Category Archives: Book Reviews

Tellus

Queen Natylia has a responsibility. Araenna deserves to be ruled properly and to be led to greatness. However, she has found something that could bring an end to everything. She however has a few people she could count on. With their support she will hunt down the scepters and bring them to an end before everything goes awry. Will she make it before the four titans find freedom? Can she finally forgive and love again? What will become of Araenna?

Tyffany Hackett has done a wonderful job with Tellus, the second installment of the Thanatos trilogy. In Imber she introduced the readers to all these wonderful characters and the kingdom. In the second installment you get to dive even deeper into Queen Natylia’s kingdom. The author does a commendable job of gripping the reader right from the beginning. The cliffhanger at the end is both frustrating and simply delectable.

I recommend reading the first installment of the trilogy for a better experience. The first one sets the tone and prepares you for the intensity and action that is in this second one. You should brace yourself for delightfully surprising twists and turns. It almost seems like this author is orchestrating ordered chaos in the chronology of events. I felt deeply committed to the success of Queen Natylia’s mission.

A study of the cover art alone will leave you feeling a need to explore further. The character sculpting in this book is top notch. There is a wonderful sense of love and warmth despite the crisis that threatens existence. Queen Natylia, while faced with obstacles, remains steadfast and brave. The author details all of this characters emotions and inner turmoil throughout the entire process. The same multi-dimensional character build applies to other characters like Jyn and the others. The author gives readers a chance to get to know the characters and understand their journeys both as individuals and as members of a group.

You will be deeply content with everything from the plot to the characters to the masterful writing. The only down side is that you will be giddy with anticipation awaiting the third installment in the trilogy. Tellus sets the bar for the third book very high.

Pages: 329 | ASIN: B07X6Q821T

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Without Fear of Infamy

This is a collection of poems from different poets. You can tell when there is a change from one poet to another because of the distinct tone and stylistic change. Each poet brings their unique life experiences, view, perceptions and even temperament. Just like every other edition before this one, this book exhibits a unique collection of poets, each with their own tundra but somehow coming together seamlessly. Some works stand out more than others though.

Charles Luden opens in the first chapter. His second entry ‘Glory’ is an evocatively seductive and brief thought about a difficult time and the end of it. It is a reflection of the journey rather than the destination. Charles has said very much with very little. This entry dignifies the phrase ‘short and sweet’. His entry ‘Last Laugh’ stands out too with its painfully awakening truth.

Further into the book you encounter Brit Graham with ‘Tempering Grief’ which is an account of the unstable and aimless emotions of grief. The raw pain is seen through the choice of words. Then you get to the ‘Recipe for Forgiveness’ which is a simple guide that the world needs in these times of intentional genocide and blatant hatred.

We’re also treated with a guide to coexisting with others from Marsha Mittman’s NYC Observation. It speaks to the tolerance people should direct at other people. This entry is thought provoking and candid if not a little shaming to us as human beings.

‘Ideological Exile’ by Ivanna Kusijanovic is perhaps one of the most serious poems in this anthology. It reads like a personal inner voice chastising you and pushing you to be better, to do better. If you would like to read one piece first before going through the book from the start, this is a good one to jump to.

These are just a few, there are many more evocative, thought provoking, some so wonderfully heartbreaking. This is a collection of poems about life, death and everything in between. From the pain to the joy to untold suffering. It is a cornucopia of experience from the start to the very end. The title is a lovely homage to Dante as well as fitting to the choice of works featured in the book.

However, a few pieces seem to be misplaced in terms of the general depth of the poems. This could be intentional to provide a break from the intense emotion. All in all, the editors have done a good job.

Pages: 158 | ISBN: 1088987613

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Runaway

RUNAWAY by [Simonson, C.A.]

Nina doesn’t want her and told her as much. The man in the car wanted her, but she knew he was no father figure. The two old ladies who find her want her, but the system says otherwise. Nothing in her life is the way it should be. A scar mars her face, and her leg is twisted and forces her to limp. When the girl now called Rose is taken from the one home where she feels loved and truly cared for, she is placed in a shelter for runaways and begins to question everything about where she came from and where she wants to be.

Runaway, by CA. Simonson, is a gripping novel detailing the struggle one young girl faces as she is forced to leave the wreckage she knows as her life thus far. The only parental figure on whom she can rely is mentally abusive and more inclined to offer her up to a man who wants to sexually exploit her. From the first pages, Simonson engages readers in Rose’s story as she fights to flee from a man who promises to do nothing but continue her world of hurt.

Simonson does an amazing job communicating to readers the intense feelings of neglect and mental anguish experienced by young Rose. Her thoughts are painfully clear, and her pain is tangible. The author has created a phenomenal main character and provided a supporting cast of characters that further develop the tragic plot enveloping Rose.

