Category Archives: Book Reviews

Dead Air

Dead Air

Dead Air: A Glenn Beckert Mystery by Cliff Protzman is a thrilling mystery story. Glenn “Beck” Beckert runs the security for a radio station where his friend, Zito, from high school works. While this friend is working, he is shot in the head. Beck finds himself involved in the investigation and it turns out that the list of suspects is fairly complicated. Far more people had motive to murder his friend than he anticipated. The widow and the victim were both unfaithful, giving plenty of motive. He was also on the outs with the radio station stockholders that were looking to sell. Then Zito’s laptop uncovers a mystery all of it’s own.

Beck finds Irene, an old love, to help him unlock the mystery of Zito’s laptop. The laptop reveals even more than they both could have expected. Meanwhile, they start to realize there is still chemistry between them. Add in both mysterious and not so mysterious threats on Beck’s life, and you have the premise of this thrilling novel.

I felt like this novel did a fantastic job of utilizing a standard mystery format to deliver a thrilling and engaging story. A ‘whodunit’ novel that develops fascinating characters and puts them in some interesting situations.

I enjoyed the depth of each character, which is important in building suspense in a mystery novel. Cliff Protzman has fully realized characters with their own personal quandaries about right and wrong, which is refreshing. So many writers create characters that don’t adapt and flow through the story. It’s nice to see someone really put some thought and love into their character development.

What has really made this novel enjoyable is the way the mystery unfolds. It felt like the murder victim had many layers that Beck was slowly peeling off, one by one, only to find that the person at the core wasn’t who he appeared to be. In a way, many of the characters were that way. Each having their individual things they wanted the world to see, but as the story line and the investigation continued, we get to see the real person underneath the facade. Some of those people were nothing like what they wanted everyone else to believe they were.

Dead Air: A Glenn Beckert Mystery by Cliff Protzman is a well written dark murder mystery novel. The story was easy to follow with twists that I could follow. Get yourself ready for this novel; it was a fun read.

Pages: 321 | ASIN: B0765VNM1K

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A-C-T Like a Kid and T-H-I-N-K Like a Parent

A-C-T Like A Kid And T-H-I-N-K Like A Parent: What All Good Parents Need For Their Kids To Know, Learn And Understand

A-C-T Like a Kid and T-H-I-N-K Like a Parent, by C.S. Whitehurst and Katharine Shears, is a guide for preteens and teens as they enter the most difficult stages of their young lives. The authors present numerous challenging situations, looming questions, and advice for readers. Teen readers are given thorough explanations regarding basic life skills and the necessity in learning early to practice and demonstrate responsibility, showing and earning respect, and getting what they want through appropriate measures.

As a parent and teacher, I appreciate the authors’ detailed advice regarding parents’ feelings about their children. They take a close look at the way parents feel about others hurting their children and the difficulty we have in trusting others not to hurt our children. I was especially touched by the authors’ emphasis on the fact that we, as parents, do not want anyone to hurt our children and that includes the child himself. This is something I find, as a mother, very difficult to express at times.

Children, especially teens, struggle with their feelings toward their parents and question whether they truly understand them or not. Whitehurst and Shears stress that a parent, whether or not he or she has sought professional parenting advice, operates based on what he or she knows from past experiences. Helping children and teens realize that we, as parents, bring our own childhood into the parenting realm allows them to see the significance of the decisions we make–bad or good. The authors are open and informative as they explain parents’ varying strategies.

I realize that the focus of the book was effectively the parent and child relationship and the importance of understanding a parent’s point of view, but I would have liked a little more extensive explanation of the parent’s view of bullying. This is such a difficult aspect to drive home as a mother and a teacher. When children hear someone else explain the same information we have tried ad nauseum to explain, it is often more effective coming from another source. The authors have an excellent opportunity to further address this extremely relevant social issue.

The authors recognize that teens are more likely than not to encounter feelings of dishonesty, and be hit with the desire to hide their feelings and actions from parents. Part Three, Chapter 9 deals quite frankly with these feelings and helps the young reader understand the importance of growing into a trustworthy adult. In addition, the reader receives a thorough explanation of the directness appreciated by parents. In fact, the authors dedicate a great amount of their time to the concept of trust, which I appreciated greatly.

