Category Archives: Four Stars

Dark Karma: Sword of Vengeance

Dark Karma is a fascinating tale of vengeance and dark magic by author, Laura Simmons. Laura Simmons does a beautiful job in creating an epic tale that creates an array of whirlwind emotions. Simmons’ writing is flawless and thought-provoking, great for any avid reader of suspense and mystery novels. This is a book that provides everything you would expect from a novel that surrounds itself in magic, tension, mystery and revenge.

The narrative of Dark Karma is extremely captivating and strong. It has been written in such simplicity, but is highly effective for all readers. Luke Decker is introduced to the readers as the protagonist. He is banished by his evil enemy into a hell-like alternative dimension. Luke has to deal with the fact that his whole world has been turned upside down, and what is more, he is on trial for murdering his beloved Nina. However, the plot twists dramatically throughout the novel, and the reader is constantly left wanting more. I kept trying to guess what was going to happen next, but then just gave up and went along on this eventful and thrilling ride.

The plot throughout this book is strong, creative and imaginative. Laura Simmons structures her book beautifully and your imagination is left running wild. I think that the mystery elements in the book really kept me wanting more. Readers are able to dive into a world that is based on pure imagination. Simmons use of magic is embued with a dark energy throughout that is creepy, enticing, and begs you to keep reading. I think I read this whole book with a raised eyebrow. Dark Karma is a beautifully told story that, I think, is suitable for readers of any genre as it first focuses on telling a great story before delivering the unique qualities of it’s genre.

Dark Kara does an amicable job at creating an evil magical dimension that is just detailed enough to allow your imagination to fill in the blanks. The characters and the plot are strong, and Laura Simmons shows that she is a writer to be reckoned with. Overall, I think the story, twists, and characters are great, and I really enjoyed reading this book.

A fantastic attempt at creating a novel that blends and transcends genres. An enjoyable read which really dives into a different dimension, making the reader want to know more as the story progresses.

Pages: 192 | ISBN: 1977201555

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Extinction 6

Extinction 6 by [Kouros-Mehr, Hosein]

Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is a fascinating novel that finds itself straddling a variety of themes, writing styles, and motifs. In this novel, one can witness the conjunction of several major literary genres. From bleak dystopian imagery and post-apocalyptic ruin to deeply intense mystery and intrigue, Extinction 6 provides enough twists and turns to keep any reader engaged. Taking place in the year 2066, the reader is introduced to a world mostly underwater. Following a sharp rise in global temperatures by an average of 8 degrees Celsius, sea levels drastically increased and major settlements like San Francisco were submerged. In conjunction, animals and plants have completely vanished. Beyond this, the world appears to be plagued by war and corporate espionage. Battles for oil fields and small scraps of territory appear to occur daily, while depressing news bulletins ring out, highlighting decreases in rations or celebrating the smallest of military victories. In this dystopian future, greenhouse gases continue to be pumped at alarming rates, and it becomes clear to some that the world is facing its sixth, and potentially last, extinction crises.

Hosein Kouros-Mehr expertly uses this setting to deliver a story that is captivating and vividly written. There is a profound amount of world building conducted in this novel and the story’s framing gives readers a holistic experience at what life in this dreary world would look like. Through the use of multiple perspectives and point of views, Hosein Kouros-Mehr provides readers with an inside and personal look at the various dimensions that take place in this world. In some chapters, readers will become intimate with a forlorn lover embroiled in major geopolitical developments. Other sections masterfully showcase the experiences of an aggressive and cunning CEO. These different perspectives are woven in a way that provides keen connections and startling insights.

The writing itself is suspenseful and tense. The diction wastes no time in putting the reader through long segments of empty description and word padding. Every sentence is deliberate and has a definite sense of immediacy. Every word counts in a world that is slowly ticking towards oblivion. This is aided by Hosein Kouros-Mehr’s wonderful sense of pacing. While the writing is forward facing, it still gives readers the time to engross themselves in the world. Details about the major corporations and the nations that inhabit this world are peppered in where needed and helps to provide depth to the world. Many of these elements come into play throughout the course of the novel, and the pace in which these details become relevant greatly benefits Kouros-Mehr’s deliberate writing style. If there is any issue in the way in which Hosein Kouros-Mehr presents his work, it is the fact that the large cast of characters can lead to some confusion. This is somewhat alleviated by the clear characterization and literary role each character plays, and as a whole, this critique does not detract from the novel.

Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is an incredibly tense story about what our future could easily look like.

Pages: 248 | ASIN: B07HB5Q24P

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Destiny Revealed

Destiny Revealed by [Tremayne, Eleanor]

Gabby awakens in the ocean, frostbitten, alone and confused. As we get to know Gabriella Girard Blair we hear about her painful past and how it has propelled her life and lead her to this beach, washed up. Her most recent tragedy is losing her best friend and “female soulmate” and it seems that this is too much for her to handle. She has disappeared from her life, purposefully. She left behind a lifeless marriage and a life that seems haunted by her past. An old friend comes back in to her life and is determined to help. This is a love story, but it is also a story of self-discovery and the twists and turns in our lives, those moments that define us, changing feelings, and changing relationships and those that stay the same no matter how much time passes.

