Category Archives: Book Reviews

Black Sky

Black Sky will take you on a  personal journey of addiction through the eyes of a physician, Dr Y. What is addiction? Addiction can come in all shapes and forms and does not discriminate against race, color, age or social status. Addiction has a grasp on our society and Black Sky shows how discovering spirituality and understanding of addiction can awaken someone from the brink of destruction. Follow Dr Y as he unravels the web of addiction and shares his story of life as an addict, his recovery and how you too can overcome the battles of addiction.

Black Sky, written by Dr Y, is a book inspired by addiction and discovering the human soul. From the first few pages, you feel a connection to the author and feel inspired to push through your adversities, regardless of whether you have experienced addiction yourself or not.

Addiction is portrayed in the book as being “asleep” and in order to awaken and begin a life of sobriety, one must overcome their circumstances and begin to feel the void and emptiness that addiction has created. Addiction can also come in various forms such as wealth, drugs, alcohol and sex or even just a compulsive behavior that is rewarding, despite the negative consequences. Regardless of your addiction, each individual must go through a similar process to recovery.

There are religious tones throughout the book, however Dr Y. explicitly states that this book is not centered around one particular religion, and instead is based on the spirituality illness that addicts suffer. One particular quote summed up this sentiment perfectly “It has been said that religion is for those who are afraid of hell while spirituality is for those who have been through hell”.

As I was reading the book, there were multiple times where I felt like I had experienced a “light bulb” moment with understanding people who are battling addiction. It enlightens the reader on the mentality and challenges that addiction creates, but also focuses on the possibility of recovery. There are sections of this book that I believe will be quoted in years to come as Dr Y beautifully explains life and the importance of living. Black Sky shows how complex addiction can be and how hard it is to break free from the chains it has on our family, friends and relationships.

Dr Y allows the reader to explore his personal life and the roads that led to addiction to various substances. Interestingly, there are events which occur due to his addiction earlier on in his life which lead to certain career paths and choices. But addiction is always knocking on the door and it takes a series of events and mistakes that lead to Dr Y’s realization and sobriety.

I would recommend this to anyone suffering from addiction, or for anyone wanting to understand addiction and the hold it has on the human soul. I found the book to be extremely uplifting and truly believe that anyone suffering from addiction would find great solace and understanding from Dr Y’s words.

Pages: 260 | ASIN: B06Y3MVXSX

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Steel, Blood & Fire

Steel, Blood & Fire

Dark, gritty, and altogether brutal, Steel, Blood and Fire is an archetypal dark fantasy novel. In the first chapter, one of the main character’s hands and feet are amputated, and the story continues in similar fashion from there onward. The setting is fantasy grounded in muddy reality, although there is a vein of consequential magic that adds a little sorcery to this otherwise swords-based world. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones then you’re familiar with Allen Betchelder’s style; multiple character perspectives, inter-weaved story lines, and a healthy dose of murder. It’s a fantastic modern-style medieval fantasy, and a definite read for any fan of the genre.

When I began Steel, Blood and Fire, my first thought was, “Wow, this is a lot like Game of Thrones.” Then I began to think, “Or is it more of a Witcher book?” As I continued through the novel, I began to decide it was a blend of both. By the end, I thought that perhaps it was its own thing.

The book isn’t afraid to touch on the brutal. In fact, it seems to revel in it. Blood flows freely; rape is the buzzword of the day. It’s a mature novel for sure although it doesn’t quite cross the line, but regularly toes it. A lesser author would have toppled their novel over into prurient pulp.

The writing is well-executed, with the author’s own voice clearly shining through. There is one trap that Allen Betchelder tends to fall into, and that’s the ‘fear of said’. Every other sentence seems to find a new synonym – characters question, murmur, mutter, bellow, but words are never just ‘said’. It’s awkward to read, and tends to draw you out of conversations that should flow naturally.

In any perspective-hopping plot, characters are one of the most important factors. Fortunately, Steel, Blood and Fire features a strong and memorable, if slightly generic, cast. They come off as slightly one-dimensional, particularly towards the start of the novel, and the inclusion of a comedy group of village bumpkins – who of course meet with terrible fates – struck me as being an attempt at generating some frisson with the grim background. Other than those minor niggles, the diversity and depth of the cast begins to truly shine through around the midway point; from here onward they become much more than the sum of their parts.

Despite my above criticisms, I really did enjoy the story, and it quickly became engaging only a few pages in. If you’re a fan of the genre, particularly Game of Thrones-esque fantasy, you’ll certainly enjoy Betchelder’s offering.