I am giving A-C-T Like a Kid and T-H-I-N-K Like a Parent is a wonderfully persuasive piece which is bound to hit home with teen readers. The authors have been careful not to write above the teen reader’s head, and they effectively touch on a variety of issues within one handy self-help manual.

Pages: 192| ASIN: B076GJLLQ4

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Out of the Shadows

Out of the Shadows (Shadowlands #1)

I recently read Out of the Shadows by Ashlee Nicole Bye and was immediately hooked by the first chapter. The prologue to the book, which I admittedly skip over, caught my eye and sets the scene for what is a very interesting concept and well written novel. We meet Julian, who we learn is not from this world as he uses ‘humans’ and as you read on, you learn that he is way older than he appears to be. Although his age isn’t described until later, you know he’s old because his eyesight has been bestowed to him almost a century and a half ago. Clearly, he’s seen some things.

I really enjoyed this book. Maybe it’s because I’m Australian as well and we rarely get treated to books that are supernatural AND also mention state capitals that we know (such as Melbourne), but it was immediately easy to immerse myself into this world that Ashlee has so lovingly created. The characters, such as Sachi, are so well written that you can feel their pain, anguish and confusion as Sachi is thrown into a world she’s not entirely sure about. Sachi’s best friend was killed by the ‘Melbourne Slasher’, but it’s not until she ventures out after months of solitude that she sees things that were definitely not there before.

As the book goes on, Sachi and Julian’s worlds become intertwined as we learn that Julian and his friend Moss are a part of a secret society of reapers (which explains why he’s over a century and a half old) called the Order of Light and Dark, who are tasked with finding out what the Melbourne Slasher is and how they plan on stopping it.

This book also brings into play a very interesting idea that you can play with. The Order of the Light and Dark, and their jobs as reapers, means that they control who dies, when they are supposed to die and what manner they are supposed to die in. This ‘melbourne slasher’ is throwing everything out of balance and is throwing the reapers off schedule. It brings a concept forward that can make you feel at peace; your death has been scheduled and you are going to die when you are supposed to. For a control freak like myself, I really liked this concept.

I really ejoyed Sachi and her strong banter with the other characters within the book. I love that strong female leads are becoming the norm (thanks, Gone Girl!). I feel like without the banter and the wit of Sachi, this book would have been a bit difficult to read. She definitely made me laugh a fair bit.

Another thing I enjoyed were the chapter names. The first one had me snorting with ‘It’s too damn hot for a monster to just be walking around’. Ashlee really nails how Australians tend to describe things and this definitely comes forth in the chapter titles. They were descriptive and funny and accurate.

Pages: 338 | ASIN: B06W58K67L

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Suzy Has A Secret

Suzy Has a Secret

Suzy Has A Secret, by S. Jackson and A. Raymond, delicately addresses child molestation by a trusted family member and teaches young readers that telling a parent or guardian is always best. The authors address the common con by child abusers of using “secrets” to build their young victims trust and prevent them from reporting their atrocities. This short and simple tale of Suzy, a fairy-like creature, helps young readers understand that unwanted touches by another person are never the child’s fault and should not be kept secret. An encounter with her best friend, Lucy, and Lucy’s brother leads her to this realization.

As a parent and a teacher, I appreciate the authors’ delicate approach to this very difficult topic. The use of characters removed from reality helps to ease young readers, parents, and educators alike into the topic of unwanted touches and advances. There is no easy way to address molestation by a family member, but Jackson and Raymond deal with the topic in a way that is straightforward but tactful. They leave no room for guessing as to the “secret” or the type of touching experienced by the main character.

Jackson and Raymond have gone a step further and included detailed instructions for parents, teachers, and guidance counselors to use in discussions with groups of young children. They address safe and unsafe touches, the importance of remembering the “swimsuit rule,” and how to cope if a child reports abuse to you. All of the discussion points included at the book’s conclusion can easily be incorporated into a review of Suzy’s particular situation. The authors’ comprehensive list of facts about sexual predators and how to stay informed as a parent is an extremely helpful tool for parents.

The illustrations are light and benign when considering the heavy subject matter. Simple, white backgrounds with minimal details keep the reader focused on the fairies themselves and the feelings of the characters according to the text. Though the illustrations serve to keep young readers from feeling uncomfortable and fearful, I would like to have seen slightly more detail as far as setting.