When Rose is essentially rescued by Hope and Faith, she sees what her life could be like for the first time. It is during this part of Rose’s story that readers see her experience real love and kindness. There is a sense of relief for Rose and readers are filled with hope. Simonson shapes her story well and immediately finds a way to continue the rollercoaster that is Rose’s young life.

Simonson is adept at creating characters readers will love to hate. Nina is number one on that list. Not in a long time have I loathed a character as much as I loate Nina. The way she treats poor Rose from the first chapter is reprehensible and unforgivable. Simonson’s antagonist serves her purpose well.

There is a satisfying amount of mystery in Simonson’s novel. Rose’s background, while tragic and fairly transparent in the first chapter, is a bit of an enigma. As the detective searches for the truth about Rose’s mother, readers are taken on a heartbreaking journey. Nothing about Rose’s life has ever been easy, and readers soon see why.

I recommend this book to anyone searching for a novel based on faith and centered around Christian values. C.A. Simonson has created a character who overcomes tremendous odds in the face of a multitude of obstacles including a family who cannot bring themselves to provide the love she needs. Readers will be touched by the honesty and strengthened by the values expressed by Simonson’s cast of characters.

Pages: 193 | ASIN:  B07RT73PTN

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Better Off Bald: A Life in 147 Days

Almost everyone has been touched by cancer; either indirectly or directly by this aggressive and unpredictable disease. Serious diseases affect people in different ways, sometimes the emotional storm leaves you as unprepared as the illness. A child battling cancer is as bad as it gets and the real life story of Adrienne Wilson is a total gut-wrencher as well as beautiful, uplifting and encouraging one. Better off Bald: A Life in 147 Days is an undeniably fascinating read that should be experienced!

There is so much raw truth and strength in the authors recounting of her sisters battle with childhood cancer. Andrea Wilson’s story is a roller coaster of hope, anger, grief, nostalgia, determination, self guilt, and courage that can only be matched my her marvelous and spirited sister. The truth about cancer is that there is no absolutely true path or outcome. Everyday and every story is different. Despite knowing the end for Adrienne the author is successful at making the reader understand how every day and moment is different and unique and the journey of these 2 strong women is just as compelling as can be hoped for.

Andrea Wilson Woods opens up her soul with her memoir Better off Bald: A Life in 147 Days. This fabulously narrated journey lays out all that can be experienced when dealing with the terminal illness of a minor.

There are countless ups and downs in Adrienne’s story and it’s not straight forward nor easy. What in life is? The roller coaster ride is raw and real and the unbalance of this story makes it remarkable.

Better off Bald paints such a vivid picture of the complexity of cancer and the real life challenges of living in the moment and how people think and react to every changing scope of their new reality. The author captures the readers heart and attention with clarity and grit. There is so much in Adrienne and Andrea’s story that makes you wish you had known them in person and feel like you already do.

From beginning to end A Life in 147 Days demands attention and you just want to keep reading and reading. The triumphs and tragedies of the two sisters is a story that must be shared and I am so grateful the it was! The author ends her story with a call to action and perspective that is relatable and honest. A truly great read!

Pages: 394 | ASIN: B07X3N6TCP

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Xhoseti First Contact

XHOSETI: FIRST CONTACT by [STEPHENS, ROBERT J]

Xhoseti First Contact is an engaging sci-fi thriller about a mission to save human civilization. While the premise sounds somewhat cliched, Robert J Stephens is a masterful storyteller. He weaves together the stories of miners that awaken the horrific Xhoseti, the omniscient Guardians plotting to save the universe with minimal collateral damage, and multiple historic events that defined human civilization. When the Xhoseti are awakened, the Guardians are aware that it is only a matter of time before humanity is under the threat of complete destruction. They enlist the help of Krys Reenberg, leaving him in charge of seven colonies on Earth. He has to ensure that the growth and development of humanity remains unhindered, while at the same time putting out fires throughout history,

Similar to the other books in the Xhoseti series, there are lengthy and fascinating descriptions of technologies. Things like the Morph Suit were elaborately explained; the science and science fiction ideas behind it all laid out. I enjoyed these parts, even if they verged on a bit too lengthy and unrealistic.

Although the characters and story lines are interesting, the dialogue can come across as a bit unnatural at times.  It works for the Xhoseti and Guardians, but the humans, not so much. Same goes for the character introductions. Take for example a description like this one- “Graham had the physical attributes of a twenty five-year-old human male.” Things like these threw me off a little, but these are easy to ignore.

