Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Tribulations of August Barton

The Tribulations of August Barton by [LeBlanc, Jennifer]

The Tribulations of August Barton by Jennifer LeBlanc follows the somewhat unwilling adventures of a young man who feels as if the world is on his shoulders. August Barton is a  nerdy college freshman with growing anxiety not helped by the declaration of his parent’s decision to divorce. Never mind first-year classes, his growing independence, or even girls, the struggles within his own family becomes almost too much for him to bear. At a time in his life when he should be stepping out into the world and spreading his wings, the worries of his life pull him back into the safe confines of his residence hall where he can be with his Star Wars collection in peace. However, his charismatic grandmother (a woman who really has lived life to the fullest) has other ideas for her grandson, which leads to a series of adventures where August can finally learn to live out his own epic saga and find his own happy endings outside of the ones he’s seen in the science-fiction stories he loves.

This story compares to the classic coming-of-age tale Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger in its overall themes like loss of innocence and personal growth of a young man. However, I will say that August Barton is a more likable protagonist than Holden Caulfield! August “Augie” Barton’s altruism for his loved ones and his quirky charm make him a lovable character to follow throughout the book. Other interesting characters in Augie’s life enhance the quality of this book, one in particular: his grandmother! Gertie is such a wild and fun lady. I wish I could know her in real life! I honestly would read a whole spin-off novel about her life because seeing the world through her eyes sounds like a treat. The overall humor and grace of this novel as Jennifer LeBlanc’s authentic characters deal with very real  problems that we all can face in life. The Tribulations of August Barton just proves how there can be such wondrous beauty in the everyday and in the hardships we all face. No doubt, Jennifer LeBlanc earns a full five stars, and one new permanent fan of her works.

Pages: 176 | ASIN: B01M7TF1N1

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The Cabin: A Murder Mystery

The Cabin: A Murder Mystery by W.D. Frolick is the story of a burned-out detective who can’t escape a murder investigation even during his vacation. Buckley Woods is a homicide detective in New York City, until his partner, Cheryl Jenkins, a married mother of two, is shot and killed when she and Buck are trying to apprehend a murder suspect two weeks before Christmas. Unable to start working with another partner, Buck takes a sabbatical and returns to his hometown in Maine to face the demons from his past. He blames himself for his high school girlfriend, Doreen’s death. Back in Orono again, Buck plans to fix up the log cabin on Pushaw Lake that he inherited from his grandfather. But when he arrives at the cabin, he discovers a dead body with a single gunshot wound to the forehead. Will Buck be able to avoid being drawn into the murder investigation? And will he find proof that Doreen’s death wasn’t just a tragic accident?

The book begins with Buck and his partner chasing after a murder suspect, which pulled me into the story right away. I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and I liked that there were several female characters in senior positions within the New York police department. Most other authors that I’ve read seem to have a primarily male cast in law enforcement in crime fiction/mystery.

The author seemed to be dropping some very broad hints in the first few chapters, and I suspected who the murderer was pretty early in the book, even before Buck and Jim discovered the body (although the motive was unclear until much later on in the story). But then, other clues and suspects were introduced, providing a number of false leads, which had me second-guessing myself. I really enjoyed that the story kept me guessing about the identity of the murderer until the very end of the book. And the truth about what happened to Doreen came as a complete surprise to me.

Although I enjoyed the book, I felt that there were too many mundane details, such as what Buck cooked for dinner, and that there were too many unnecessary details about secondary characters that did not relate directly to Buck or the mystery. This slowed the pace of an otherwise entertaining story.

Other than these minor quibbles I think this book is a solid crime novel that uses mystery and intrigue in interesting ways. Bucks character is well developed and the story keeps you guessing until the end.

Pages: 212 | ASIN: B01MR0BGG5

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Raven and the Code Book

Raven Anderson is a bad ass femme fatale secret agent detective killer who uses her skills, intelligence and sex appeal to get answers. This woman is not to be messed with or it may be the last thing you do. Raven was born into the life of a trained killer and secret spy working for an agency known as The Foundation. This is the third book in the Raven Anderson series and she is back to kick ass and take names. If you haven’t read the other two books, you will be fine with the brief synopsis at the beginning of this book. Soon you will get to know Raven very well!

Together with her friend Naci, she is given the mission to protect Professor Raymond Steele until he can reveal his groundbreaking solution to the world’s biggest issues, a solution, apparently, that has the big powers of the world scrambling to shut it down for fear of threats to power. Raven takes on the challenge with determination and killer instinct. It doesn’t take long for this mission to become intense. The Professor is in danger before Raven can get to him and his wife has been taken as a way to get the code book. From here, this book is a non-stop thrill ride punctuated by violence and sexiness, but also some light-hearted humor and interesting relationships. Its great fun as the author takes the reader all over the world, almost like getting to be a Go-Pro attached to an international spy! She goes up against some pretty rough characters, like the thuggish Boris Alexi, who is desperately seeking the code book. This story has a great arch with an exciting ending.

