Category Archives: Book Reviews

Salt & Light; The Complete Jesus

Salt & Light: The Complete Jesus is an illuminating scholarly work on the authentic Jesus and his teachings. Dean lays out three important questions in the beginning of his book about Jesus, his existence, his teachings and what he offered to humanity; all delivered through a critical lens. Dean sets out on a daunting journey of finding the ‘authentic’ Jesus without any bias and only sticking to available evidence.

The beginning of this informative book contains information on different sources the author used and then the book dives into the Gospels, Jesus’ disciples and other topics, to make his case.

Each chapter has an intriguing question at the beginning, which is then followed by compelling arguments. Readers are not made to take sides on those arguments, but are allowed to critically think and decide for themselves.

The simple use of language throughout this book ensures that the information being conveyed is easily understood by anyone, and I think the text is much more powerful because of it. Photographs and other pieces of historical evidence are provided in this book which breaks up the long pieces of text. They are great visual additions that make this book much more engaging.

While I am spiritual, I certainly don’t have the level of knowledge of Christianity that the author does, and I had a bit of trepidation going into this book because of that. But the author provides readers with all the necessary information they need in order to understand the book. I feel like I walked away from this book with a lot more information on the subject, which will allow me to confidently partake in a discourse on this topic with other people.

I was mesmerized by the cover of this book because I felt like you are playing a word puzzle and finding Jesus in the scramble; which I think is a metaphor for this book, or maybe life too. While I think the book contained easy to understand language and the chapters fully covered a topic before moving on, I feel like this book is not something you finish in one sitting. There is a lot of thought-provoking information in this book that takes time to absorb. Going through the book, there were several ‘aha’ moments for me about Jesus and his teachings.

Salt & Light: The Complete Jesus by Jonathan Geoffrey Dean takes on a controversial topic in a way that is comprehensive and impartial. This is an enlightening book that provides the reader with the critical information they need to unravel the mystery of Jesus.

Pages: 211 | ISBN: 978-1-03-913143-9

www.saltandlight.ca

Unforgiven

Unforgiven is a short story written by Andre Gress. The story is told by the character Henry Fields, a once-famous ex-writer whose life falls apart in every way imaginable in the first chapter. However, there’s no silver lining until he is suddenly informed about a huge family secret that will change the nature of his life catastrophically.

The narrative takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s evident from the start that Henry harbors much anger and bitterness towards his life and perhaps the people in it due to various circumstances. The story is told from Henry’s perspective, but it also contains a lot of italicized side comments. These comments feel like Henry’s unofficial internal monologue and often include points of criticism or snide remarks aimed at both himself and others in the story. The addition of these side comments adds depth and intrigue to the story because you get an inside look at Henry’s thoughts and emotions.

I appreciated that the main character is presented as a person who was both a little flawed and quite sensitive. He has a clear adoration for his little dog Rosy and reminisces about his past. So many male characters are created to be strong and dominant, to the point that the idea of being emotional is nonexistent. It was refreshing to follow a character that is a little more realistic with his emotions, especially with the things Henry has gone through and experienced.

I enjoyed the overall story and narrative development; the development of the main character and his life situation at the start of the story was vividly descriptive and exciting. However, once the big family secret is revealed to Henry, he goes from being outrageously angry to accepting in no time at all. I felt this story aspect was rushed, and some of the storylines were cut out. Still, this is a captivating story and takes the reader on a memorable adventure.

Unforgiven is a gripping story about a man and his journey to self-discovery and learning the truth about his family. As events unfold, he will have to choose what path he follows, and readers will be hanging on edge to see his life’s direction.

Pages: 95 | ASIN : B01NAJSA6N

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Blackface

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Blackface, by Pamela D. Smith, is a celebration of African American’s success in politics, art, and culture. For the longest time, black faces have been associated with mockery, misery, pity, and everything negative. Pamela D. Smith, however, brings positivity to the words and gets readers to revisit the misrepresentation of the term. Smith is not trying to forget history but she wants readers to use these experiences to become a leader. The Author shares painful memories of African Americans, the impact slavery has had for generations, race dynamics, the struggles Black people have gone through, and how African Americans rose up, and are shining.

Smith has written a powerful and inspiring book sharing her experiences as an African American woman and asks the reader what they would do if they were in her situation. Many of the situations the author describes are some that many readers don’t face that often so this was an eye-opening read for me. I also admired that the author debunks the stereotypes given to African Americans, some of which I wasn’t even aware of.

The author writes in a conversational tone that is not out to point fingers but instead to educate us. I feel this book can be relatable to people of different races, not just African Americans. Smith inspires and provides tips on how to be a leader for yourself and how to be the best version of yourself no matter what you face in the world.

The author is honest and open with the reader and she does not hold back about what African Americans have gone through and still go through today. The author’s vulnerability is inspiring and a remarkable feature of her writing.

