Category Archives: Book Reviews

Demon of the Black Gate

Demon of the Black Gate by [Scherzinger, GJ]

Rovinkar, the wizard, holds in his hands the key to instigating a war like no other. Cerra, a blind woman living alone in the meadows, knows only what she feels and hears. Their two worlds collide when power goes to Rovinkar’s head and he offers to destroy the Black Gate thereby beginning a string of devastating events. Rovinkar’s offer involves much more than just his expertise, detailed research, and a desire to prove his usefulness–it involves releasing a demon. When the best laid plans go awry, Cerra becomes involved in ways she could never have imagined, and her simple life in the meadows tending herbs will never be the same.

The Demon of the Black Gate, by G.J. Scherzinger, details the devious musings of the wizard Rovinkar and the strength of character shown by Cerra of the Meadows. The author’s two main characters could not be more different–Rovinkar dealing in what amounts to the dark arts and Cerra living her life by touch, sound, and smell. Cerra, a seemingly powerless woman, is the clear heroine in Scherzinger’s tale and stands far above all other characters including Rovinkar.

Fantasies of this type are known for being fraught with flowery language and bigger-than-life characters, but Scherzinger has found and given readers a wonderful balance between the typical fantasy and a down-to-earth read. From the first chapter, the author provides characters who relate to one another as people and in a way readers can appreciate. There is an abundance of friendly banter between characters at the outset of the book that draws readers immediately into the story-line.

Cerra must be the very definition of strength. The peek into her backstory serves to draw readers in and secure their investment in her connection to the plot. It is difficult to imagine another character without her physical limitations who is willing to take on the immense tasks she does. I appreciate the symbolism in Cerra’s position as a healer. Her position later in the story makes it quite clear that she is the epitome of rebuilding and reviving.

Equally as effective are the author’s fantastically fashioned descriptions of the wizard, Rovinkar. As he sets about plotting the release of the demon, one gets a clear picture of the wizard practically rubbing his hands in sheer delight–he is quite the character and one readers will love to hate.

Scherzinger’s fantasy is peppered with humorous and engaging lines that offer a welcome sense of levity within a plot that could otherwise become very dark and foreboding. It goes without saying that Scherzinger gives readers amazing visuals of the surrounding countryside  From cover to cover, readers are treated to beautiful descriptions and vivid details. I am much more interested in characters and their development from beginning to end than scenes of action, and Scherzinger does not disappoint in this arena.

Pages: 214 | ASIN: B07XC9B4QT

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Sea Scope

Sea Scope: A Psychological Mystery by [De Louise, Debbie]

Sea Scope by Debbie De Louise is a psychological mystery about an incident that happened twenty years ago with effects that stretch into the present. Sarah Collins, a children’s book illustrator, agrees to visit her aunt for the summer to escape the problems in her marriage. But returning to Sea Scope, the inn her family owned when she was child, is not the ideal place for a relaxing vacation. Because Sarah’s family closed the inn and left town after a young man died under mysterious circumstances two decades ago. Now, someone is not happy that guests are returning to Sea Scope. Sarah and her aunt begin to receive menacing notes and texts claiming to be from Sarah’s dead brother, Glen. Who is behind the attempts to scare them away from Sea Scope? And what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

I enjoyed the mystery behind this story immensely. I really like books that I have to work at solving the puzzle. There were lots of clues in this story and I spent most of the book trying to figure out how the pieces fit together. I was able to guess at a few things, but there were also a number of unexpected twists that surprised me.

I liked the pictures and information about lighthouses that were included in the book and I enjoyed learning about some of the history of different lighthouses in the United States. It was interesting to that get additional insight into the character of Michael.

The story started off a bit slow for me. I felt that there was an over abundance of backstory and setup with nothing much happening for the first several chapters. I felt that there some information that was mentioned multiple times, this along with a surplus of detail made the story feel slow. I wanted the mystery element to be introduced sooner, because it’s enthralling, and that would have really pulled me into the story. It wasn’t until after Sarah arrived at Sea Scope that the story started to grab my interest.

I liked the additional details that were conveyed by the flashbacks, but they were confusing because they were not in chronological order. And switching back and forth from first person narrative in the present and third person narrative in the past was a bit jarring at first, although I got used to it.

I’m glad that the story ended happily for Sarah, especially after the tragedies she’d already suffered and all the shocking secrets that she learned about her past. Sarah was an intriguing character that I enjoyed following through a superbly developed mystery that was unraveled perfectly.

