Category Archives: Five Stars

Darkness in Malaga

Darkness in Malaga: Second Edition (Andalusian Mystery Series Book 1) by [Paul Bradley, Jill Carrott, Gary Smailes]

Paul S. Bradley in his book, Darkness in Malaga, has spelled out the extent to which evil people are willing to go to satisfy their dark desires. To make other people suffer and dehumanize them. To surgically cut out the word human from human-being. The book sets out with an innocent sixteen-year-old girl being confronted by a hurdle that you would expect a child at her age to encounter- a boy asking her to be his girlfriend. At this point Paul has me fooled that this is a ‘young- adult’ romance novel where the tall handsome boy asking the girl out will, on a new moon, transmute into a smelly werewolf. Wrong. A few minutes later she is bundled into a white van and abducted- and this is where the story begins.

The plot that Paul has employed in Darkness in Malaga is a show of pure mastery. Half the time I was reading the book, I felt like I was riding a roller coaster. I couldn’t predict where the next chapter would take me or who the next chapter was about. Right after Angelika is abducted on her way out of school, I find myself in Morocco with Karim and Mohammed, two brothers in the seemingly lucrative business of smuggling Africans looking for greener pastures, into Spain. On this night, among the people they bundle into their Spain bound inflatable rubber dinghy is a heavily pregnant girl. Paul uses this secondary character to introduce us to, Amanda, a star character, when she assists the girl when she prematurely gives birth on a patrol boat that arrests their dingy. Amanda had boarded the boat to document the arrest of illegal immigrants.

The author takes his time to develop the story of each character in the book. He describes them in depth. He does not shy from derogating from the main plot of the narrative to tell a story about the main characters; Phillip, Prado and Amanda. He does this at the risk of building too many branches in the ‘tree’ which might lose the reader. However, considering the fact that this is his first book in a series, the Andalusian Mystery Series, and we might meet these characters in the other books, the digression is well deserved. We get to know that Phillip was madly infatuated with Juliet, the waitress, because she reminded him of his ex-wife. His love for her leads him to tirelessly work with Amanda and Pardo to rescue her and other girls from the clutches of evil Duffy and his accomplices before they are raped on camera. Amanda, a CNN investigative reporter and successful woman in her own rights, is yet to find love until fate brings her Phillip. All their stories are expertly interwoven to bring forth a story of love, hope and light in a rather dark Malaga. This is an action-filled book with pin point twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat from the beginning to the end.

Pages: 308 | ASIN: B085MNRM7N

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Honeycake: A Circle of Trust

Honeycake: A Circle of Trust by [Medea Kalantar]

A Circle of Trust will not only shape a child’s character but will also help moms and dads to adopt effective parenting skills to nurture their children. Sometimes, reading a children’s book can be educational for adults as well. As life gets increasingly complicated books with resonating lessons can remind us of the simplicity and innocence that gets lost along the way

In this fourth installment of the Honeycake series, Medea has imparted a valuable life lesson on building trust between parents and their children. In this book kids learn the importance of honesty and open communication which will ultimately pave way for them to develop healthy relationships in life. Parents will also learn that they must create a safe haven for children so they are not afraid or hesitant to approach them when in trouble or while facing a challenging situation.

It is also equally important that parents continually reinforce the significance of honesty in their children so that it becomes a natural way of life for them. This builds confidence in children and they will be more likely to take the right step. A Circle of Trust was a fun and educational read. I highly recommend it for all children.

Pages: 38 | ASIN: B086T4GXC6

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The Heroic Dead

The Heroic Dead by [Mangano, Jason]

The Heroic Dead, by Jason A. Mangano, is a riveting tale detailing the levels to which human beings are capable of reaching when their existence is threatened. It is a thought provoking read which raises philosophical questions of morality in an uncanny form of an action filled, well written story. The tale begins on a cold night, minutes to the unveiling of a new year at New York’s Times Square. Thrill seekers and revelers are deeply engrossed in a countdown, entranced by the dropping ball that signals the start of a new year, while, unbeknownst to them, a terrorist is about to terminate their lives on the turn of the new year. In the war that follows this heinous act of terror, American scientists develop a serum in order to tip the scales of balance in their favor, which turns their dead soldiers into mindless creatures that decimate everything in their path- including children!