Pages: 548 | ASIN: B00AW53RMQ

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Apples Don’t Sing – They Shine

Apples Don't Sing-They Shine by [Mardo, George J.]

Apples Don’t Sing–They Shine, by George Mardo, is a classic example of literary fiction. The story follows a family over generations from 1930 all the way to 1990. Some of the story does feel dated, but that might be because of historical events that frame the novel. In some ways, it is hard to simply summarize a novel that at its’ core deals with family drama of coming together in times of war and drifting apart after. Mainly it deals with Marie, a German immigrant and her struggles with her son and the family business.

Overall, Mardo does a great job with managing what would normally be an overly complicated or possibly self-indulgent topic to write on. The drama of an inter-generational story is more than enough for the reader to follow on and enjoy. The family does become expansive as it should through the decades, but remembering names and their relations can become cumbersome after a while. The conflict between the characters should be familiar to any reader who has a family and especially one that has first generation immigrants.

The story at times may seem U.S. centralized, but Mardo expands his scope by including a Ukrainian Monastery, family drama in England, and even venturing into South America. The global scale of his story enhances how far reaching and long the narrative is as we follow the rise and fall of family unity and how families change over the decades. As with any drama set over decades, the story can run the risk of being too brief or skimming over the details of the day to day. Mardo falls into this somewhat by giving us broad, quick snippets of events that happen. He sometimes jumps years ahead in the narrative to get to another point. He may have been able to do this with more skill to not create such choppy pacing, though it does lend to the novel’s biographical story of the families of the Nesbits and Reynolds.

In some ways, the main conflict involving the family’s business, Reynolds Enterprise, tends to become too central to what the novel is striving to be, an intimate tale of family and the relations that bind. The focus does seem to shift towards the end and recenter the novel, which is a saving grace.

This work is perfect for those that enjoy tales told over generations involving many different characters. A pure drama that is accessible to anyone of any age.

Pages: 204 | ASIN: B0190UKORY

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Treasure Hunt: Follow Your Inner Clues to Find True Success

Treasure Hunt: Finding True Success Using Synchronicity, Dreams and Intuition

We all get a little lost on our way through life. Sometimes we overlook those hints and tips that could lead us to happiness a little faster than the long way around. By reading Treasure Hunt – Follow Your Inner Clues to Find True Success by Rizwan Virk you will gain a better sense of appreciation for those little signs in your life that you might be ignoring. Using first-person experience this book will help all readers identify what they want most out of their lives. There are snippets of anecdotal evidence as well as some ethereal sources of inspiration that will help lead you on your journey of self-awareness. This book covers the age-old-question of how to bring meaning to your life with comprehensive chapters and exercises designed to open your awareness to the little things that are constantly happening around you.

Styled as a comfortable self-help type book it is divided into five parts to help readers take their journey one step at a time. Trying to give meaning to your life and identify how to reach the success that you long for cannot be done overnight. It takes time and patience and an ability to see that which cannot be easily seen. Virk understands that and makes careful effort to properly guide readers on this potentially tricky path. Of course, there’s nothing that says you have to read this book from beginning to end. As with most self-discovery books you can jump around the chapters if you wish, but you will get much more out of it if you follow the traditional reading path.

It is obvious that the content of this book was carefully thought out. The order in which things are done is also very linear and easy to follow. There is no unnecessary fluff or padding to make this book longer than required. The case studies that readers will find peppered throughout the book help lends credibility to the content. The exercises that are available within the chapters’ helps readers practice what they’ve learned so far, making the information remain in their minds for longer. This is especially beneficial if you are trying to learn a new skill or start a new routine.

The styling of the book is very pleasing and the way the chapters are laid out and broken up makes it easy to read and digest. This can be the downfall for many self-help books with their epic chapter lengths. That approach can lose readers as opposed to bring them in. Virk does not have that issue, which makes this that much better to read.

If you’re looking to get some clarity in your life and maybe get a little assistance in recognizing those little signs, then you need to read this book. Treasure Hunt – Follow Your Inner Clues to Find True Success by Rizwan Virk is a modern approach to finding out what signs we might be missing and how to make ourselves more open to receiving and identifying those messages the universe is trying to tell us. Easy to read with clever case studies and personal anecdotes, this is not a self-help book what would have you running for the hills. The information is carefully thought out and planned in such a way that readers won’t have a difficult time understanding and implementing the skills. Enjoy your journey and the ensuing hunt!