Pages: 464 | ASIN: B07PPW1D41

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The Conflict of Desires

The Conflict of Desires: A New Rhythm in the Tangle by [DASH, JAYAJIT]

Before Ramesh Sahay stepped foot in the furthest corner of Odisha, he never would have considered a different kind of life. Then he met Peter whose demeanor and very existence nagged at him. They do not like each other. However, count on fate to bring these two together in the most unpredictable of ways as Ramesh turns over a new leaf.

The Conflict of Desires: A New Rhythm in the Tangle presents a crisis of conscience everyone has every once in a while. The writer has done a great job of letting the weight of that crisis shine through. I found this book to be very enlightening with regards to difficult life choices and well needed changes in life direction. The writer has a good command of vocabulary and effectively utilizes simple but powerful prose. The dialogue between different characters is sufficiently entertaining, and occasionally engrossing, throughout this short story.

I thought that the book could have flowed better form scene to scene. And I would have appreciated more clarity during the abduction scene.

Otherwise, this is an enjoyable short story that dissects the choices one makes in life and shows the effects it has on life. Very entertaining!

Pages: 30 | ASIN:  B07TZW2396

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From Miracle to Murder: Justice for Adam

From Miracle To Murder: Justice For Adam by [Lefler, Joyce A]

In May of 1977, Joyce gave birth to her second child, a son named Adam. Adam was a beam of light in an otherwise dark world surrounding Joyce and her daughter, Anne. Joyce was faced with the daunting task of raising a child with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome–a child she was told would never thrive and would require intense specialized care the rest of his short life. Joyce, a woman already trapped in an intensely abusive marriage, vowed to raise her son and his older sister together for as long as he may survive. In May of 1977, Joyce began a journey of new love with her two small children. In September of 1983, she was accused of Adam’s murder.

From Miracle to Murder: Justice for Adam is the true story of Joyce A. Lefler’s harrowing experience as a battered wife and a mother accused of murdering her young so told in her own words. From the first pages of Lefler’s story, it is painfully clear that Joyce is a fighter. The abuse she endured at the hands of her husband was nothing short of horrific. The author describes in vivid detail the moments of hair-pulling, his verbally abusive tirades, and the incidents of rape she endured as her children slept. Her husband, Allen, was a monster by all rights and possessed no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Several times while reading, I gasped audibly at the terrorizing scenes described by the author.

When accused of murdering her young son, Adam, Joyce faced obstacles at literally every turn. I cannot imagine losing one of my children and having the other ripped from my arms and turned against me. Joyce is a special person indeed. She is a survivor in every sense of the word.

The circumstances surrounding Adam’s death and the light shed on the many mistakes made during his murder investigation are overwhelming. She describes the most infuriating neglect on the part of the police department. All of these oversights led to one heartbreak in Joyce’s life after another. From having her husband awarded custody of her daughter to having trusted friends run the other way after her own arraignment, Joyce watched her life fall out from beneath her, but she somehow held her own.

It’s difficult to say this is a great book because it’s a tragic true story. I will say this–if your life has in any way been touched by abuse, this is a book you should read. By the same token, if you are the parent of a child with special needs, Joyce’s life story is one with which you should familiarize yourself. So much can be learned from her experience with her son and some of the medical professionals Joyce encountered in Adam’s first days. From her childhood to her marriage with her first husband to her painful existence looking back in fear of being accused again of her son’s death, Joyce describes for readers an incredibly difficult life of choices no one should have to make but everyone should read.

Pages: 309 | ASIN:  B07FMGGHTG

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My Kill Play

My Kill Play: When a Virus Hijacked the Roller Derby by [Patten, Tim]

My Kill Play is the true story of the author’s life, struggles, and triumphs as told through his journey in the world of roller derby.  The term “kill play” refers to a group of players on a team organizing themselves to violently take out a specific player on the other team.  In this book, Tim Patten, is referring to the HIV/AIDS virus that was “ganging up” on gay men in his roller derby world and across the nation. It is absolutely heart-wrenching as the author describes how this virus came into his world and turned it upside down. I enjoyed getting an inside look into the uprising of the roller derby world as it becomes the well-known sport it is today. Unfortunately, this story also involves the discovery and uprising of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Tim describes his path through roller derby as well as his experience with extreme illness. This book taught me a lot about this time in history as experienced by someone really living in the heart of the crisis. The author gives emotional recollections that truly put the reader in the middle of it all. At times I felt so uncomfortable and helpless, knowing full well how much this illness continues to impact peoples’ lives all over the world. The writing was emotive and sincere. Although I felt that it would have been more impactful if it was written in the first person versus the third person. I knew that this was his story, so I found it somewhat disconnecting to read in the third person. I absolutely loved learning about the inner workings of the roller derby, as I know several people who currently participate in this intriguing sport. I also loved the relationships he describes amongst the characters in his life.