The author uses powerfully descriptive and colorful language to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind. I was immediately captivated by the first paragraph of the first chapter. As he describes how the agent of Al-Sirat works his way in the crowd I could feel the cold December air and the buzz of excitement. I could clearly see the Al-Sirat agent’s sweaty face enshrouded in a mask of mad determination as he savagely clicks the killer button.

The paragraphs are short and concise. Mangano has perfected the art of craftily loading the paragraphs with just enough ideas- with each paragraph carrying bits and pieces of the story he is telling. This in turn made me want to keep turning the pages, paragraph after paragraph to see where the story goes. The plot in the story has been masterfully built up to slowly guide the reader to the crescendo of the tale. This makes the read quite enjoyable.  However, while reading chapter 5, I felt that the author ought to have put that part of the story at the beginning, immediately after the bombing at the Times Square to ensure that there is fluidity in the story’s plot. The composition of the text is grammatically correct save for a few errors. For instance, where he writes ‘it was done on live TV while the world was watched,’ instead of, ’It was done on live TV while the world watched.’

These are small issues in an otherwise fully entertaining story. The author has masterfully narrated an interesting story and answered the question, ‘Does the end justify the means?’ I would recommend this book to any reader as a captivating and unique read.

Pages: 182 | ASIN: B07VWYFFHZ

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The Autobiography of Charlie Lord

The Autobiography of Charlie Lord by [Bill Wetmore]

Charlie Lord is a Japanese-American growing up in Mythic, Connecticut in the 1960s. He goes through all the regular challenges and joys of being a teenager at that time. He grew up in a somewhat unusual home with lewd displays and a sexually voracious uncle. Charlie was special in many ways. His IQ, to begin with, was higher than average. His excellence spilled over into hiding his deteriorating eyesight, saxophone, and later wrestling. This is a story of Charlie’s life as an ignored child with all his ‘board friends’ and special talents. We walk through the teenage life of ‘Hiroshima’ during a very eventful period.

The Autobiography of Charlie Lord is Bill Wetmore’s first book. The author has written a great book colored with humor and vivid imagery. This is a story about the engagements between family and the dynamics between people. It is a window into a family with a highly decorated father and a foreign submissive mother in that era. This story is consistently brilliant with only brief breaks for Charlie’s mom’s funny accent.

There is a certain quality that comes with being a child in that stage of life. This is the same quality that has Charlie hiding his eye problem. The same problem that has him love and adore his father with subtle caution. This character has been so well presented to the reader that you can almost concoct an image of Charlie and what he would look like at that time. The same excellent craftiness and expertise with words will have you seeing Eddie Lord in your mind in all his military greatness.

The way the story is told will grip you right from the beginning and keep you following Charlie’s life until the end. His humor and style of expression are uncanny. Some of the scenes do not seem to be in line with the characters as we know them. Like when Charlie comes home on a rainy evening then goes straight to bed without food. At first, it will be hard to understand but as we learn more about ‘Gloria’ and her relationship with her husband, it becomes more plausible. Their neglect of him is simply astounding.

The Autobiography of Charlie Lord is a deeply evocative book both in terms of narration and character development. There is some coarse language as well as some lewd scenes so it would not be suitable for a young child, but perfect for fans character driven stories.

Pages: 264 | ASIN: B077WHFNMJ

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Unglued: The Book of Strafe

Unglued: The Book of Strafe by [Bill Wetmore]

After college, Strafe’s life was pretty aimless. Living in his mother’s basement and trying to discover what his ambitions might be, he gave a perpetual half hearted attempt to find some kind of path he could follow. Only after landing an unlikely job at the local glue factory did Strafe’s life finally begin to take some direction. Suddenly he had a steady paycheck, a new found interest in Zen Buddhism, a creative spark he never knew he held, and an artist girlfriend he never expected to have, all while navigating the world inside the American Starch and Adhesives Company.

