Category Archives: Five Stars

Children of the Elements

Brenna and Adara are twins living in England that spend their days with tutors and fancy automated machines. When not working on their schooling they’re reading from the Grimoire. From the Grimoire they learn of the Elemental Gods and pretend they were them. It wasn’t until they moved to Massachusetts that they began to realize they were different. On their first day of school they meet twin boys, Dimitri and Wyndham that share their same last name, Devins, as well as strange white streaks of hair. From there they realize they all have over-sized pets, a toad, lizard, owl and rat that just found the children and attached themselves to them. Slowly as they get to know each other they develop strange powers, telepathy, the ability to control elements, and the mysterious Grimoire that each has a part of starts morphing before their eyes. What does it all mean? How are they connected? Why are strange things happening to them? What happens when the stories they read as children suddenly start coming to life?

Children of the Elements by Ora Wanders, is set in a steampunk reality of the semi modern world. There are parts that remind me of early frontier times, the one room school house, the simple country life, but then she adds in the steampunk elements of automated machinery and clothing choices. It is a mix of modern and old and blends together in a fascinating way that makes sense to the story line. Each set of twins have similar backgrounds, only one parent, both moving from homes with lots of machinery to a simpler life and only bringing a few things with them, the Grimoire that seems incomplete to each set. When they meet, it is literally like puzzle pieces fitting together. The story is exceptionally well written and everything flows naturally and story elements occur organically. I could picture the characters clearly, the bickering and playing around that you expect from young adults comes out. I found it all relatable, even in the magical setting.

This was a book that I didn’t want to put down. The plot moves quickly, the character development is integrated with the plot, so you’re not weighed down with back stories and character development early on. All that information comes out as you meet the characters and see them interacting with their pets, teacher, and each other. They are typical teenagers with attitudes and short tempers, but you see them grow from the early pages to the end. Without giving away key elements, I can say that all four children are able to grow and see their potential while still retaining a child like wonder of the world. It has all the elements a reader of fantasy could want; magic, conflict, family drama, growth, and an open ending to continue the saga.

One of the most amazing things about this novel is the author. Ora Wanders is only ten years old! I could not believe this when I finished the novel and wanted to learn more about the author because I loved the book that much. I am looking forward to the second book in the series and much more from this amazing young lady.

Pages: 310 | ISBN: 1797718002

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The Rhine

The Rhine (Harmony Book 1) by [Dean, R.L.]

The Martians have been ‘enslaved’ by earth for many years and they want their freedom back. It’s rumored that a movement has been formed to rebel against the UN. A movement thought to be behind the pirate attacks in the Belt including one on the Sadie. Matt and his crew may have found proof of this rebellion. The question remains though, is the evidence enough? Will it prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the rebellion is led by Martians? Can Governor Gerhard Schultz find a solution to the difficult situation? Can the governor find reprieve for Martians without going against the UN? How will Apex Mining CEO go about being forced to go against the government?

One of the most enjoyable things about this book is that it is quite relatable. While the real United Nations is (probably) not like the one in the book. One can still compare the colonialism in the book to the neocolonialism that is rampant now. One can find the similarity in Alexandria’s position with that which is faced by many people in her position. The Rhine is both interesting and entertaining while speaking to many modern issues.

R. L. Dean is impeccable and his skills at painting word pictures is on full display. He easily pulls you into his story, and before you know it your in the deep end of a thought provoking science fiction novel. This is a thrilling novel that kept me engrossed from the moment I met Matt to the very end. This science fiction story, although set in the future and in space, is still believable, which is something I always look for in my sci-fi stories.

Matt is a good leader that gets along with his crew but also remains firm and well respected. Alexandria, like any other child who takes over from their esteemed parent, is misunderstood and underestimated. She is admirable in the way she handles Edgar. R. L. Dean is able to balance the characters just enough to understand who they are while still keeping an air of mystery around them.

Everything from descriptions to dialogue are succinct and engrossing. Or it could be that the book was so immensely enjoyed that the discrepancies faded into the background. I loved experiencing the ride with Matt, Yuri and Haydon, and it was enlightening to be in the boardroom with Alexandria giving glimpses into her home life.

At the heart of it, this book is about freedom and how to achieve it. Would you like to achieve freedom through aggression or would you like to be more civil about it?

Pages: 273 | ASIN: B07LD2CQ11

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The World’s Greatest Mousetrap

The World's Greatest Mousetrap by [Fegan, B.C.R.]

Mice don’t grin. Mice certainly don’t chuckle. Or do they? For dear old Reginald, devoted reader and shopkeeper, a grinning mouse in his bookshop simply won’t do. Children and adults alike will delight in reading along as Reginald makes several hapless attempts to catch the cleverest mouse of all time in B.C.R Fegan’s The World’s Greatest Mousetrap. Will Reginald’s madcap quest to construct increasingly elaborate traps succeed in catching one tiny mouse, or, will he end up catching his customers instead!?