Suzy Has A Secret serves as a simple yet effective tool for educating young readers in safe and unsafe touches and the importance of keeping parents and guardians aware of any uncomfortable situations they may encounter. The added tool for parents and educators makes this an invaluable tool for keeping children safe.

Pages: 35 | ASIN: B01CRDLJB6

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The Raid on Troy

The Raid on Troy (The Orfeo Saga Book 7)

The Raid on Troy, written by Murray Lee Eiland JR, is the seventh book in the Orfeo Saga. It follows two brothers, Memnon and Menas as they rise to power from the chains of slavery. Determined to taste the gold of Troy, the brothers assemble their lives so they are in a position of power to take the city. Telemon is drawn into the plans after a prophecy about the kidnapping of his daughter Elena is fulfilled. The battle lines are drawn as each player in the war game draws their sharpest weapons and assembles their greatest armies to fulfill their own dreams and desires.

This epic adventure begins with a slave boy Memnon attempting to escape the perils of slavery caused by an early capture from the Therans. Memnon’s previous family life is all but a distant memory and for now, all he knows is slavery and hierarchies of power. The brutality that he has experienced in his life has meant that kindness has seeped away from his soul, leaving a dangerous man with nothing left to lose. He is inherently a leader who fearlessly takes control of perilous situations. This allows him to develop a following of men who are eager to drop the chains of slavery too. Together they begin to rebuild their lives, raiding villages and meeting with bandits who help them acquire food and weapons.

Menas, Memnon’s brother, is also an escaped slave and eager to live a life beyond being a pawn of the Therans. Menas soon involves himself with the Spartans, where he becomes a “fixture in the local politics of Sparta”. The two brothers rise to power in an epic tale of action, revenge, lust, and influence. You will admire their ability to rise to power and success as they take what they believe is rightfully theirs, having no mercy for those who dare to cross them.

The Raid on Troy has several storylines that are interweaving together as you progress through the novel. We have Orfeo who enters the plot line as an admirable and successful leader who has a beautiful wife Clarice, Telemon and Estra with their daughter Elena and the brothers Menas and Memnon who all take the leading roles in this twist of Greek mythology. There are similar aspects to the traditional mythology story, however, Murray Lee Eiland JR curates this version to be an almost historical version of events, leaving the reader to feel connected to the characters and the plot line.

Murray Lee Eiland JR writes with a legendary force that will have the reader engaged from start to finish. The chapters are short and fast-paced, allowing the plot line to develop quickly whilst covering vast amounts of time. However, there is still an incredible transformation in the character development as you watch the characters grow in both power and ambition. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys an epic battle mixed with the rise of power and fortune.

Pages: 300 | ASIN: B06ZYK6M2Z

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The Consort Conspiracy

The Consort Conspiracy (Covington Family Mystery #1)

Kaye Schmitz’s The Consort Conspiracy talks about an ancient cemetery deep in the Lowland of Georgia that has been there for over two centuries and protects the remains of the infamous murderer whose act of betrayal changed the history of the town and catapulted the descendants of the murdered victim into the nation’s highest political office.

Kate Covington, a thirty one year old intrepid journalist travels to Midway Georgia, the hometown of the current president Wilford Pennington, to film a documentary to help boost his favorability ratings after he could not keep his privates in his pants. The search for answers to her documentary brings her to the cemetery that has buried more secrets than bodies. But her curiosity almost gets her killed.

The book starts steadily but picks up the pace after the introductory. There are several story lines that are juggled and all are meticulously developed. Kaye Schmitz brings them together in surprising ways with twists that I didn’t see coming. I enjoyed the detailed writing style as well as the alternating perspectives, we even get to travel from the past to the present. All of it intricately weaving together story lines that seem to be separate but which culminate in a explosive piece full of suspense.

As Kate busies herself gathering information for her documentary, she unearths a secret about the first family that could lead to their undoing. The truth about the death of Dr. Aaron Pennington, a descendant of the president will also be uncovered. Mr. Wilford’s political career rests on this murder that happened more than two hundred years ago. This all lends to a thrilling joyride of a novel.

Kate has to deal with some highly emotional issues throughout the story, like when she discovers the truth about the death of her mother. A truth that will not only change the town’s history but Kate’s future as well.

The historical facts that have embellished the present tale and the vivid and compelling characters portrayed by the heroes and villains keep one turning the pages. You really can envision how the characters, as well as the locations, look through Kaye Schmitz detailed description.

