Category Archives: Book Reviews
It’s almost impossible not to come across a story every day about another victim of the opioid/mental health crisis that is devastating cities around the globe.
This ongoing tragedy encompasses so many issues and has so many facets but at the end of the day it is a tragedy of people. Real people who have real stories and whose stories have elements that anyone can relate too.
So, what makes a person succumb to pain, depression and despair? Why are some people able to stay clean and others can’t break free? The answer is not always the same, neither is the end of each persons tale. Taking a page from a true life news article, singer/songwriter Steve Murphy embraces the idea of the person behind the byline in a short story centering on Mark; a homeless man who battles his personal demons, usually without much success.
From the opening of Foul Play is Not Suspected Murphy asks the questions we should ask and take the time to think about. The characters of this short story could be anybody and like anybody, they have twists and turns in their lives; as well as a desire to find the best lives for themselves.
The crisis’ of drugs and depression often go hand in hand and by no means can be put into a box or a quick article but the authors considerable talent allows him to illustrate an accurate and savvy picture of how these problems affect all people in society.
At the center of Foul Play is Not Suspected is Mark an everyday man who becomes the symbol of a life interrupted by darkness and bad decisions and the inability to get past his addiction. But, there are more layers to Mark and to Murphy’s story in general. Thankfully, the message is not lost in complexity nor overwritten to prove a point. His vision stays true to the message and is clear as well as impactful.
Steve Murphy closes the story with links and ideas to be more active, as well as a link to the original article and a link to an informative article about the health risks of opioids.
Reading stories like Foul Play is Not Suspected will help put the right take on this overwhelming problem and should be part of any book club. A longer version of the story would have been wonderful.
Pages: 103 | ASIN: B07XC1QFZD
Amulet’s Rapture turned out to be one of the top 3 books I have read in the last six months! And I read, a lot !
The author Linea Tanner, begins the story of a pre–Dark age Roman period, at the time when Roman power was the paramount power in the known Western world. We find our main character Catrin, a princess of Britannia, a fierce warrior and a druidess ending up being a slave to a Roman. She had never imagined her state even in her dreams but after her father, King Amren lost to Romans and her step-brother Marrock became the client king of the Cantiaci kingdom, this was her harsh reality. She was taken a slave by the Roman tribune Decimus and named her Vibius a boy, ensuring that everyone would believe her to be a boy. We also come to know that his step-brother murdered both her mother and father, meaning that her identity as a princess was wiped out, forgotten by all except for a few.
We see her at first as a damsel, waiting upon her prince, her beloved Apollo, to come to her rescue and take her away from all her troubles. We see then her metamorphosis into a warrior, as layer after layer of her sorrow and sadness transformed her into a warrior. We see that her master, Decimus has an ulterior purpose, and though he shamed her, was disdainful and treated her with utter contempt, he kept her safe.
We also get to know of Marcellus, and are stunned to know that he is the husband of Catrina, the background story and the situation they find themselves in. Will they be united or won’t is the question.
What was most striking was the incredible layers the author has crafted in the story that it gels smoothly. So many times, I have seen good beginnings spoiled because the author let the story stagnate or introduce plots that have no meaning or place in the story, which really irritates me. I am thankful that the author has kept a tight ship. Secondly, I like the brutality and the savagery which actually existed in Roman times and their conflicts with tribes of Britannia, Gaul and other places were gory and ugly. That the author manages to weave them seamlessly without sacrificing the main plot elements which makes this a well rounded story. A very enjoyable read and I will look forward to more.
Pages: 359 | ASIN: B07Y8SS2B2
Every person in their youth has dreamt of escaping to some exotic locale for fun, freedom, and newness. Someplace on the globe that is ‘other’; a place that can physically represent the internal battle of reaching adulthood and really understanding how things change and how one wants to find their own and new identity.
For the author, Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, the dream of a far off world full of new possibilities was a lush and beautiful reality. Mango Rash is a memoir of her brief time in America Samoa as a teen back in the mid-sixties. But it is so much more than that! Nan’s recall of her life-transforming time is a lush, layered, inviting and provocative tale that is so delightful to read!
Mango Rash peppers in historical references and factual instances in a perfect way that makes Nan’s story more intriguing and doesn’t date the story. In fact, the writer’s coming of age story is so timeless in the way that any teen can relate too in any age or any setting.
America Samoa provides such a picturesque and breathtaking backdrop to the timelessness of Mango Rash. Nan’s voice is so strong and effective and pens such a likable and marvelous story with a place that everyone will want to visit and a group of people that everyone will want to meet.