Despite the upsetting pieces to this story, I found it to be a heartwarming and inspiring book overall. Tim took what was given to him and turned it into a platform for thriving. As he says, he truly embodies the expression, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.

Pages: 321 | ASIN: B06XRZSRPS

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Pigs

Pigs by [James, Daniel]

Pigs by Daniel James follows an ex-convict’s journey for vengeance. On the same night that he is released from prison, his wife and child are brutally murdered. Isaac Reid has to struggle with the guilt and desolation of losing his family. At the same time, he is confronted with an even more daunting challenge: a cold-blooded nemesis, the wearer of the wolf mask. We follow Isaac on his bloodthirsty path for revenge and root for him as he struggles against his internal demons.

This novel does not hold back on the bloody punches. The murders could be straight out of a Tarantino film, that’s how gruesome and well-portrayed they are. Violence and crime are treated in a matter-of-fact manner, which only serves to highlight their shock factor.

Although I am admittedly not an expert in matters regarding the criminal underworld, Daniel James manages to create a very real and believable world. Drug-abuse, petty crime, battery, theft, violence, all the terrifying aspects of a criminal life are explored here.

I think one of the reasons why this is possible is because the author is not afraid to dive deep into the characters’ psyches. The characters do not exist only in the dimension of their backstories and connections. Instead, their minds are explored and their motivations examined. Everyone from the protagonist and antagonist to the secondary characters receive this treatment. These examinations of their emotional and psychological beings made this a much more appealing read to me. I’ve always enjoyed deeply unsettling portrayals of psychosis and rage-consumed characters.

There were a few hitches in the form of clichéd and overdone violence scenes. Although they were well-written, they seemed to serve no purpose other than adding unnecessary thrill in an already action-filled book. However, it is a crime novel and I suppose that such depictions are an inbuilt evil of the same.

The book ends on a gloomy but hopeful note. Isaac commits just as many terrible and gruesome acts as his enemy, but somehow, via masterful navigation, Daniel James still had me rooting for him till the end. Pigs is an intense and gripping read. It will take you through a dark wormhole, at the end of which there is a sense of stability, but very little light.

Pages: 204 | ASIN: B07TTVMNCQ

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The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard

The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard by [King, Derek R.]

Many are remembered and revered for their contribution to the civil rights movement–some are more easily named than others. Clyde Kennard is one man among the countless individuals whose quiet contributions are often overlooked in history books, lectures, and museum descriptions of the most famous civil rights events of the 1950s. Clyde Kennard, a man with a right to an education in the United States, found himself in the throes of a battle to gain a college education in Mississippi while at the same time battling the oppressiveness of segregation, racism, and the fears of rural white America.

The Life and Times of Clyde Kennard, by Derek R. King, is the moving account of Clyde Kennard’s life and significant but virtually silent contribution to desegregate the South. King invites readers to absorb the details of Kennard’s life from his early days through his years serving in the United States Army. By establishing Kennard’s willingness to defend his country, King makes it clear to readers that Kennard is a man we should not slight in discussions of desegregation.

I am sure I am not the only reader surprised to hear of the part Kennard played in desegregating a southern college. King explains, in no uncertain terms, the exceptional number of obstacles placed in Clyde Kennard’s path as he attempted to apply and enroll in Mississippi Southern College near his own home in Mississippi. Authors like King are almost single handedly responsible for providing readers with otherwise hidden facts about heroes like Clyde Kennard and those who championed his cause.

In addition to telling Clyde Kennard’s own personal story of struggle, King includes details about the deaths of Reverend George Lee, Lamar Smith, and Emmett Till. While Emmett Till’s tragic story is one I had heard, I was completely unaware of the viciousness of his death and had no idea that his killers were so brazen as to later proudly admit their actions. These are the stories we all need to be told so history does not repeat itself. I, for one, am grateful to authors like King who continue to tell these stories.

Clyde Kennard was harassed and underwent one accusation after another as he fought to further his own education. I am horrified at the level of leading questions Clyde Kennard was asked by prosecutors when he was accused of robbery. Nowhere during his proceedings was he treated fairly. King has included the testimony within his story which makes the truth of Kennard’s battle that much more gripping.

It is and will forever be through books like Derek R. King’s that citizens of the United States see and feel the truth of where our country has been and the place we should all fear returning. Clyde Kennard’s story is one that should be told far and wide and given its rightful place alongside all other well-renowned heroes of the civil rights movement. Derek R. King has made a significant contribution to literature indeed.