Pages: 256 | ASIN: B01NBXI85B

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The One Eyed Pug

The One Eyed Pug

It’s important to share messages of acceptance with children, but it can be difficult if you don’t take into consideration their level of understanding. What a child can understand is vastly different than an adult. The One Eyed Pug by Deborah Hunt is a cute little story about a pug puppy that has a slightly difficult life waiting for her. She has to go through the anxiety of being separated from her birth parents and then living with a stranger. While she does her best to adapt to her new life, change is right around the corner as her ‘mother’ ends up being unable to care for her and gives her to another family. Our little pug now has to deal with the uncertainty of a new home with new people without understanding why she was given up in the first place. Things seem to start going better for our pug until the introduction of a new friend and the terrible accident that follows close behind.

Using animals as a way to deliver important messages and teach important lessons to children is something that is not easily done, but delivered well in this story. Children seem to be able to listen carefully and understand difficult lessons when taught through an animal that can speak. Hunt uses the story of the pug to show children that change is not always bad. She also teaches them that while bad things may happen, there are good outcomes as well. Our pug has only lived for a short time yet she’s met with various changes and has to face the anxiety of the unknown each time. This story can also teach children compassion. Compassion for those who are different than us and compassion for those who are struggling.

There are several drawings throughout the book which can give the readers a nice interruption to the waves of text. It is important to keep children engaged as well as entertained. The drawings give more information on what the characters look like which helps the readers connect more to the story. The language in the story is very easy for new readers to understand. While this isn’t a first step book, it is definitely suitable for a child who has experience reading books with little pictures. The language might be too young for older readers, even though the message it sends is positive.

Deborah Hunt takes us on a trip to learn compassion and acceptance with The One Eyed Pug. This tale allows children to connect their own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty with things like change to the life of the protagonist, the little pug. It also allows children to see that dogs and other pets have feelings as well, even if we can’t always understand what they’re trying to tell us. Even when our little pug goes through a life changing situation, she comes out strong because she has the support of those who love her around her. This is an important thing for children to understand as well: we are all stronger thanks to the people who support us. This would be a great book for any avid young reader.

Pages: 80 | ISBN: 1945175788

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Dear Emma

Dear Emma

Dear Emma, written by Kwen Griffeth, is a touching novel that revolves around the life of a family in the hospital waiting for a crucial moment that will equate to life or death. Their story is discovered by a caring man, Roger, who is the chaplain at the Price Hospital.

Lost in his own thoughts about his own personal life, Roger stumbles across Ben Talbet, an architect about to become a grandfather. But instead of it being a joyous occasion, Ben is convinced that he is about to lose everything he cares about- all because of a mysterious letter found on a hospital bedside table. What could this letter say that has Ben convinced he is about to lose it all?

Dear Emma is a heartfelt novel based on the significance of letters written to a woman by the name of Emma. The beginning of the novel walks you through the hospital in the eyes of a chaplain. It is here you meet nurses, doctors, patients and families all experiencing the ins and outs of hospital life. One family, in particular, has several lives on the line, and this is where you meet Ben- a loving father about to become a grandfather.

The story ventures into the past where we learn about Ben and Emma and what lead them to this important moment of their lives. Their past tragedies and losses will be shared and you will find yourself feeling a connection to the characters and their story. As the story progresses, the doubt and questions that are posed by Roger, all assist in creating a strong belief and understanding of things we may not understand.

There is a religious sentiment throughout the story and you feel as though you are involved in a special moment with Ben as he shares a personal story between the Father in Heaven and the chaplain. This interaction provoked thought between life after death and how our lives change after we lose a loved one. Dear Emma respectfully shows how love can be everlasting, and how a love between a mother and daughter is an irreplaceable bond.

The descriptive language used throughout the novel easily paints a picture of the hospital setting, with images such as the chapel, cafeteria and maternity ward easily envisioned. Kwen Griffeth’s language, however, does not take away from the importance of the story and instead compliments the plot line and the characters as they progress through the story. This novel tugged at the heart strings and will feel the reader’s heart with warmth and love. The storyline is always fast paced, and even though it isn’t a typical action novel, it kept me on my toes, eager to learn what happens to the family and the letters.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a beautiful, feel good story with a little twist at the end! Dear Emma is a journey of love, life and grief and how love surpasses time, death and life.