Unglued- The Book of Strafe, by Bill Wetmore, follows a compelling main character as he navigates a seemingly lackluster life while also cleverly illustrating how it can often be equal parts absurd and enlightening. From the first few sentences, it’s clear the book has a wildly tongue-in-cheek tone as Peter Caldwell Strafe explains, in no uncertain terms, his hatred of his first name. The ridiculousness increases from there, and although the first few chapters read like vaguely related short stories, they quickly gel together to create a more linear story. The Glue Factory, as it is affectionately known among the locals, stands as an entire character itself, with its inhabitants serving as the inspiration for many of Strafe’s own short story ideas. Despite his rocky start and apparent complete lack of effort, we watch Strafe grow and mature as a person over the course of time. By applying the laws of Zen Buddhism to his everyday life, he eventually becomes a self sufficient adult, separating himself from the turmoil and eccentricity that surrounds him most days. The snapshot of late 1970s suburbia is an added bonus of the book, and while it doesn’t play a huge part, it’s enough to add a layer of atmosphere that is indispensable overall. 

If Unglued has a theme, I think it’s that of personal growth. Strafe begins the book an adult, but lacking any of the responsibilities that come with that distinction. By its conclusion, he has become a completely different person. As each new day brings another surprise, Strafe learns to adapt and appreciate all the things he never paid much attention to in the past. 

Unglued was fun from beginning to end, and once it found a rhythm, it never slowed its pace. The book dealt with some serious issues in very lighthearted ways that made it an incredibly easy and enjoyable read. While it may be too far on the absurdity spectrum for some, I found it absolutely perfect!

Pages: 219 | ASIN: B08671HHTP

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The Bit Dance

The Bit Dance by Tilmer Wright Jr is a riveting science fiction story centered around the life of teen genius, Kayla. She finds herself in an unlikely battle against a former KGB agent who is out to exact revenge, using a cutting edge new toy called eBots that have the ability to transform the world. While Kayla is in the midst of saving the world she must also deal with much more grounded family troubles. Her cold, distant, and unappreciative father remains an imposing figure in her life as she struggles to live up to his seemingly impossible expectations.

The Bit Dance is bursting with curious and stimulating futuristic ideas. All of it seems well within reach because of the superb explanations within the book. eBots are the new cutting edge toy, we can all relate, but the novel explanation of how this toy works elevates this story into the category of hard sci-fi, but the ease with which the information is conveyed keeps this story accessible to passing science fiction fans. The parts about artificial intelligence were especially interesting to me. I remember reading a few articles about how we are on the cusp of sentient technology and the danger it poses to society. I was not expecting this book to be educational, but it was, in the best way possible. I am now more interested in looking up the minutiae of nanotechnology. I don’t know about the technical accuracy of it- as I’m not an expert, but it’s fiction that has a ring of truth. It was believable enough and engaging enough to stroke my curiosity about these teeny tiny, beehive minded robots. This was a creative representation of that nearer-than-we-think possibility. Although it was a little tedious and extra-informative at times, I was appreciative of the detail. The author clearly has immense knowledge in this domain.

The family drama also made it a more compelling and human story. I was rooting for Kayla as she strove to impress her father. The novel does a great job of balancing in this way, Kayla’s a genius but still struggles with family issues like us all. Even beyond that, the story was extremely well thought-out. Although it seemed to be headed in a standard direction, it would suddenly take a complex twist. I enjoyed the somewhat circuitous nature of the story of it all. It did not end up being a classic good vs evil scenario- rather there was complex decision making at play and plenty of grey areas.

The most enjoyable and hair-raising aspect of the story was the believability of it. I think anyone who is thrilled at the prospect of reading about plausible near-future dangers will enjoy this story.