Every chapter in Blackface has a lesson that will benefit the reader. My biggest lessons were on how to brand and package yourself for more visibility. By creating an exemplary brand with your name, you will be able to skillfully sell whatever product or service you have, impact lives, sub-consciously mentor future leaders, and live a fulfilling life. Apart from the wise teachings, I also loved the quotable texts in various chapters. One of my favorite quotes from Blackface is ‘To become internally self-aware, we must be open-minded’. This quote is powerful and helped me change my perspective.

Blackface: An African American guide to building a personal brand, developing as a leader, and serving with excellency is an insightful look into how African Americans can grow in their professional lives. It gives a realistic look into the struggles and roadblocks that People of Color face.

Dilation

Dilation: A 10,000-Year Sci-Fi Epic, by Travis Stecher, is about the human race’s first encounter with aliens. As this encounter leads to humanity’s impending destruction, many people are sent 10,000 years into the future to defend Earth. 21st-century biology professor Denise Walker and DIA agent Isaac Fowler are joined in the 126th century by 32nd-century fighter pilot Nadia Raynor. Follow their journey across time as humankind struggles to find its way into the future and survive the alien invasion.

Stecher captivates the reader from the beginning as he introduces the character Raynor just after she’s arrived in the 126th century. The reader is in suspense as hints are given that something critical is happening. Then, in awe of the historical figures Raynor encounters, the reader is taken back into “our time” and gives the story’s beginning.

The author does a fantastic job of pulling the reader through time as events unfold and connecting the dots to the beginning of this complex book when Raynor is first introduced. Once all the characters and the reader are fully entrenched in the 126th century, he thrusts us into the action of the human race fighting for survival. The action scenes are one to applaud and are filled with such detail you feel as if you are watching a movie. The characters are believable, along with their emotions and dialogue. They are thoroughly fleshed-out characters in a vibrant and detailed universe. The story was not bogged down with technical details, and the author gave enough information to keep the reader engaged.

Dilation: A 10,000-Year Sci-Fi Epic is a gripping time travel adventure that hooks the reader from the beginning and keeps their attention to the very last page. This novel will entertain hard science fiction readers with memorable characters, exciting conflict, and an unforgettable story.

Pages: 464 | ASIN : B09QQLD79Y

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To Those We Found

To Those We Found by George Ander is a science fiction book based in a completely different galaxy. Instead of having features like tentacles and an exoskeleton, the aliens have the same physical construction as humans. This captivating story has been told from the viewpoint of an alien competing for the position of a champion; the winner will represent their planet in other solar systems.

The protagonist of the story, Taman Yedder, is selected by a random lottery to represent his world to the whole universe. He reaches the destination but finds himself trapped in a desolate hospital with the doctor forcing him to stay there. After a scuffle, he escapes the hospital and begins exploring this mother world he is supposed to prepare a report about.

Through the journey and thoughts of Taman, readers will explore his world. The historical evidence and the leaders’ talks are contradictory, and Taman begins his search for truth. However, his investigation leads him to deep and dark secrets which no one wants to hear about. He also explores his sexuality and begins to question the reason for his sacrifices. The leadership doesn’t want anyone to know things Taman has started asking.

The author explores many human world problems like religion, politics, economy, sexual identity, and technology through the alien world. The characters and their responses are eerily human but being in a different world creates an estrangement with the readers. This book is a deep dive into the psychology and philosophy of the human mind. I felt that, at times, the author’s explanation of the psychology of humans was lost in the story’s narrative or just confusing to understand. The cultural hegemony of our world has been shown, and capitalism has been questioned. The protagonist is an outsider, enabling him to question and look at these from a fresh perspective rather than blindly follow them. This book is fiction wrapped in ideological and realistic problems that plague our world.

The author brings out a lot of contemporary issues through the story. I liked the subtle yet firm way the author establishes the parallel between our world and this fictional world. The writing style is captivating, and the plot engages with enough dialogues and actions. So many contemporary and chronic issues of our world have been represented without any solution.

To Those, We Found is a riveting young adult science fiction novel for teens who want to read action-filled and engaging plots and for people who want a philosophical look at the world in their readings.

Pages: 389 | ASIN : B09MNS6J4V

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Powerless

Powerless is a well-written and gritty take on small town life after a major disaster. Kevin Barton and his family live on the outskirts of Harpursville, a hamlet in rural New York. When a major blackout wipes out communication and modern electrical conveniences, the townsfolk must come together to survive. Most of the story takes place in the Barton’s household, where Kevin must transition from administrator to farmer. His wife, Monica, takes on the role of hunter and quartermaster as she minds their ever-dwindling supplies. Their daughter Kelly, and her stranded friend, Dina, try to cope with being teenagers while living through a minor apocalypse.