Pages: 115 | ASIN: B00770I2HO

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Captive Threat

Captive Threat (The Wade Hanna Series Book 5)

You know a story is good when it makes it to the fifth installment. A story needs to be captivating, with intriguing characters and compelling action. Readers will find all of that and more in Joseph D’Antoni’s Captive Threat. This book is an addition to his ever-popular Wade Hanna series. It’s easy to see why these books have been able to sustain themselves for so long. The life that Wade leads is not typical at all. This includes his romances. Here we find a story steeped in action with heart-pounding risks and careful planning. Those who enjoy a great action-packed crime/military intelligence novel will definitely be entertained by what occurs within these pages. Where will Wade end up this time? Will he finally get to move forward in his relationship with Megan? Or will this task finally end up being too much for him?

While this is an installment in a series, it is not wholly necessary to read the previous four books. Yes, they will provide important backstory, but D’Antoni writes in such a way that a reader will not be lost. Even the complicated aspects of Wade and Megan’s relationship is not lost in this book. It is difficult to write in such a way that you can captivate newcomers without leaving them confused. A master of his craft, it is clear that D’Antoni knows what he’s doing. At first, the book doesn’t even feel like it’s about Wade at all, but about Megan. About what she is going through after her return to American soil. She has suffered an ordeal and D’Antoni takes the required time to have her move through these complicated feelings and post-traumatic experiences. This is how you capture readers.

The character development is very well planned and carefully laid out. When you have existing characters that have been carrying on for books upon books it’s easy to swap out romantic partners or close friends in favour of an exciting new character. It is clear that our author has spent the time energy required to foster and develop the relationships from existing installments. This is something not many serial authors can accomplish. Coupled with character development are the action scenes as Wade and company foray into their battlefields. Nothing feels out of place or too over the top. There is a pleasant balance between story development and a good old-fashioned fight.

If you are looking for a book that is exciting to read while giving you those complicated portrayals of human emotion then you have found what you are looking for in Captive Threat. It’s an excellent example of a crime/military novel married to dramatic elements done right. For the series to have gone on for as many installments as it has, it is clear that something is being done right here. There is even the potential for another installment into the Wade Hanna series based solely off how our adventure ends. Your heart will race for more than one reason as you devour the words in this tale. But still we are left wondering, where will Wade end up now?

Pages: 389 | ASIN: B01M3OAV36

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JACS

J A C S

A BOOK OF SHORT STORIES
GEORGE J. MARDO

JACS places people in hard or surprising situations and challenges the reader to accept when the characters do not follow a traditional arc. George Mardo writes in such a way that seeks to subvert the easy plot points and story lines most readers have been familiar with in most recent years. Typical of a short story collection JACS contains a variety of stories.

The first story, Jackpot, follows two older men who have a racehorse bestowed on them. The catch is that the horse has never entered a race and both men play the part but are surprised to find themselves happy when things do not go their way. The next is, Amy, where the reader follows a girl who has strange dreams and holds onto them. The story really gets underway when she tells her grandfather about them and he confesses to having the same dreams. Candera is a hard story to read, since it follows a nun that was sent to the Congo and her tribulations of being captured by terrorists, raped, and becoming pregnant. When forced to try, and send the child away to be adopted, Sister Candera refuses. The last, Sorrow Has No Opposite, is more of a short, fictional biography that follows a Iraqi boy named Boutros Suffady, who undergoes a horrific tragedy and eventually finds happiness in life that he thought he lost.

Mardo has a talent for needling into a character’s perspective and teasing out what emotional heart strings should be pulled for the reader. These stories on their face may sound overwrought or framed in such a way to be emotionally manipulative, as it would be usually expected but Mardo avoids this with clear heartfelt authenticity. If nothing else, the author captures the “slices of life” that some may take particular pleasure in.

Some of the stories tend to be stronger than others and that will depend on the reader who wishes to give this collection a chance. The stories would be considered more literary based on the more character focused stories and lack of any real genre conventions. These small narratives are not adrenaline bouncing thrillers, nor are they dark and mysterious mysteries or horrors. What these stories do capture is the grounded reality that all of us abide in and these experiences all these characters’ share are to enlarge our scope.

JACS is recommended to more mature readers who are seeking different experiences on the page. The stories provide a unique lens that the reader only dons for a short time but will be left wondering long after reaching the end.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

East of Mecca

East of Mecca

East of Mecca,by Sheila Flaherty, details the journey of Sarah Hayes from a wife and mother of two to a woman forever changed by her time spent in Saudi Arabia. Set in the 1980s, Sarah’s story begins when her husband Max, a highly-motivated but fairly unstable man, accepts a job with Ocmara, a lucrative oil company, and moves his family overseas. Sarah and her two young children soon experience oppression, fear, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness as residents of Al Hassa. Sarah’s life in the Middle East spirals out of control as she fights to keep her family together and save the life of a woman she never expected to adore.