Nan’s ups and downs on the island mirror her ups and downs in life and her voyage to figure out where her home really is. The all too brief interactions with her parents and the very quick observations she makes about the world around her were such wise touches!
Mango Rash has an ending I did not see coming, but probably should have. Despite the memoirs’ sudden end and out of nowhere change, the author makes the conclusion stick with flair and whimsy.
Pokerwinski has a huge talent for drawing the reader in with such ease and flair; like listening to a story being told by your best friend! Everything about Mango Rash is delightful and wondrously fun!
Take the time to enjoy this book and you will find yourself reflecting on the people and places that helped shape you and still hold a part of your heart today; as well as identifying closely with the characters. For sure, you will dream of American Samoa and will be hoping that Nan has more stories to tell.
Pages: 300 | ASIN: B07WNXS6LV
Elara Dunlin has a hard time as she tries to leave behind her relationship baggage. She has the responsibility of handling a ruthless dictator threatening to ruin the planet despite the turmoil in her heart. Single events change the trajectory of different people’s lives. Everyone from Elara to Cyrus and others will face different paths. Despite the hurdles on her path and her own immense fear, Elara forges forward. Can Elara make it out of the abyss? What will come of Cyrus? Does Zenith stand a chance against tenacity and unity?
Buckler’s third installment in the Seeker of Time series is definitely a step up from the other two. As the story intensifies and plot thickens so does her writing prowess. Even the reader’s relationship with the story and the characters gains depth with every installment and reaches a new high with this third one. There is a lot that was left unresolved from the second installment.
The sheer amount of detail and engagement in this book is simply astounding. The author’s prowess with language and imagery is brilliant. She has a talent for creating an easy rapport between the characters and the reader. You will enjoy the pace of the book as well as the adventure that colors every page.
The characters are well developed, with depth and multiple dimensions. Elara is an especially likable character. Her tenacity and positivity are inspiring if not challenging. Cyrus on the other hand is not exactly likable but he serves his purpose pretty well.
It is lovely that while this is a sci-fi story the author also gives the characters a life. You are able to see their lives as regular beings rather than those with huge responsibilities to the planet. As the reader you get a real glimpse into Elara and Cyrus as beings and not just vessels of supernatural powers.
This is a very interesting book. The plot with all its twists and turns is incredibly entertaining not to mention effective at relegating the reader to the edge of their seat. Despite being a book meant for young adults, this book will appeal to everyone.
If you are lucky enough to come across the series for the first time then you will enjoy bingeing on the entire series.
Pages: 678 | ASIN: B07WFW6T85
Queen Natylia has a responsibility. Araenna deserves to be ruled properly and to be led to greatness. However, she has found something that could bring an end to everything. She however has a few people she could count on. With their support she will hunt down the scepters and bring them to an end before everything goes awry. Will she make it before the four titans find freedom? Can she finally forgive and love again? What will become of Araenna?
Tyffany Hackett has done a wonderful job with Tellus, the second installment of the Thanatos trilogy. In Imber she introduced the readers to all these wonderful characters and the kingdom. In the second installment you get to dive even deeper into Queen Natylia’s kingdom. The author does a commendable job of gripping the reader right from the beginning. The cliffhanger at the end is both frustrating and simply delectable.
I recommend reading the first installment of the trilogy for a better experience. The first one sets the tone and prepares you for the intensity and action that is in this second one. You should brace yourself for delightfully surprising twists and turns. It almost seems like this author is orchestrating ordered chaos in the chronology of events. I felt deeply committed to the success of Queen Natylia’s mission.
A study of the cover art alone will leave you feeling a need to explore further. The character sculpting in this book is top notch. There is a wonderful sense of love and warmth despite the crisis that threatens existence. Queen Natylia, while faced with obstacles, remains steadfast and brave. The author details all of this characters emotions and inner turmoil throughout the entire process. The same multi-dimensional character build applies to other characters like Jyn and the others. The author gives readers a chance to get to know the characters and understand their journeys both as individuals and as members of a group.
You will be deeply content with everything from the plot to the characters to the masterful writing. The only down side is that you will be giddy with anticipation awaiting the third installment in the trilogy. Tellus sets the bar for the third book very high.
Pages: 329 | ASIN: B07X6Q821T
This is a collection of poems from different poets. You can tell when there is a change from one poet to another because of the distinct tone and stylistic change. Each poet brings their unique life experiences, view, perceptions and even temperament. Just like every other edition before this one, this book exhibits a unique collection of poets, each with their own tundra but somehow coming together seamlessly. Some works stand out more than others though.