When the two handsome men Dan Pennington and Joshua Warrington start competing for Kate’s attention the book becomes a can’t-put-it-down tale. By the end the outcome was both satisfying and unexpected. Just when you thought you figured it all out, you realize you don’t. It was well written and keeps one on the edge of their seat. It was one of those stories that you have to read word by word for fear of missing something crucial. It really was a page turner.

Pages: 331 | ASIN: B071G89PBW

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Shadows, Shells, and Spain

Shadows, Shells, and Spain

Would you walk a mile for someone you love? What about 300 miles? In John Meyer’s Shadows, Shells and Spain this adult fictionalized travel memoir tells the story of Jamie Draper’s journey on the Camino de Santiago trail.

Jamie Draper was a happily married man who loved his wife Pamela very much. But when she surprised him with a divorce, it had caught him off guard. Ever since he received a postcard addressed to him from Spain, it had sent him on a journey. He quit his job as a history teacher in Canada and moved to Palma, Spain, hoping to reconnect with his wife and discover why she so abruptly left him. He then starts a journey to follow the Camino trail to find his wife by following the subtle hidden clues in her letters to him. Along the way he makes interesting friends and explores the trail with some intriguing strangers. He meets a British woman named Brie Bletcher, who’s estranged from her husband Martin. When Jamie tells her his story, she joins him on the trip. Gaining clues and traveling along a striking trail they  hit some snags from missing letters to some stained by the weather. When Jamie discovers that his wife is very sick in a new batch of letters, it gives his mission a new urgency.

This story takes place in present day Spain and some parts of Canada. These are beautiful landscapes on their own and John Meyer is able to bring them to life with vivid details. This being a fictional travel memoir I expected some heavy scene descriptions, but these were broken up by the curious characters that pop up along the trail as well as Jamie’s intereactions with Brie. The story was well written and grows more profound the longer he travels the trail. It had a bit of literary fiction, romance, mystery and drama all wrapped into one story. The theme, I felt, is about life, loss and love, and how to move on from grief. This would be ideal for people who love travelogues and who love tear-jerking novels.

Although I enjoyed reading this book, there’s a lot of factual and historical tidbits that slow the pace of the story. I wish this was streamlined so that I could get back to my favorite part, the characters. Although travel readers will enjoy the architectural highlights of each town and accompanying history. If you can’t make it to Spain, this is your next best option.

Pages: 287 | ASIN: B0756JF632

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Liars

Liars

Liars by Steven Gillis is a page turner up until the very end. Jaded by his own marriage breakdown, a writer struggling to capture lightning in a bottle twice spies a couple in the supermarket and becomes fixated on them. Eric McManus is the author who has branched out into owning a recording studio, but still chases the dream of again capturing the success that was had with his first book.

I loved this book. I was immediately hooked from the first chapter. The first person narrative style has appealed to me since I devoured Gone Girl, and it’s been rare for me to find a book that I can devour as quickly as I did that one. Liars is well on its way to becoming this.

What I enjoyed most about this book is that the writer doesn’t try to justify how shitty the main character is. He simply paints the character as he is, flaws and all, and leaves you as the reader to deal with it.

This book also brings forth some very interesting ideas about enlightenment as a concept. My favourite quote is from the main character’s live in lover but not girlfriend Gloria, where she explains to McManus that she doesn’t think enlightenment is that great anyway as it only ends up with people being hurt. It’s good that the main character has people who disagree with him and show him alternate views as it becomes very clear that he gets fixated on things and tries to destroy them.

The fixation on the couple in the supermarket only grows throughout the novel, as McManus inserts himself into their relationship by contacting where the female works and getting her to help him with his back garden. I’m glad that the creepiness of this was addressed again by Gloria, because it made me a bit uncomfortable to read this. McManus’ almost compulsive need to destroy this couple and expose their happiness as a ‘lie’, as the title suggests, gets more and more obvious throughout the book. This is especially shown through the passages where McManus says ‘years on, I will write’. It’s almost as if he is using their relationship as an idea for his book because he is stunted and annoyed at his own lack of creative growth.