Powerless is a very realistic take on a prolonged state of emergency. While it is not nearly as dire or hard to digest as Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” (which gets a brief mention), and there are no post-apocalyptic monsters or zombies, the author covers actual threats, like lack of food, water, medicine, and the mixed intentions of other people, which makes this story feel much more grounded.

I find it refreshing that Kevin is an ill-equipped modern day everyman, more suited for desk work than living off the land. He’s not a man “with a certain set of skills” or a former special forces soldier. He’s just an average forty-year-old man who is lucky enough to live next door to a working farm in a time of crisis.

The theme of “power,” who has it, and who does not, is explored throughout the novel. Characters who find themselves powerless in the new world develop new skills to survive, some for the better, some worse. As supplies run out the idea of “neighbors helping neighbors” becomes more of a veiled menace than cheery mantra. Coming on the heels of a global pandemic, what once would seem like a survival fantasy story feels very real and very possible at this time in history.

Powerless is a riveting post-apocalyptic novel that plays with being a psychological thriller as well as a compelling character study.

Pages: 370 | ASIN: B09TX9P62R

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Raspberry Red

Aino doesn’t understand why her father has left with the other village men during autumn. She doesn’t understand why scary noises are coming from the forest and why her mother wants her to play near home. Forced to leave their home when soldiers arrive, Aino quickly grabs her doll running for the trucks that will take the family to safety, but they have left without her. Looking back to where she ran, she sees the bright red doll’s apron lying on the pure white snow. It is then that Aino realizes two soldiers are standing near her house, and they too have seen the apron and her footprints. The young soldier sees her and sends the older one into the house. He then lets Aino escape, leaving her doll’s apron behind.

Aino, her family, and her friends must learn to live in strange homes and rely on people they do not know. Then, when the war is winding down, they can finally go back home. Arriving home to a burnt-down home, she is shocked to find her raspberry red apron that belonged to her doll hanging from a clothesline.

Raspberry Red by Tuula Pere and illustrated by Georgia Stylou is a story that I was not expecting, but the ending made me smile. This stirring story starts out on the darker side with questions and uncertainty for all the characters. The images in the story are impressive as they look lifelike and like they are hand-drawn. Aino’s eyes especially will draw in readers and convey her feelings throughout this inspirational book.

Aino’s character is impressive as she is a child but still aware of her surroundings and she is responsible and helpful to her mother. Raspberry Red is a short but powerful read that will leave the reader with complex emotions. Pere’s writing is remarkable in having the ability to affect readers. The best part of this book is the end, where readers will learn the meaning of the title Raspberry Red.

Raspberry Red is an emotionally charged children’s book that deals with war, displaced families, and the struggle to survive and rebuild in a war-torn country. Given current events, this insightful book will help readers understand the plight of those living in these conditions. This book would be a great way to open discussion with children.

Pages: 20 | ASIN : B077LXS2VQ

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Surviving the Second Tier

Surviving the Second Tier by author M.K Lever is a sci-fi novel that is different from anything else out there. It is a combination of dystopian sci-fi, college drama, and an underdog sports story. The setting is nebulous. We know the novel is set in the future, but Lever leaves it up to the reader to decide how distant. Technology has advanced but is not far-fetched. We know that there are drones, automated exercise equipment, and self-driving cars.  The setting is what I would call grounded dystopian. There has been yet another economic crash, and once again, it is the younger generation who are paying the price.

This captivating novel takes a close look at the world of college sport but through the lens of a dystopian future. In this world, college sports as we know it has been replaced with the AFA (American Fighting Association). Male and female athletes now fight in an MMA-style fighting league where only the toughest and best-funded succeed. Like most extraordinary sports stories, we follow Sis Jones, a second-tier fighter who is undefeated and coming towards the end of her college career.  Sis might be successful in the ring, but it isn’t doing her much good. As a poorly-paid second-tier fighter, the fighting takes its toll on her health and grades. We follow Sis and her teammates as they are pushed and manipulated further and further by their greedy coach and college higher-ups. In the end, enough is enough, and the athletes rebel and take on the corruption directly.

Surviving the second tier feels almost like a more grounded Hunger Games. The setting may not be quite as dramatic and the stakes not quite as high, but Sis is still fighting for survival in many ways. Most of us have never had to fight to the death, but struggling to make ends meet will be painfully familiar to most of us.

Lever is a former college athlete herself, and this shows. She has extensive knowledge of the subject and has gone to great pains to highlight the abuse and corruption that goes widely unreported in college sports today. As well as shining a light on the discrepancies between first-tier and second-tier college teams. For every first-tier college athlete that goes on to great success, many are left behind.

Surviving the Second tier is a gripping dystopian novel with a great underdog story full of easy to root for heroes with an important message. This unconventional combination of genres will give readers a unique look into college sports and much to think about.

Pages: 429 | ASIN : B09MDR6FYH

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