Charles Luden opens in the first chapter. His second entry ‘Glory’ is an evocatively seductive and brief thought about a difficult time and the end of it. It is a reflection of the journey rather than the destination. Charles has said very much with very little. This entry dignifies the phrase ‘short and sweet’. His entry ‘Last Laugh’ stands out too with its painfully awakening truth.
Further into the book you encounter Brit Graham with ‘Tempering Grief’ which is an account of the unstable and aimless emotions of grief. The raw pain is seen through the choice of words. Then you get to the ‘Recipe for Forgiveness’ which is a simple guide that the world needs in these times of intentional genocide and blatant hatred.
We’re also treated with a guide to coexisting with others from Marsha Mittman’s NYC Observation. It speaks to the tolerance people should direct at other people. This entry is thought provoking and candid if not a little shaming to us as human beings.
‘Ideological Exile’ by Ivanna Kusijanovic is perhaps one of the most serious poems in this anthology. It reads like a personal inner voice chastising you and pushing you to be better, to do better. If you would like to read one piece first before going through the book from the start, this is a good one to jump to.
These are just a few, there are many more evocative, thought provoking, some so wonderfully heartbreaking. This is a collection of poems about life, death and everything in between. From the pain to the joy to untold suffering. It is a cornucopia of experience from the start to the very end. The title is a lovely homage to Dante as well as fitting to the choice of works featured in the book.
However, a few pieces seem to be misplaced in terms of the general depth of the poems. This could be intentional to provide a break from the intense emotion. All in all, the editors have done a good job.
Pages: 158 | ISBN: 1088987613
Nina doesn’t want her and told her as much. The man in the car wanted her, but she knew he was no father figure. The two old ladies who find her want her, but the system says otherwise. Nothing in her life is the way it should be. A scar mars her face, and her leg is twisted and forces her to limp. When the girl now called Rose is taken from the one home where she feels loved and truly cared for, she is placed in a shelter for runaways and begins to question everything about where she came from and where she wants to be.
Runaway, by CA. Simonson, is a gripping novel detailing the struggle one young girl faces as she is forced to leave the wreckage she knows as her life thus far. The only parental figure on whom she can rely is mentally abusive and more inclined to offer her up to a man who wants to sexually exploit her. From the first pages, Simonson engages readers in Rose’s story as she fights to flee from a man who promises to do nothing but continue her world of hurt.
Simonson does an amazing job communicating to readers the intense feelings of neglect and mental anguish experienced by young Rose. Her thoughts are painfully clear, and her pain is tangible. The author has created a phenomenal main character and provided a supporting cast of characters that further develop the tragic plot enveloping Rose.
When Rose is essentially rescued by Hope and Faith, she sees what her life could be like for the first time. It is during this part of Rose’s story that readers see her experience real love and kindness. There is a sense of relief for Rose and readers are filled with hope. Simonson shapes her story well and immediately finds a way to continue the rollercoaster that is Rose’s young life.
Simonson is adept at creating characters readers will love to hate. Nina is number one on that list. Not in a long time have I loathed a character as much as I loate Nina. The way she treats poor Rose from the first chapter is reprehensible and unforgivable. Simonson’s antagonist serves her purpose well.
There is a satisfying amount of mystery in Simonson’s novel. Rose’s background, while tragic and fairly transparent in the first chapter, is a bit of an enigma. As the detective searches for the truth about Rose’s mother, readers are taken on a heartbreaking journey. Nothing about Rose’s life has ever been easy, and readers soon see why.
I recommend this book to anyone searching for a novel based on faith and centered around Christian values. C.A. Simonson has created a character who overcomes tremendous odds in the face of a multitude of obstacles including a family who cannot bring themselves to provide the love she needs. Readers will be touched by the honesty and strengthened by the values expressed by Simonson’s cast of characters.
Pages: 193 | ASIN: B07RT73PTN
Almost everyone has been touched by cancer; either indirectly or directly by this aggressive and unpredictable disease. Serious diseases affect people in different ways, sometimes the emotional storm leaves you as unprepared as the illness. A child battling cancer is as bad as it gets and the real life story of Adrienne Wilson is a total gut-wrencher as well as beautiful, uplifting and encouraging one. Better off Bald: A Life in 147 Days is an undeniably fascinating read that should be experienced!
There is so much raw truth and strength in the authors recounting of her sisters battle with childhood cancer. Andrea Wilson’s story is a roller coaster of hope, anger, grief, nostalgia, determination, self guilt, and courage that can only be matched my her marvelous and spirited sister. The truth about cancer is that there is no absolutely true path or outcome. Everyday and every story is different. Despite knowing the end for Adrienne the author is successful at making the reader understand how every day and moment is different and unique and the journey of these 2 strong women is just as compelling as can be hoped for.