In this warm and humorous tale of determination and unlikely friendship, Fegan offers a look at what could happen if humans let go of preconceived notions and open their minds to new ideas. Fanny Liem’s illustrations are instantly engaging for children and, importantly, intriguing for adults. Readers’ will enjoy Liem’s drawings and Fegan’s writing of the distinctively bespectacled Reginald as a slightly zany and lovable bibliophile whose expressive eyes tell of excitement, resolve, and kindness. Fegan has a knack for turning a small story in a small setting into a laugh-out-loud epic battle between mouse and man. Can you guess who wins? This is a cozy, funny, and heart-warming tale for all ages.

Pages: 44 | ASIN: B07PB4NHBY

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Italians of Lackawanna County

Going through this book is akin to being virtually in touch with the Italian culture and customs. The author compiled text and images which show how beautiful the Italian community in America is and how wonderful the people are as they co-exist with others. Stephanie Longo tells the story of Italians of Lackawanna in a distinct and brilliant way that can’t help but admire the way of life of the Italians. The author starts by narrating the history of Italian immigrants who first moved to the county. The immigrants had to do menial jobs like farming, mining and other works that required hard labor. The first wave of Italian immigrants knew that only hard work would help them fend for their families. This notion was passed through different generations of Italian Americans as everyone had to work to survive.

The author shows the deep connection between Lackawanna county authorities and the Italians who live in the county. With pictures, the author talks about Italian-American themed events that happen throughout the county, the close ties between Pennsylvania administration and Italian officials in Sicily, the Lackawanna County Library System which promotes Italian American events throughout all nine of its branches, and the heritage and Italian pride witnessed in the county among other things. The author also highlights the monuments and buildings which were made in honor of Italian heroes and legends. They include the Gino J. Merli Veteran’s Center, The Christopher Columbus statue on Scranton’s Courthouse Square and the statue of Dante among others.

I absolutely loved the images Stephanie Longo shared of the La Cosra dei Ceri festival. The pictures were colorful and everything seemed perfect. La Cosra dei Ceri is a festival I would want to be part of if I ever get to be in Lackawanna County around May. I appreciate the author’s effort to explain in detail what the festival is about, and what each family does in honor of their patron saints. Religion and by extents Catholicism is a huge part of Italian living. It is beautiful how religion brings the masses together as they worship and celebrate life as one people.

Italians of Lackawanna County is about 70% images and 30% text. This is one of the things that made me enjoy reading this book. Pictures tell a lot and one can easily and quickly understand the content without having to read a bunch of words in a paragraph. I loved reading this book because the author shared a little history of the Italians in the county and how Italy is. Italians of Lackawanna County is a great educational read that I would recommend to everyone who wants to learn more about Italian-American culture.

Pages: 98 | ISBN: 1540228266

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WAKE UP AMERICA!

When you find yourself wondering why society at large seems to be on a self-destructive path with little hope for survival, one of the most refreshing things that you can find is the idea that not all is, in fact, lost. That idea can mean many things to many different types of people. Whether the thought that we can still turn things around gives people hope or goes so far as to create a road-map for future success, any idea or discussion breathing new life into failing systems is a positive addition to our body of knowledge. Charlie Petersen, long-time technology management specialist turned author, seems to be a good source of game-changing ideas, and many of them make a lot of sense.

Wake Up America covers a lot of ground but is centered around the idea that if we, as global citizens, don’t change our ways we are headed for destruction of two types: war and/or depression. The author, Charlie Petersen, argues that in an ever more globalized society we all have a responsibility to choose a brighter path to planetary stability and harmony.

As it would seem pretty clear that most of us aren’t willing to initiate the kinds of changes that are required to avoid a meltdown, Petersen presents his ideas for change as being ones to be taken up by the governments of the world. He maps out a solution to reduce the dependency on oil and gas, while at the same time focusing on the coming water crises. Petersen discusses what would be required for a global paradigm shift and discusses why those holding power currently are not prepared to act, although they are aware that action is needed.

How can the status quo be reimagined? Who or what forces would be responsible for initiating a new approach? The author of Wake Up America goes to great lengths to answer those questions and more in this important work.

Wake up calls usually come in a couple of varieties. Those which are too far-fetched to do anyone any good, and those that deliver logic and science together with a solid dose of reasoning to make sense of it all. Wake Up America, published by Matchstick Literary, is the latter. All in all, Wake Up America contains in depth research and unique approaches to solving the current problems facing our world.