Pages: 387 | ASIN: B0765QLBVZ

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Testosterone, Dublin 8

Testosterone, Dublin 8 by [Gerry Mulins]

Gerry Mullins, Testosterone Dublin 8, is a story like none other I’ve read. Call it a breath of fresh air in a world where every book is the same as the last one you read. It’s the story of a big time T.V. producer, who goes by the name Jimmy, who carves out a living from entrapping criminals to commit a crime and catching them in the act with cameras ‘blazing’ and then coerces them to feature in his show, the Redeemables. His intentions of casting the criminal, though noble, get him to bite off more than what he can chew when he catches the wrong guy in the act. His arrest of Joey sets off a chain reaction of electrifying events which lead his life down a path he did not expect.

Jimmy Fyffe, TV producer turned drug dealer, is a character I didn’t expect to like. In a quest to restore his ‘manliness’ he’s embroiled in the criminal underworld when his steroid use turns to drug dealing. But Jimmy’s struggle for a better life makes him relatable, if not understandable. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a man altered by testosterone and once that finally clicked I really enjoyed his vigorous character. Once Jimmy crosses paths with some unsavory characters in Dublin’s underworld, we really get to see what drives Jimmy and how testosterone can change a man in more ways than one.

The story is set in Dublin and the setting is drawn exceptionally well. While Jimmy is an intriguing character, his character is colorized by a compelling city that is in the midst of change of all kinds. The clash of classes reminded me of the show Peaky Blinders. I appreciated the detail that was devoted to creating such a rich backdrop.

Testosterone, Dublin 8 is a thrilling crime novel that humanizes objectionable characters. It explores how testosterone can change someone and how those affects ripple through society. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a riveting novel with a unique view on Dublin and the gangs that prowl its streets.

Pages: 255 | ASIN: B084Q7DGSB

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The Science Of The Deal: The DNA Of Multifamily & Commercial Real Estate Investing

The Science Of The Deal: The DNA Of Multifamily & Commercial Real Estate Investing by [Parsi Shravan]

The Science of the Deal by Shravan Parsi is an informative book on commercial real estate investing. Based on Parsi’s personal experience it starts in chapter one about how Parsi got started in the industry. Chapter two discusses important industry knowledge, building underwriting models, and introduces fundamentals on what to look for in a city or neighborhood. This is then explored more in chapters four and five as Parsi teaches how to systemically evaluate them. Chapter three delves into teamwork, leadership, and hiring the right people. The focus of chapter six is on you, the individual, and how to build important qualities in yourself, such as discipline, motivation, determination, etc. Finally, chapter seven explores how to appreciate your life and how you can create wealth while receiving the most satisfaction by doing good to yourself and the people around you.

Parsi creates an entertaining narrative that is complete not only with abundant knowledge and personal experiences in investing and sales but also in passion and dedication to a particular career path. This turns The Science of the Deal from the typical informative but stale work to one that is inspirational and enlightening. Parsi’s personal anecdotes are only one example of this as he describes how he adopted his disciplined mindset from his father, how he was able to turn his side hustle to his main, and how he was able to advance above others ins commercial real estate investing.

Though not everyone might appreciate this as the typical business-style format usually goes right to the point. Whereas this book, although extremely educational, takes more effort to be entertaining and motivational. In fact, Parsi blends his stories and lessons so smoothly that at times you end up learning without conscious effort.

If you are interested in real estate investing, or perhaps want to learn more about investing in general, then The Science of the Deal will prove to be essential for you. It covers everything in the industry from choosing a building to creating a strong investing team and a commercial real estate firm. There is an executive summary at the end of each chapter, recapping the key information that was explored in the previous chapter.

Shravan Parsi expertly helps people interested in commercial real estate investing in his enlightening book, but he also includes elements of wisdom he has been taught by the people around him and what he has curated himself. This is a wonderful self-reflective, educational book. In terms of multi-family housing investing, I think that there is no other book better than this one.

Pages: 189 | ASIN: B081ZPFJLZ

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