However, the dialogue did have snippets of humor this time, especially with Krys. This was a refreshing aspect, especially since the rest of the book can be dry and serious. I loved the different events in history taking place in real-time, from  Japan to Mexico, and from the spread of Buddhism to Mary in Jerusalem. Krys’ ingenious ideas and debacles were fun to follow.

There were a lot of disturbing scenes, from violent and gory depictions of battle and barbarian human acts. I suppose these are a necessary evil if an accurate reflection of humanity is expected. The book ends on an intense but satisfying note- I look forward to more of the Xhoseti universe. Xhoseti First Contact is a superbly intriguing science ficiton novel.

Pages: 287 | ASIN: B07QGLNRT2

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A Single Light

A Single Light: A Thriller (The Line Between Book 2) by [Lee, Tosca]

It was early on a Monday morning at 4 am that I had gone through over one third of the book in one night. This book quickly became one of the best reads I have gone through in the past 3 months.

A Single Light begins with around 60 odd people forced to take shelter in a time vault due to the outbreak of a virulent epidemic. A runaway named Wynter and a former soldier turned bounty hunter, Chase are at the heart of the story. Both appear to be an unmatched pair as they have their own motivations and secrets. For the people in the vault, the only source of comfort and connection with the outside is periodic transmissions from Noah, the person who brings hope to the individuals. But all of a sudden, the link goes dark, causing to lose their composure. And when the time vault door opens all of a sudden, it begins a whole new set of unknown dangers to the group, stressed for many months. Infected animals, ghostly town, and people driven to the brink of anarchy. The support systems have failed, all semblance of order and law lying bare. What do you do? That’s where we find the characters in the story.

The story is intense and riveting as is the description of the dynamics at play between the different characters in a confined space. The notes that the story touches are really fundamental, fear, loss, joy but the presentation is remarkably somber and in line as to the way the plot is weaved. I really liked the way the author describes the gritty and raw emotions at play which I have seen only in a very few authors.

The best thing is that the author does not try to bend the story in a way that seems disjointed. It is a skill that is honed by working at the craft for many sleepless nights and long hours.

Though the story may not have political beliefs one may have, I wholeheartedly agree with what the author has penned about the need to break down the walls and be more exclusive. Normally a stickler for neat wrapped endings, I love the way the story concluded. I can’t wait for the next book.

Pages: 384 | ASIN: B07P5JKYT8

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The Underground

The Underground by [Bland, Roxanne]

Parker and Kurt are in a constant struggle for power. They, together with other types of ‘exotics’, live in Seattle together with human beings. Human are afraid of them and are repelled by the very idea of these creatures. The exotics only want peace. There is a plan, but there is a woman who might prove problematic to the success of said plan. As a means of displaying his superiority, Kurt takes Parker’s woman. Not because he wants her but because he wants to make a statement. Will peace ever be achieved? Can Parker reclaim his woman?

Roxanne Bland has crafted an intriguing plot that takes the reader deep into a literary forest. This book is eventful, lively and is filled with action and brilliant dialogue. This book will appeal to the deepest most sentimental parts of you but still arouse your intrigue and sense of adventure. The author leaves you disturbed not just by the sequence of events but by the frequent twists that the story takes.

One thing is necessitated though, an open mind. The book is written with blatant eroticism. It is a thrilling book even with such a strong romantic undertone to it.

I am consistently impressed with Roxanne’s ability to craft deep characters that change as the story progresses. The characters also display a myriad of traits. Parker is the alpha of his pack. He is expected to be authoritative and firm. His interaction with his pack is actually quite revealing of his true nature. The reader gets a feel of who he truly is away from the role that has been foisted on him. His indecision and doubt shine a light on a different side of him. A side that even the best leaders in the world have. Kurt on the other hand is a textbook dictator. He favors power plays and will exercise his arrogance at the slightest opportunity. His sexual deviance is no surprise, though shocking.

The author is not afraid to display some uncharacteristic traits in her quest to paint wholesome and realistic characters. She goes out of her way to help the reader recognize said traits and even endear themselves to the characters. The smart use of dialogue and action keep this novel moving quickly. With an open mind and a thirst for excitement, you will enjoy this book.

Pages: 377 | ASIN:  B07X6RRL5B

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Cooperative Lives

Cooperative Lives by [Finegan, Patrick]

Virtual strangers, each living their own life. Each dealing with their own torment. To each other they are faceless headless globs of flesh passing each other in the lobby of the building they all live in. Everyone being painfully polite. No one showing their true self. Everyone known by their façade. ‘Friendships’ having an expiration date. From the outside everything seems normal. They all seem like normal people. When their lives inadvertently intertwine, startling revelations are made, and their lives are changed forever.