Pages: 344 | ISBN: 1642540447

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The Tattooed Cat

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It all begins innocently enough: a woman finds an animal that has been the victim of inexplicable torture. However, neither the cat nor the woman are average in Natrelle Long’s The Tattooed Cat. This short novella grips readers from the get-go as it plunges directly into the meat of the story. Charley, our bad-assed protagonist is elegant and rough all at the same time. She is determined and passionate. She will find who exactly has hurt the cat she saved. The journey will lead her face-to-face with the darkness of humanity as the man-hunt reveals much more is going on than animal abuse. What begins with a cat ends with a corpse.

This is the perfect kind of book to tuck into during a quiet afternoon. The short length of the book lends itself to easy reading and the story is perfectly contained within the minimal pages. There is no room for filler or other such garbage in this tale. Every sentence has purpose and each character has meaning. The characters Long creates are true to modern interpretations of humanity. The characters speak like real people, especially Charley, and it all drives the point home.

It’s a quirky book in that there is enough content to write something even twice as long, but yet the ending is neatly wrapped and perfectly delivered that the need to drag the story out disappears. By being able to devote attention and detail to this short book Long still succeeds in creating a whole world with minimal building. Many novellas have the issue of limited time to grab a readers attention and explain the world to them at the same time.

Maybe it’s the cat, maybe it’s the fact that Charley is so determined to unravel the mystery she finds herself knee-deep in that makes The Tattooed Cat by Natrelle Long so interesting. Once your attention is grabbed there is no escaping the desire to read every single word and find out once and for all how the cat and the nefarious deeds of a single man are interconnected. We are reminded of humanity’s darkness and weaknesses and that the world is not a beautiful place. But we also get to see the beauty of a single person working towards polishing this ugliness. This is a book you won’t regret picking up.

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Unconventional

Unconventional by [Hebert, J. J.]

James Frost is an aspiring writer with huge plans, but life seems to have things laid out quite differently for him. Rejection letter after rejection letter, James begins to lose confidence, becomes increasingly filled with fury, and sees no way out of his destiny as a school janitor. His father’s offhand attitude about James’s future does nothing to help his morale. Then, James meets Leigh–a woman who could not be more different from him if she tried. A devout Christian always seeing the positive side in trying situations, Leigh brings about changes in James and sends him careening down a drastically different path of emotions and a newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

James and Leigh both shoulder great burdens and are destined to have found one another at this specific moment in both their lives. Hebert paints a grim picture of the life Leigh endures as a woman with overbearing parents who manipulate everything from her love-life to her own self worth. James, with all of his issues, is as much a blessing to Leigh as she is to him.

Hebert addresses warped body images in a realistic and tasteful manner as he highlights the relationship between Leigh and her mother. In addition, he draws James into the dynamic by having him gently override the damage created by Leigh’s mother. Nowhere is this more poignant than when James, in no uncertain terms, explains to Leigh that she is speaking her mother’s words and not her own. Everyone needs a James in his/her life–he an amazing voice of reason.

James is an amazing character on many levels. Hebert has gifted readers with a champion of free thinking while molding a character who is broken and in need of love and faith. As a reader, I was touched on more than one occasion by the descriptions of James’s poor health, his financial struggles, and his staggering lack of self confidence. Hebert certainly gives readers a main character for which they can both cry and cheer.

I was more than impressed with the turn of events in which James becomes a giver of strength and a builder of self-confidence. It is quite a stark difference from the outset of the book wherein James’s feelings are scattered and he’s falling toward depression. Meeting Leigh is just the tip of the iceberg; meeting Meranda completes the change begun by Leigh.

Hebert’s book is an unconventional literary approach to expressing Christianity. Readers do not often find text professing faith in Jesus Christ written in the form of a novel. Each of the stories surrounding James Frost’s life tug at the readers heart and doesn’t stop. James and Leigh are memorable and relatable. Hebert’s in-depth look into James Frost’s transformation is a testament to faith, love, and hope.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B002QHVW1G

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Callie’s Ghost

Callie’S Ghost by [Christian, James]

You know you’ve started a good mystery story when within the first few pages you’re hooked and questions are flying. Ben is eagerly awaiting a trip to Morocco that he has been planning to undertake for some time when he’s given an offer. From here the book takes the reader on an exploration of how money is used around the globe to sponsor terrorists and undermine countries. The pace picks up quickly, and the intrigue is built up well, making the book hard to put down.

Author James Christian’s career as a university professor at universities around the world shows as he builds up the different locations in the novel. I really felt like I was being taken across the world as I was zipped from the United States to Morocco. The writing style is clean and descriptive. It’s clear that Christian really understands how to pull together an engaging plot and create characters that feel real and easily pull the story along.

From the very beginning of this book, I found myself questioning everything. Government employees, a secret offer, an international trip, and add to that the mysterious title of the story. I was sucked in and was captivated beginning to end. This has an exciting plot that really makes you think about the world around you. Christian was very successful on this front as he was able to deliver a clear message with a thought-provoking plot while never sounding preachy.