Andrea Wilson Woods opens up her soul with her memoir Better off Bald: A Life in 147 Days. This fabulously narrated journey lays out all that can be experienced when dealing with the terminal illness of a minor.
There are countless ups and downs in Adrienne’s story and it’s not straight forward nor easy. What in life is? The roller coaster ride is raw and real and the unbalance of this story makes it remarkable.
Better off Bald paints such a vivid picture of the complexity of cancer and the real life challenges of living in the moment and how people think and react to every changing scope of their new reality. The author captures the readers heart and attention with clarity and grit. There is so much in Adrienne and Andrea’s story that makes you wish you had known them in person and feel like you already do.
From beginning to end A Life in 147 Days demands attention and you just want to keep reading and reading. The triumphs and tragedies of the two sisters is a story that must be shared and I am so grateful the it was! The author ends her story with a call to action and perspective that is relatable and honest. A truly great read!
Pages: 394 | ASIN: B07X3N6TCP
Xhoseti First Contact is an engaging sci-fi thriller about a mission to save human civilization. While the premise sounds somewhat cliched, Robert J Stephens is a masterful storyteller. He weaves together the stories of miners that awaken the horrific Xhoseti, the omniscient Guardians plotting to save the universe with minimal collateral damage, and multiple historic events that defined human civilization. When the Xhoseti are awakened, the Guardians are aware that it is only a matter of time before humanity is under the threat of complete destruction. They enlist the help of Krys Reenberg, leaving him in charge of seven colonies on Earth. He has to ensure that the growth and development of humanity remains unhindered, while at the same time putting out fires throughout history,
Similar to the other books in the Xhoseti series, there are lengthy and fascinating descriptions of technologies. Things like the Morph Suit were elaborately explained; the science and science fiction ideas behind it all laid out. I enjoyed these parts, even if they verged on a bit too lengthy and unrealistic.
Although the characters and story lines are interesting, the dialogue can come across as a bit unnatural at times. It works for the Xhoseti and Guardians, but the humans, not so much. Same goes for the character introductions. Take for example a description like this one- “Graham had the physical attributes of a twenty five-year-old human male.” Things like these threw me off a little, but these are easy to ignore.
However, the dialogue did have snippets of humor this time, especially with Krys. This was a refreshing aspect, especially since the rest of the book can be dry and serious. I loved the different events in history taking place in real-time, from Japan to Mexico, and from the spread of Buddhism to Mary in Jerusalem. Krys’ ingenious ideas and debacles were fun to follow.
There were a lot of disturbing scenes, from violent and gory depictions of battle and barbarian human acts. I suppose these are a necessary evil if an accurate reflection of humanity is expected. The book ends on an intense but satisfying note- I look forward to more of the Xhoseti universe. Xhoseti First Contact is a superbly intriguing science ficiton novel.
Pages: 287 | ASIN: B07QGLNRT2
It was early on a Monday morning at 4 am that I had gone through over one third of the book in one night. This book quickly became one of the best reads I have gone through in the past 3 months.
A Single Light begins with around 60 odd people forced to take shelter in a time vault due to the outbreak of a virulent epidemic. A runaway named Wynter and a former soldier turned bounty hunter, Chase are at the heart of the story. Both appear to be an unmatched pair as they have their own motivations and secrets. For the people in the vault, the only source of comfort and connection with the outside is periodic transmissions from Noah, the person who brings hope to the individuals. But all of a sudden, the link goes dark, causing to lose their composure. And when the time vault door opens all of a sudden, it begins a whole new set of unknown dangers to the group, stressed for many months. Infected animals, ghostly town, and people driven to the brink of anarchy. The support systems have failed, all semblance of order and law lying bare. What do you do? That’s where we find the characters in the story.
The story is intense and riveting as is the description of the dynamics at play between the different characters in a confined space. The notes that the story touches are really fundamental, fear, loss, joy but the presentation is remarkably somber and in line as to the way the plot is weaved. I really liked the way the author describes the gritty and raw emotions at play which I have seen only in a very few authors.
The best thing is that the author does not try to bend the story in a way that seems disjointed. It is a skill that is honed by working at the craft for many sleepless nights and long hours.
Though the story may not have political beliefs one may have, I wholeheartedly agree with what the author has penned about the need to break down the walls and be more exclusive. Normally a stickler for neat wrapped endings, I love the way the story concluded. I can’t wait for the next book.
Pages: 384 | ASIN: B07P5JKYT8