well lead to betrayal and unexpected pain in the future.

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

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 is a well written story that captivates the reader from beginning to end with twists and turns, making this book nearly impossible to put down at times. Borys keeps us wondering, sitting on the edge of our seat, scratching our head, guessing and hoping, praying even, for certain characters to be alright, and others to be held accountable for their crimes.

No spoilers here. You’ll just have to read it and find out for yourself, and I really hope you do. This is a very well written story, offering so much more than a good book to read. This book provides new perspective, and might even inspire a bit of action on our parts, to reach out or at least look at those living in the shadows with love, compassion and the willingness to care enough to do our part to help them.”

via M. J. Joachim’s Writing Tips: Book Review: Box of Rain by Debra R. Borys.

Glowing Review @ Windy City Reviews

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.

“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.

Download the e-book today!
Download the e-book today!
As a fan of murder mysteries, I really enjoyed the plot. From the beginning until the murderer was revealed, I questioned everyone’s motives and tried to figure out who was responsible for the body in the dumpster. Borys did an excellent job of leading the reader down false paths, painting a suspicious picture of almost everyone, and yet creating an ending that would shock even the most die-hard murder mystery fan.

Overall, 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. I recommend this book to murder mystery fans, social cause activists, and everyone in between. This book will not disappoint.”

via Windy City Reviews – Book Reviews – Book Review: Box of Rain.

5-Star Review by Author Dayna Leigh Cheser

Daynesite

Author 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.

“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.

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

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 loose.

Before it’s over, there are more deaths, past and present, and Jo finds herself in a life-threatening situation.

Who is the killer? Do Booker T and Shorty survive to see another day? I wondered almost to the end.

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.

I give ‘Box of Rain’ 5-stars.”

via RBD: Book Review, Part 1 – Box of Rain | Author Dayna Leigh Cheser.   5-stars

4-star Review @ Long & Short Reviews

LongandShort

Long & 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 what they had to say. Click through to see what other books they recommend.

“Shorty and Booker are cousins, but they have chosen radically different paths in life. Nevertheless, they care about each other, although in different ways. They get caught up in violence that is not of their making and Booker’s chance at an education is threatened when he is framed for a brutal murder.

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 of gaining clarity for herself.

The pacing is excellent. There are surprises around every corner and I tried so hard to help Booker find a way out of his situation. He wants so much to do the right thing, but he is also loyal to Shorty and Irma Cochran, or Mrs. C as the boys call her, who has fostered both of them in the past.

Solving the mystery is complex. Without giving away any spoilers, I found it difficult to sort out a real motive and the crimes turn out to cover a lot of years. But why would anyone want to frame Booker, a young man who is doing everything he can to get out of his homeless situation?

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.4-stars

 

The First Review is In

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:

“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 who the murderer is.

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

Watch for reviews coming soon

So far,  the following book reviewers have agreed to read and review Box of Rain. Watch this site for links to the reviews as they come in.

 Jenn’s Review Blog: Jennifer Zuna reviewed both Painted Black and Bend Me, Shape Me and gave them excellent ratings, so I’m hoping she will like BOR too.  She also reviews products on her site.

M. J. Joachim’s Writing Tips: MJ not only found Bend Me Shape Me to be worth mentioning on both her blogs, but she asked to see all future books in the series and seemed eager to read BOR.  She has a second website, also, called Effectively Human, which recently published an essay by me about a young man I met on the streets of Chicago.

Windy City Reviews: This site is a book review service offered by Chicago Writers Association.  Last year, reviewer Starza Thompson did a lengthy and thoughtful review of Bend Me, Shape Me and has agreed to read BOR, too.

Kathryn’s Inbox: Kathryn published an interview of me earlier this year and has agreed to let me write a guest post, too.  Watch for that soon, and her review of BOR.

Portable Pieces of Thought:  Bridget Koch is a new reviewer to the Street Stories family, but sounded eager to read BOR since the issue of homelessness is important to her.  She won’t have time to do a review until early 2015, but I look forward to hearing what she thinks of the book.

Wistfulskimmie’s Book Reviews: Kim Tomsett feels like an old friend, thanks in part to her awesome reviews of the first two books in the series.  If you visit her site you will find a huge assortment of reviews to help you decide what your next read should be.

Juniper Grove: Jaidis Shaw has been a faithful supporter since the start of the series, having reviewed Painted Black and posting one of my first interviews. She released a YA paranormal romance this past summer and has some short stories in anthologies available.

Author Dayna Leigh Cheser: This is actually the pen name of Julie Jordan, the author of three books. Her website also posts interviews and features for other writers, and will be posting an interview of me later as well.

To see reviews of the first two Street Stories books, click the following links:  Painted Black or Bend Me, Shape Me.

If you are interested in reviewing Box of Rain, either on your own website, on Amazon.com, BarnnesandNoble.com, or Goodreads, please contact me using the form below.  The book is available in mobi or epub formats.