Eleanor Tremayne does a great job capturing the complexities of her characters’ relationships, which span over decades. She gives the reader an inside look into the mindset of her characters, so you can understand how their relationships and dynamics play out. The writing flows well and is not overly dense. She is a great storyteller. I love the poems that the author includes at the beginning of each chapter. They give you a little hint about what this chapter might include.

She wove the different characters and their pasts together seamlessly. If you are a fan of great character development, you will love this book. At times there were a lot of names to keep track of because she goes in to some details about their backstories and histories but once I was engaged with the characters it was fine.

There are some graphic scenes and graphic language, so this may not be appropriate for younger readers. The ending is intense and sad but has a great arch with all her characters. I loved how it ended and was hoping throughout that it would work out that way.

This was a romantic story without being over-the-top or cheesy. I also very much enjoyed how the main character was on a path of self-discovery and healing and how we got to experience how she processed this. A great original story with romance, heartache, trauma, friendship, and love. This was a fun and easy read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Pages: 372 | ASIN: B07D9YQ8BP

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Between the Ticks of the Clock

Between the Ticks of the Clock by [Barnes, J.H. Carpenter]

Between the Ticks of the Clock by J.H. Barnes is a spiritual novel that evokes the senses of mystery and redemption. It’s an introspective story that helps frame theological and societal questions within a framework particular to the dredges and monotony faced in daily life. This is accomplished through the perspective of the novel’s main character, Jamison Haro

ld Donovan, an executive working for a business known as Omni Cron Corp. Donovan is placed within the confines of a failing marriage and a dreary workplace. However, it becomes clear that these factors are minute points in a grander tale. This banal existence is quickly juxtaposed by a spiritual experience, where Donovan comes to grips with forces higher than himself and where he leaves the event a changed and more enlightened individual. From there, the novel examines Donovan’s growth and his spiritual enlightenment while at the same time highlighting the challenges and responsibilities that come with such an awakening. Between the Ticks of the Clock is unique in its pondering and musings, and as the novel progresses, it ascends to newer heights and different dimensions than one could have anticipated.

More importantly, Between the Ticks of the Clock is written in a literary style incredibly suited to its plot. The diction is easily digestible and the first-person narrative helps place the reader within the shoes of Jamison Harold Donavon, allowing us to experience some of the spiritual revelations he faces. This is coupled with emotive word choices that help paint clear imagery and scenes for the reader. J.H. Barnes does a wonderful job in setting the scene. All of this is framed within a writing style that is introspective, ethereal, and lithe. When taken as a whole, one is left with strong themes and feelings of wonder, of spirituality, and of internal pondering once the book is put down. However, there are moments where this style of writing can lead to some confusion. Points of discussion within the novel are often interjected with additional ideas or flashbacks that might hinder some comprehension of the overall idea. Yet, this stylistic choice helps remind us that the story is based around the perspective of Donavon, and this free-form stream of consciousness helps remind the reader that these experiences are still derived from a human perspective and thus creates a sense of immersion.

Overall, Between the Ticks of the Clock by J.H. Barnes is a lucidly written novel that provides readers with hard-hitting questions about life, religion, and their place in the modern world. It is an incredibly deep story, filled with important ideas and concepts.

Pages: 288 | ASIN: B07GC8GSZK

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Antebellum Struggles

Antebellum Struggles is told through the eyes of multiple characters whose lives intertwine as a result of slavery in the deep south. We see their varying opinions, experiences and their individual backgrounds that influence their perceptions of the world at present.

Young Amana, from Martinique, a Caribbean island, was born into slavery and was later shipped to a plantation in Louisiana. Colonel Winters, the plantation owner, struggles in his relationship to his wife, Collette, and seeks to fulfill his lust in an affair. Simultaneously, a doctor takes advantage of being admitted to Colonel Winters’ home under dire circumstances.

Throughout the story good intentions are tested and morals are in constant conflict. There is love against lust, an abolitionist receiving money from a slave owner, and deception for personal gain throughout. The book thus serves as an incredibly graphic detailing of society at a time when power and violence ruled by the crack of a whip.

The author, Dickie Erman, is successful at portraying depth to the actions of a distinct variety of characters. The stylistic choices made by the author allows the reader to glimpse a character’s true intentions. For example, the doctor who tries to turn every situation to his advantage despite it being to the detriment of others; where the reader sees the doctor’s thoughts as he tries to manipulate the Colonel.

Dickie Erman delves into the role of power and hierarchy as a means of controlling others, exploring how different characters use their stature to get what they want. Power and stature play large roles in the story, especially in the carrying out of violence. The array of infringements upon victims in the book are often viewed and justified by the characters causing violence or imposing their power. The reader thus watches the mental gymnastics that the perpetrators use with anguish.