I quite liked the Naci Vacara character and thought that she balanced Raven’s character. Raven is a character that is intriguing because she is so well developed, nuanced, and dynamic. This is a labor of love and a truly enjoyable read that is both quick and fun. This is perfect if you are looking for something a little edgy but easy to digest.

Pages: 328 | ISBN: 1730750575

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“Mama Sou”: Metamorphosis of a Mother

MAMA SOU is the true story of a young mother who gets her son taken away. This book is pure love and emotion and nearly had me in tears several times. As the story unfolds, you see how much love Maria has for her son, and how she will do anything to get him back. She is strong, independent, and ready to fight for what is hers. Aside from the incredible story that is being told in these pages, the writing is superb and beautifully delivers a fully realized vision of the characters and the places they inhabit. It is incredible the lengths that people go to for their family, and the fact that this is someone’s real story is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

Whether you are a parent or not, you will feel the love that went into writing this story, and the emotions between the people in the story. The author, the mother herself, pours her heart into every chapter. I’ve read some books like this one, where a young mother struggles to gain her family back, but there is something special about Maria’s story. Maybe it’s the year that it happened, which was some 40 years ago, when these types of things weren’t really talked about, or maybe it’s because it happened in Greece. Either way, it holds a special place in my heart, and I will not forget this story any time soon.

As someone who has suffered from depression most of my life, seeing how Maria handled her depression was inspirational. That fact that she was able to fight for what she so desperately needed, all while dealing with mental illness, was incredible. I fully enjoyed this book, I think that whether you have kids or not, you will find some special meaning within these pages. The story is sometimes harsh, sometimes sweet, but definitely full of lessons to learn for everyone that reads it. I only wish that we could learn more about Maria and her story, and more about her son.

Pages: 118 | ASIN: B0793VJFFG

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The Chosen

The Chosen by [Corbitt, Ray]

The Chosen by Ray Corbitt is an interesting that is perfect for the fans of the political thriller genre. It’s substantially deep and entertaining.

A program is put into place to create a pool of leaders who are trained from a young age with certain values not easily found within the societies they are destined to lead. The children are from a variety of backgrounds, but they all share the fact that they are highly intelligent and display the potential necessary to lead.

There are many positive aspects of The Chosen but the one that strikes the loudest is the realism that is interlaced with imagination. The people, the places, and even the situations are all believable to the point that it really doesn’t take much work on the part of your reader to picture everything being described as if it were news of some real event. The lives seem real, the pain and suffering feel authentic, and the author does a fantastic job leading the reader through the lives on display.

I felt that the character introductions, while well described, could have been a bit less formulaic. I would have appreciated more variety with the character introductions. That said, the characters were very well developed and varied making them both believable and easy to form relationships with. Creating characters that seem as though they have been plucked straight out of real life can be a bit of a challenge for even the most seasoned authors but Corbitt certainly has a talent for it.

The only other complaint is more of a preference issue than anything else. The descriptive style employed by Corbitt for The Chosen strays a bit from the treasured ‘show, don’t tell’ philosophy that controls how the writer’s world opens itself up into the readers mind. I would have preferred more contextual clues to the straight descriptions offered.

For a short read directed squarely readers begging for a good suspense novel, The Chosen deserves four out of five stars for its originality and ability to bring readers into the writer’s world.

Pages: 182 | ASIN: B0794Y4WLD

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Raven Gone Rogue

Raven Gone Rogue by [Fennell, John]

Raven Gone Rogue is the second book in John Fennel II’s series which follows on from Raven and The Panther. It picks up the story with Raven, an agent, who is relaxing in her Florida hideout when her colleague Morgan tells her that they’ve been found and need to escape. Bullets come coursing through the air from a familiar enemy, The Foundation. Raven recognizes the enemy agents attacking her and the tension builds from there.

This confrontation leads to a fast-paced boat chase with the two Foundation agents frantically pursuing Raven. But Raven confidently takes control of the situation. She trusts in her abilities and decides to show off her innate skills and her specialist training. Ultimately Raven is a highly skilled and therefore very effective agent. This makes her a formidable enemy.

The prose is rich with onomatopoeia and vivid descriptions making it easy for the reader to visualize the chaos, be it a spray of bullets or a shower of shrapnel. The reader thus engages with the various elements of the adventure as it unfolds. Each scene plays out like a movie. In one instance switching between Morgan and Raven, keeping the flow of the action and constantly building tension and suspense as the reader follows both of these integral characters.