This book is an apt representation of the world we live in today. A world where people keep secrets and suffer in silence. A world where families disintegrate like the houses of cards they are. The author is a talented storyteller. The reader is eased into the story starting with Wally then followed by everyone else. The intensity increases gradually until the suspense hits its peak about two thirds of the way through. The reader is left suspended over an abyss of thrilling possibilities. The story feels finished but the reader is still left wanting more. To learn more shocking secrets.

The story brings together disparate characters and juggles their stories which enabled me to empathize with some unique characters, but also left me in awe of the authors talents. I appreciated each character on their own, but still loved the compelling interactions and gripping relationships between the characters. This story has so much going for it. It is so busy, packed with action and drama, but the author still does not lose the reader in the cuckoo of a chaotic undercurrent.

The first chapter was rough to get through, but my commitment paid off as every sentence about this bitter dude with an obsession for collecting water drew me in. You would think an IT guy would know not to put his key card and magnet in the same pocket. What the reader does not know is that whatever lies beyond is all dark humor and delightful tragedy.

This book is elegant and intriguing. The characters are complex and the prose flows seamlessly. I found myself falling deeper and deeper into a black hole of suspense the more I read. Cooperative Lives is an exquisitely thrilling read!

Pages: 349 | ASIN: B07PP5QRNS

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White Harvest

White Harvest (Behind the veil: Book 1) by [Kine, A]

It all started with a nice man in a café. A man so nice he stirred sugar into her beverage. What followed was a series of lies and deceptions that led to the loss of her son. Lilly Reynolds finds herself trapped in a secret underground cell with a pool of water and an unlikely ‘friend’. She finds herself having to develop a weird friendship with a bigfoot Ox. Is there a hope of escape for Lilly? Does she suffer Stockholm syndrome? Is her perception of prison influenced by her ‘friend’?

White Harvest is thought-provoking and deeply disturbing. Everything from the strange sex and Lilly’s desire to be comforted by Ox are disconcerting to say the least. However, this is what makes the story good. Your flabbergast button will remain perpetually pressed. It is imaginative and creative. The author’s masterful portrayal of this warped world is a testament to author’s literary prowess. The author weaves a sufficiently graphic and well detailed account of Lilly’s experience.

Lilly is a likable woman. To some extent you will understand her strangely welcoming reception of Ox so soon after meeting. Then there is Ox, whose motivation I barely understood and who always seems like he could be genuine despite the mildly manipulative undertone. An undertone that could very well be imagined. It is so hard to decipher whether his is a façade or not. These are just examples of the author’s ability to create wonderfully appealing characters that have depth and dimension. The characters do as much for the book as the complex plot does.

This book only has a few scanty instances of typographical issues. These however do nothing to distract the reader from the story.

White Harvest has a comedic nature with an element of darkness. It is all conspiracy theories with some truths too. The reader will enjoy all the references and lessons from Ox. I found myself engrossed in this strange tale of human nature. It is a tale about choices that human beings face from time to time. It is about the impact of situations versus the nature of the choices taken.

This is a book you take your time with. Consume every page in its entirety and enjoy looking at the world through Lilly’s eyes.

Pages: 345 | ASIN: B07YKBQZGC

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The Best That Can Happen

The Best That Can Happen: The Grand Trek

Kathleen Schmitt worked on a farm, which was a far cry from the city life she was used to. It started as a sort of joke that turned into the best thing that could happen. This story has very little to do with the joke that started the journey. It is about the actual journey and the people encountered on the way.

On a deeper level, this story is about life. Kathleen Schmitt is telling a story about a cross-country horse ride, but a lot of the situations can be metaphors for life. Her masterful narration of the story pulls the reader right into the scene with her and the horses. It is almost like you are watching every moment of the journey, which includes everything from preparation to the experiences. She includes multiple dimensions to the story, giving the reader a headier literary ride.

This story is energetic, engaging and evocative. The author has done a good job of bringing depth to the story and layering it to make it more intriguing. The author introduces every character with utmost finesse.

This is a lot of story that fits within 266 pages. I enjoyed the story, but sometimes the story pace slowed as a lot of information was shared all at once. This may not be a problem for some as the story keeps the reader very busy.

The author has done a good job of relaying the quintessence of the trip. The narration itself has it’s own character and charm. The narration moves a person to ask, ‘why not?’ but still remain realistic enough to put loads of preparation into whatever it is. The different people in this, from friends to family and even strangers along the way, really do show you how vast the world can be. It also shows you that if anyone remains open minded they can learn a whole lot from whomever regardless of their status in life.

This is a book about life, people, horses and farms. Fantastic pictures that evoke strong emotion accompany an incredible wealth of information. This is the kind of book you reread every year just to relive the experience.

Pages: 244 | ISBN: 9780998430515

Available at TheGrandTrek.com

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