The story is action packed and full of fun twists and turns that kept me on my toes. I really liked Ben as a character. He’s smart and dedicated to his job and shows a lot of passion. He’s a great vessel through which to enter into this story. If you like international mystery stories, or political corruptions and espionage stories, then I would definitely suggest that you pick up this book. A unique and wonderfully written story.

Pages: 258 | ASIN:  B0794ZKBHH

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Journey to Osm: The Blue Unicorns Tale

Journey to Osm follows the story of Blue, a young unicorn with a big destiny. Blue is part of a tribe of unicorns going extinct under the harsh rule of an evil sorcerer. A prophecy foretells that Blue will save them but when he is born without metal in his horn, and thus without magic, all hope is lost. When Blue comes of age at 12, he is faced with destiny but how can a magicless unicorn have any hope of saving his tribe?

The book is a fun and unique YA fantasy novel. I really loved the unicorn-centric view of the story. Unicorns are often left out or less significant in fantasy stories, and I think this is a waste of a fun and interesting creature. Author Sybrina Durant furthers this by taking an intriguing twist and really exploring the magic of the unicorns as well as what unicorn civilization looks like. I really loved the world she created with the metal symbol of magic and the hierarchy that creates and the different powers that the magical unicorns possess. With an evil sorcerer, a prophecy, a fight against good and evil, this all adds up to an imaginative and exciting fantasy world.

The plot of the book is that of the underdog character finding strength against evil. Blue is a very sympathetic character through this journey as he is young, sweet, and very strong-willed. From the very beginning of the book you can see how hurt he is that he doesn’t think he can save his people, reciting his mantra ‘No Metal, No Magic.’ But even with this, he does not give up. He trains hard even when he thinks there is no chance. This self-determination in the café of certain failure really endeared Blue to me as a character. Silubhra was also a character that I grew very fond of as she was so compassionate and kind. There are a lot of characters in the story, but I think the author did a good job of making them unique and interesting and I liked how we get to see multiple perspectives.

This book is an exciting fantasy story. Filled with adventure, magic, love, loss, hope, action, and destiny. The story came together well and kept me engaged in the plot from beginning to end. The book is a great read, particularly for young adult readers who love fantasy stories.

Pages: 353 | ASIN: B07LDKX25N

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The Winter of Swords: A Grimdark Epic

The Winter of Swords: A Grimdark Epic (Overthrown Book 1) by [Bunce, Aaron]

What begins as a carefree adventure among siblings turns deadly in a heartbeat when Eisa is left alone following the violent deaths of her loved ones. Snatched from the scene and carried away by what can only be described as a monster of epic proportions, she is left wondering why she was allowed, or perhaps chosen, to live. A story seemingly unconnected to the tumultuous lives of Julian, Roman, Dennah, DaeGeroth, Balin and Gladeus soon becomes much more clearly interwoven into the experiences of all of the them. None of them could have predicted the evils that lie beyond the wide expanses of beautiful countryside they all know so well.

The Winter of Swords, by Aaron Bunce, is a stunning visual of fright-filled fantasy, old world charm, and a wide assortment of well-developed characters. From the moment I began reading of Eisa’s experience in the wilderness, I was swept into a world of creatures and hidden realms from which I found it difficult to separate myself–the hallmark of effective writing. Eisa’s entire ordeal set the stage for some of the most fantastic imagery I have read in a long time. Not many books can boast such horrifying beings so vividly described and so dreaded by even the reader.

Roman, one of the chief characters in Bunce’s work, has the most poignant subplot in my opinion. His backstory tugs at the heartstrings. The scene set by Bunce at the farm owned by Garon is a step-by-step reveal of one heart-wrenching horror after another. It is an artfully written chapter that has the feel of a slow motion movie scene set to an emotionally-gripping score.

Though Bunce’s book is filled with delightfully terrifying images, for me, there was none quite like the scene that takes place involving Julian in the simple town of Craymore. When an author can conjure up a visceral reaction with the mere mention of the sound of a horn in the distance, you know you have found an author to follow. More unsettling than the beastly gnarls was the powerful commandment of the horn’s sounding–wonderfully ominous and capable of provoking a sense of mystery.

Bunce has managed to give readers a novel rich with dialogue. Not every book of this genre is able to carry out a plot so heavy with character interactions. Many books rely on narrative to tell the story, but Bunce is more than capable of telling the tale via characters’ thoughts and exchanges.

While it is solidly based in fantasy, the element of mystery is strong throughout the plot, and that is one of many striking factors in Bunce’s work. Bunce has created a spectacular work of fiction which will appeal to readers who enjoy fantasy with incredible creatures, high drama, and an assortment of strong lead characters.

Pages: 818 | ASIN: B07MCX4CFD

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