Despite the desperate and often critical situations, Raven is consistently calm and collected, always analyzing the situation and preparing her next move. Furthermore, the relationships that the characters build carry with them a sense of realism which at points – particularly at moments of remembering past trauma – communicates the feelings and motivations of the characters well.

The book comes with a brilliant energy. An impetus that moves through the first book and into this one, which is always forwarding the narrative and taking Raven into new situations.

Therefore, I give this book a four out of five for its in-depth development of its protagonist. Raven is such an interesting character to follow as she always seems prepared and she has an interesting approach to her line of work. Her confidence pervades every move that she makes, she knows she’s good at her job and she is not afraid to show off her talents. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy fiction that includes secret agents going off grid. The twists and turns in the narrative means that this book may appeal to those who enjoy some mystery mixed in with the action.

Pages: 231 | ASIN: B07M8PC5H1

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Lost in the Reflecting Pool: A Memoir

Lost in the Reflecting Pool: A Memoir by [Pomerantz, Diane]

I was truly touched by this memoir by Diane Pomerantz.  Her honesty and candor, as well as her shard recollection of her life’s experiences is truly inspiring and, as a person interested in human relationships, I found this book speaking to my soul. Diane Pomerantz writes as if in conversation. Perhaps this comes from her decades of work as a child psychologist. The writing has a conversational flow and is emotional without being overly flowery or expressive. She states later in the book that writing is very therapeutic for her and this is evident to the reader.

This is a memoir about a life full of challenging experiences to which many people can relate but also moments that are so unique to her story. The author takes us through her years as a married person and into her later years and up to the present. We experience her meeting her husband.  He is a physician and she is a child psychologist. They build a life together, including many issues with fertility and adoption. We experience their early years of marriage, including intense difficulties with fertility and adoption. There are many heartbreaking incidents like when the young couple adopts a baby, names him, and brings him home only to find out that the birth mother has changed her mind. It is inspiring how the author faces these challenges, she is rocked to the core but also finds a way to move forward. It’s beautiful how she got both of her children. I loved this part of the story. It made me laugh when she said her daughter liked her new brother for the first few weeks but was then ready to send him back! My son said similar things about his baby brother in the beginning, so this made me smile.

As the years go on, we watch her husband’s true personality come to forefront. It is truly disturbing to watch this unfold. She sees certain things in the beginning that are red flags but continues raising her children with him and even working together. There is a story about how she and Charles co-treat a young woman for anxiety and Pomerantz is alarmed by his dismissive response to the patient. Through the author’s struggles with illness she discovers more and more truths about her husband. It was alarming to read the breakdown of their partnership and his actions and state of mind. Her descriptions were so alarming at times, yet I believed every detail.

There is a lot of difficulty, trauma, and heartbreak in this book, but it all comes around to a positive ending and left me feeling like I was more aware in my own marriage and relationships. I like that she is able to move forward without anger, even though she doesn’t have to forgive. I really enjoyed this book. The writing style was so comfortable and easy to read. The authors candor about her life are refreshing in a world where people often only want to show the good.

Pages: 337 | ASIN: B07414L8B6

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Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms

Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms is part of a series by Gloria D. Gonsalves. In this series, Gonsalves weaves together a whimsical kingdom of royalty, guards, and an army made up entirely of personified mushrooms. Gonsalves follows the mushrooms as they discover a human baby in the forest of their kingdom. In true foster-parent fashion, the mushrooms make sacrifices to care for the lost child. The community of mushrooms rallies to take care of young Tiara. Gonsalves does a good job of introducing each type of mushroom and their specific jobs much like she did in Lamellia: The Wicked Queen.

When so many characters or character types are introduced at once, I think it is important to give a thorough explanation of who they are. Gonsalves does that in the first few pages. Having this as an introduction lets readers know they can always flip back to that section for reference if needed. This book focuses more on the king than the queen of the kingdom of Lamellia. It gives a little more backstory and insight into the king’s young life growing up. He is described as a sort of monster-like figure when he was young, but grew into a king and adopted a new name to go with his new role. I like that he didn’t look the part, but grew to be a wise and kind king. This emphasizes how unimportant outward appearances can be.

The book is generally an easy read with a few challenging words throughout the pages. I think the book would be good for young readers, but I would suggest some slight parental guidance for especially young readers. There is mention of a mushroom’s inclination to poison the baby. Also, there is talk of humans being mean to mushrooms, picking them and throwing them away, and cooking them to death. This might be a little scary for young readers.