Pages: 384 | ASIN: B07JPL1SBD

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The Line Between

The Line Between: A Novel by [Lee, Tosca]

Wynter Roth has lived in an apocalyptic religious cult since she was 7. At age 22, Wynter manages to escape from the cult only to realize that the thing that she was afraid of all her life, the end of the world, is actually happening. A fatal disease, which makes people go crazy is spreading all over the world. Wynter embarks on a mission to save the world and help her niece escape from the cult.

The Line Between by Tosca Lee is a captivating apocalyptic thriller that held my attention from page one. The chapters alternate between the past and the present adding an extra layer of tension in a novel where the suspense is already high. There are plenty of questions that need answers and I was pleasantly surprised that answers came at a steady and pleasing rate that always satisfied me as the next question intrigued me.

The novel follows the life of Wynter Roth, a young 22 years old woman who just left a doomsday cult. Her character is relatable and I found myself empathizing with her as we learn how she fell prey to an evil preacher. As I learned more about her life through the many flashbacks I realized how much she changes. From an innocent and broken girl she turns into a brave and purposeful woman who is not afraid of anything. I liked that the change could be seen and could also be believed. The character building in this book is something I really enjoyed.

The cult leader Magnus Theisen is the protagonist of the story. He manipulates his followers and destroys other people’s lives, all to reach his own goal. He is a cruel man who even wants to use the disease for his benefit. His character is provocative but I felt he was not explored enough. I thought he was compelling and I wanted to learn more about him, maybe by telling a bit of the story from his perspective.

While the main characters are all alluring and thoughtfully developed, I thought that there were too many minor characters in the novel. Sometimes I found it difficult to follow who was who.

The Line Between is an engrossing story filled with action, religion, romance, and survival all at once. If you like layered apocalyptic stories, then this is for you.

Pages: 384 | ASIN:  B07GNTVY6L

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It’s OK to be Different

In her children’s book, It’s OK to be Different, Sharon Purtill endeavors to teach her young audience an important lesson that all children – and adults – need to learn:  that although people may differ in the things they like, the way they live, and the way they look, everyone deserves to be treated with the same respect and kindness.

I think Purtill’s book has a great message and one that is especially important in a modern world that is connected globally like never before. By teaching children to be accepting of themselves and of others, Purtill challenges the need to fit into a stereotypical idea of “normal” while emphasizing that everyone is different in one way or another. The use of rhyming, simple examples, and colorful illustrations makes the book flow well and makes it one that is easy to read and is likely to appeal to Purtill’s young audience.

Although Purtill’s message is solid, I think she could jump to the issues that are likely to really matter, like differences in appearance, speech, or abilities/disabilities, earlier in the book. With that being said, the book has a great message for children, is easy and fun to read, and has delightful illustrations to capture the eyes and minds of its audience.

Pages: 30 | ISBN: 0973410442

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XHOSETI: AD 2492

XHOSETI: AD 2492 by [STEPHENS, ROBERT J]

Xhoseti AD 2492 by RJ Stephens is a dystopian, mind-warping read. We are introduced to the Guardians, who are concerned about the inevitable attack of the Xhoseti. This time around, the plan is to revive Earth and train the humans so that they may be ready for the Xhoseti attack in the far future. Chris, the grand-master is to control the fate of Earth and its inhabitants. Humans are to be shepherded onto the right path, an unsurprisingly difficult task. The book navigates through crucial turning points in history. These events are retold in a surprisingly believable manner. Everything from the Spanish inquisition to Nazi Germany was laid out, dissected, and manipulated in the story. The Masonic association and pyramids feature heavily in this book, complementing the doomsday conspiracy atmosphere of the book.

Similar to its sequel, Xhoseti Moon, this novel creates an immersive and intricate universe. It snaked its way through space and time, leaving me pleasantly disoriented. However, I found myself drifting off during the explanation of technicalities. Although they were imaginative and thought-provoking, some of them ended up being too lengthy for my taste. The futuristic technologies like the morph suit, neuralink, and mind dump were intriguing, but a little too well-explained.

The author did not hold back on the vivid and gory details of disturbing scenes- this one is not for the faint-hearted. Cannibalism and historic cruelties were laid out in their full glory. My favorite part of this book was the revisiting of historic characters. There were plenty and all of them were wonderfully fleshed out. I never tired of encountering the royalty, peasants, and people across the centuries. Chris is a masterfully created character- all in grey. Some of the things that he allowed to happen were hard to stomach, and his reasoning behind them even more so.

I had read Xhoseti Moon first and went in expecting the same sort of sci-fi thriller content. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Xhoseti Moon was an intense and thrilling ride but Xhoseti AD 2492 takes a more intricately interesting route. I don’t know whether or not I agree with the philosophy of the ends justifying the means, but I look forward to a long, bloody journey with the Xhoseti.

Pages: 303 | ASIN: B07SBHVJBW

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