The book also brings up interesting ideals about love. While McManus is still obviously hurting from the breakdown in his marriage and his tried and failed attempt at having an open relationship with his partner, it’s interesting to read a book that explores this more commonplace idea. I have always been a bit interested in the dynamics of open relationships, and it’s interesting to see whether or not people can put aside their jealousy and truly engage in an open relationship. McManus also mentions that he had sex with women without his wife’s consent, which is another way that open relationships engage. It’s nice that he’s at least a little bit self aware, otherwise this novel would be very difficult to read indeed. I loved reading this book!

Pages: 210 | ASIN: B075F32YR1

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Redemption: The Advent

Redemption: The Advent

Redemption: The Advent by Kimon Alexander is a fantastical sci-fi-thriller. Set during present day, police investigator James Baxter becomes host to a Valdor, an ethereal being from a parallel universe. The Valdorians have watched Earth and deemed humanity too far gone to achieve spiritual evolution. What the Valdor decide is to offer humanity one more chance and send one of their own, Balthazar, who ends up in Baxter. Balthazar not only has to convince Baxter to help him, but to also complete his mission and through their combined abilities they combat a drug lord with a mind-controlling micro-chip and an Islamic extremist bent on world domination. All of this coming to a rocking conclusion that sheds light on the very nature of humanity.

The immense project that Alexander has chosen to write on is incredible. He wishes to dig into the depths of humanity and fish for the largest pearls of wisdom that he can yield to the reader. His intentions are clear that he is seeking this with optimism because each chapter holds an inspirational quote from various figures of history. His optimism is in spite of the ruthless characters that his two joined protagonists confront.  In some ways, the narrative feels a bit indulgent of the author’s own ideals that bleed too much into the story, but for all intents and purposes the book rings true and is a welcome change from the cynicism of our modern day.

The novel presents itself as science fiction upon the opening scene. The Valdorian meeting bespeaks of space fantasy as the ethereal beings conclude that Earth might be saved, but that is a slim hope. It then jumps into the thriller genre with drops of science fiction and psychological drama as Baxter grapples with being a host to an inter-dimensional being, but also the last hope for humanity to redeem itself. Some passages become almost too weighted down by the philosophy and thoughts that fill the pages and it works against Alexander’s pacing as he attempts to make the work a thriller.

By the end, Alexander leaves the reader wanting more and leaves the story open for another book. There is so much that happens in this book that it can easily span two novels and still spend just as much time navigating the armchair philosophy he appears to enjoy.

Any reader who enjoys a sci-fi thriller with a parallel dimension backdrop would do well to read this work. Even thriller lovers would enjoy this book if they can get past some of the intellectual heavy lifting Alexander weaves in. True cerebral readers will enjoy this book and relish the mental corridors that Redemption leads us down.

Pages: 317 | ASIN: B01N1X540Y

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Just Another Girl’s Story

Just Another Girl's Story: A Memoir on Finding Redemption

Everyone must face their individual journey of life alone no matter the support system, or lack thereof. We have the opportunity to continue improving ourselves for a better future surrounded with love and happiness, even if many take what they currently possess for granted. In Just Another Girl’s Story, author Laura Eckert allows her readers to follow her as she goes through her ups and downs of life in her perspective. There are many things she’s experienced that could make someone judge, but the point of her sharing her life is what many can use as a testimony that life can get better. Through her eyes, we gain the understanding that we should not let our decisions define who we are destined to become. The most challenging part is embracing flaws, accepting the consequences, and learning from them.

There were plenty of emotions invoked through Laura’s writing style. While reading, there were times that had me shaking my head in bewilderment because of instances when she knew she was doing something wrong, yet continued doing so. One thing that stood out despite all of the obstacles occurring in her life, is maintaining her relationship with God, that shows pure dedication. She did her absolute best at staying true to her faith even after moments she wanted to throw in the towel. Laura’s story is inspirational to everyone, especially women. It’s a story that shows you that it is okay not to be perfect, as long as you want to be a better version of you.

I understood how she felt, although I don’t fully understand her reasoning to make certain decisions. I know that the heart cannot help who it loves and sometimes you just have to respect that as the case. It’s amazing to learn about everything she’s been through from a young age to continue going despite her odds. The wonderful experiences led to her having a beautiful family that is centered around God, full of more happiness than frowns, and built on a sturdy foundation. I truly enjoyed reading this book and seeing the life that this woman had, it inspires me to keep reaching for a better life for myself. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s a great story that could be relatable to most people in the world who are going through a rough patch, to know that in time it will get better.

Pages: 242 | ASIN: B0737V5JJY

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