Young readers will enjoy the brightly colored illustrations that seem to be hand drawn and painted. They will enjoy the imaginary world of Lamellia with mushrooms walking about and talking. They will also appreciate the fairy tale-like happy ending of the book. Having read The Wicked Queen, I did spot quite a few discrepancies between the stories. It seems more of a retelling of the same story than a new part of the story. I’m not sure which came first in the series, but the story-line of the baby in the story is quite a bit different than in The Wicked Queen. I’d think this might be a prequel and the queen’s sinister influence might come after except for  the “happily ever after” part of the story at the end. It was a much less happy fate for the baby in the other book. This book had a much lighter mood than the other part of the series.

I think this is a book that kids will enjoy reading. I like the characters and the story-line. I’d like to see a different scenario with these characters in the future, or the progression of baby Tiara’s life.

Pages: 38 | ISBN: 1524634972

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Lamellia: The Wicked Queen

Lamellia: The Wicked Queen is part of a children’s book series by author, Gloria D. Gonsalves. The story is set in the whimsical mushroom kingdom of Lamellia. King Polipoli and Queen Nobilia rule over the land and employ several other types of mushrooms that make up their army. The queen seems to have everything that she could ever want, but there is one thing she longs for; a baby. When she’s sad, the queen sings a song that would puts a damper on the mood of the entire kingdom. Black clouds hang over the colorful kingdom washing it out with dark shadows. All of the mushrooms’ moods seemed to mimic the queen’s. They become depressed and withdrawn when their queen is suffering.

The author does a good job of introducing the kingdom and the types of mushrooms in the first pages of the story. I found myself flipping back to reference things there. It seems that everyone had a job to do. Most of those jobs consisted of combating enemies or keeping them at bay. In this way, the story feels very much like the fairy tales we grew up with. The king, the queen, their court, and their protectors are all present like in the classics.

Magically, a human baby appears in the kingdom. Everyone, including the king, falls in love with this precious baby and care for and dote on her from the instant she is found. She is showered by adoration with everyone except one mushroom. The queen tries to keep decorum in front of the others, but something sinister is afoot. With that, another classic element of an evil queen is introduced.

What’s a book without conflict? Not all is sunshine and roses in the kingdom of Lamellia. The author introduces conflict through Nobilia’s demons. However, the book seems to leave an open path toward redemption. If Nobilia accepts the baby, everything could change. Readers will find these elements reminiscent of Disney movies they’ve seen.

I think the book is well-written and easy to read. With parental guidance, I think young readers will be able to handle this book. It does have some dark parts, so I don’t know if I’d suggest it for independent reading for very small children. Some guards die, and the queen poisons the baby. These elements can be a bit scary for little ones. I do think children will enjoy the beautiful, painted illustrations. It is also short enough for a young reader to tackle without getting overwhelmed.

Overall, it is well-written and has a nice flow. Gonsalves has woven together a beautiful kingdom of characters while leaving room for flaws. I’d like to see how the story of the wicked queen progresses.

Pages: 36 | ASIN: B079K7NCQQ

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Nothing is More: a High Black Comedy in Verse with Music for Six Actors

Nothing is More: a High Black Comedy in Verse with Music for Six Actors by [Landon, Dolly Gray, Noland, Gary Lloyd]

This physiological thriller is amusing and engaging right from the start. Act one introduces us to the characters, all of which I found interesting but one more particularly so was Purvel Schlignatz. He’s a graduate student who is focused and open-minded, but gets convinced to do things that he sometimes does not subscribe to and I was not comfortable with the influence that Pelvin Penisovich had on him.

The drama and romance blended easily and were equally entertaining. I loved how Purvel Chlignatz was ready to risk everything just to be with Kitty Walters. I closely followed the drama that led to Pelvin Penisovich and Dronah Stackbut’s break up and learned a few things about friendship along the way. The romantic themes explore how pals and lovers sometimes get betrayed, and the result is anger that could be destructive.

Dolly Gray Landon’s story is exciting if not interesting and filled with characters with quirky names having engaging conversations. Melody wasn’t a favorite for me, but not for a lack of character development, quite the opposite. Her attitude and lack of empathy made me dislike her character. She was full of herself and abused the influence she had. I, however, appreciate that the author made her one of the main characters, as her role added more spice in the book. I also got to learn a few new words, as the jargon used by the Stool candidates was compelling. ‘Nadaism’ is one of the words I found to be amusing throughout the book.

Everything from the plot, literary stylistic devices used, character and writing style were excellent. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading plays and wants to enjoy a good story. Keep a dictionary handy as this story will surely increase your vocabulary.

Wealth, power, the socialite life, education, relationships, and peer influence are some of the themes covered in the book. The author’s sense of humor is subtly apparent throughout and serves to deliver a larger satirical story that kept me laughing, entertained, and quickly flipping pages.

Pages: 306 | ASIN: B07P3L7C7R

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