Though I have fought hard to avoid the cliche, I have to say East of Mecca is a book I could not put down. From the moment Max tells Sarah of his job offer and their impending move, Sarah’s experiences flowed awkwardly with all the grace of a line of shaky but properly placed dominoes. I found myself holding my breath and waiting for the next collapse of Sarah’s world. At every turn, I expected her world to crash around her and ached alongside her while she slowly realized that her passport was not her own, nor were most of her choices–least of all her ability to work or make decisions.

Flaherty paints a bleak picture of life in Saudi Arabia while at the same time giving credit to its purity and breathtaking beauty. She manages to build a type of fear in the reader that I have yet to experience in any other book. Sarah, a strong woman in her own right, is the ideal character for the setting and events Flaherty creates. As I watched her virtually unbreakable spirit tested page after page, I was able to visualize with frightening ease the true depth of suffering and shocking brutality endured by women within the culture. Watching Sarah feel herself falter and face her own vulnerabilities drove home the plight of the other wives of Ocmara’s employees and the Saudi women. The author reveals heart-wrenching details of abuse and a sense of control by males that seems to spread like a virus to those who linger long enough within the country’s borders.

Sarah’s gradual meeting and ensuing friendship with Yasmeen is stretched throughout the storyline and keeps the reader yearning for just one more tidbit–one more clue. Flaherty manages to provide an element of mystery with Sarah’s sightings of Yasmeen, aloof and lonely on the beach, and then masterfully weaves it into a tale of two friends sharing a common bond of love and tragedy.

I am wholeheartedly rating East of Mecca a 5 out 5. Within its pages lies a tale all too true and far too common. There is an education of sorts to be had from absorbing oneself in Sarah’s utter desperation and final rebellion. The first person account is a must-read for women everywhere and a reread for myself. Flaherty’s Sarah and Yasmeen represent two ends of a spectrum, two cultures, yet they are one.

Pages: 300 | ASIN: B00FMY2CWI

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Day Moon

Day Moon (Tomorrow's Edge Book 1)

As the first book in the Tomorrow’s Edge trilogy, Day Moon is an outstanding contribution to the world of futuristic creation. The author, Brett Armstrong, provides a novel which allows any reader to question the “what ifs” of the world.

The story is set in 2039, where a seventeen-year-old boy, Elliott, is assigned to work on a project instigated by his deceased grandfather. After all forms of print are destroyed, Elliott must let go of his beloved book of the complete works of Shakespeare.

Elliott soon realises that in the complete works of Shakespeare, something unusual occurs. For some reason, an extra sonnet “Day Moon” had been inserted. This unusual event is the start of the unravelling journey of Project Alexandria; a journey which has no intentions of using the project for its original purpose. Can Elliott unravel the mystery and prevent Project Alexandria being launched?

A fantastic attempt to draw upon the unknown possibilities of the world. Armstrong creates a strong, imaginative plot line, with relatable characters and emotions; this is a remarkable read which creates a vibrant and thought-provoking storyline.

Based on the originality of his ideas, and Brett’s noble attempt to write in a world of pure creation, I could look beyond our everyday lives, and recognise a possibility of how the world could look in years to come.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about Day Moon was a mixture of themes including passion, distrust, uncertainty and suspense. What also sets this book apart from others in this genre, is the small quotes inserted at the beginning of each chapter. Each quote has been taken from a work of Shakespeare; which ties in beautifully with the underlying concept of the narrative. In that respect, I think Brett Armstrong demonstrates a huge amount of commitment and passion in regards to his ideas for his trilogy in Tomorrow’s Edge.

Whilst reading through this book, I recognised that the author had put a tremendous amount of attention to detail in regards to his layout, consistency, flow in writing and grammar, which all adds to the book’s qualities. Not only does the book contain a strong narrative full of suspense, drive, and futurist qualities, but it also blends our world of reality with a world that could be.  

A fast-paced, diverse, intense piece of writing that falls under categories of Historical Fiction, Science Fiction and Futuristic genres. I highly recommend this book for anyone who shows an interest in the genres as mentioned. Although the narrative lagged at times, this does not detract from the quality of Brett Armstrong’s creative writing.

Packed full of inspiration, creation and innovation, this novel provides a great insight in to a world that is not real, but not impossible either. A fantastic read, and a great beginning to the Tomorrow’s Edge series.

Pages: 389 | ASIN: B06XWDM49Z

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