Moreover, with such violence presented in the book it is worth noting that the descriptions are gut-churningly graphic, though appropriate in their realism. Due to the nature of the topic, it is difficult to read, however this is not a negative. This author does not hold back on the details of the conditions on a slave ship, nor haphazard medical procedures. The word choice is bold when referring to people as property and mere flesh, as such it is harrowing to read. It is a disturbingly realistic display of slavery at that time.

For some readers who are not used to the style of narrative that Dickie Erman employs, the switching between character viewpoints may make the story difficult to follow. This is especially true for the flashbacks to various characters’ background stories. However, as the reader follows each account of a character’s experiences, the story never loses its natural flow. The technique is appropriately used in the portrayal of each of the characters’ very distinct viewpoints.

Antebellum Struggles is an engaging book that follows a variety of character arcs all intertwined by a plantation in the deep south. Dickie Erman masterfully switches view point and projects distinct character voices. The events of the novel draw the reader into a disturbingly realistic rendition of life in Louisiana at a time when segregation and slavery were common place. The author manages to disclose the gruesome details of what life was really like at such a difficult time.

Pages: 255 | ASIN: B07DFQLL8Q

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Midwife of Normandy

Midwife of Normandy (Secrets of the Austen Midwives Book 1) by [Penfield, Carole, Lady, A]

Carole Penfield gives readers a realistic and interesting piece of historical fiction in The Midwife of Normandy. The story opens with Clare, who finds herself in the cargo hold of a ship along with her family. It is the late 1600’s and they are sneaking out of France to England, where Protestants are not persecuted, and she can continue her midwifery practice. We have no idea what preceded her current state of affairs until we are transported back to her youth and the very first day she received her journal. We learn about Clare’s upbringing and the strong tradition of midwifery in her family, along with the history of disapproving husbands. It is not long before Clare herself is ready for training and eventually ready to take over the practice. It is also not long before she acquires a disapproving husband of her own.

Penfield creates a beautiful and flowing story with elements of history, romance, and story-telling brought together by a colorful cast of characters. Clare is a strong female lead, dealing with issues that are timeless. I love that her family has such a passion for helping other women and will stop at nothing to do so. The history behind this story is interesting and lead me to further research, which is one thing I really love about pieces of historical fiction. I thought the author could have included more realistic dialogue to the times, but I understand that just wasn’t the direction she went with this piece.

Her characters are fantastic and add richness to the story, as all good characters do. There are characters with a dark side and those who even it out with some comedy and levity. Penfield is a self-proclaimed lover of Jane Austen and weaves elements of that authors works into her story. She challenges other Austen fans to find little hidden tidbits throughout the story that are Austen-inspired.

The juxtaposition of a personal story of feminine struggle for power and equality with the story of a religious group struggling with the same issue is an interesting one. These are themes that have manifested throughout history and continue to be real struggles so I thought this book felt modern despite its historical setting.

Penfield did a beautiful job with this story. I was entertained and interested throughout and even learned new history! I look forward to reading more books in this series!

Pages: 325 | ASIN: B01M7Q93OO

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The Zimbabwean War of Independence


Jonathan Hatendi weaves a tale of abduction, terror, and young lives forever changed. The most frightening aspect of Hatendi’s writing lies buried deep in the fact that his words are true and lay before the reader the events of his own life prior to Zimbabwe’s successful acquisition of independence in 1980. As a civilian surrounded by guerillas and day-to-day routines fraught with danger and the ever-present element of the fear of the unknown, Hatendi survived to tell a tale like no other. The fact that Hatendi is here today to share his story is a testament to his strength and the determination of the people of his country.

Hatendi’s account of his life during secondary school and the torment he endured is titled The Zimbabwean War of Independence. Hatendi jumps right into the striking events and leaves the reader no time to breathe. While trying to process the fear and overwhelming barrage of emotions he and the other young people may have felt on the night of their abduction, I was left wondering how he and his classmates were able to psychologically survive in the months and years that followed. The author’s style of writing and plainspoken manner translates well into text and helps readers visualize the blatant abuse and the true horrors of the times.

The abduction itself is, by far, not the only striking aspect of Hatendi’s story. He relates several events prior to his abduction and following his return. Hatendi writes openly of the way children were forced to witness death and destruction and describes both the realization for the need of counseling and psychological help and the lack thereof. He shares the atrocities page by page as they relate to the young men and women forced to endure lives of fear always questioning their next move.

Hatendi provides little in the way of dialogue as his book is written in first person and reads similarly to a journal account citing events and detailing remembrances of his journey to adulthood. The manner in which Hatendi records his memories is unique and provides readers, as much as is possible, with a relatable account of his experiences. I was, at times, shocked at how easily he seemed to be able to express some of the most horrifying scenes in such basic terms.

Hatendi has given the world a unique and private account of a life lived under duress and a life survived despite insurmountable obstacles. To have made it through a war for independence as a child and be willing to share the story of that fight with the world is admirable and, quite frankly, nothing short of amazing. Hatendi is to be commended for the unique eloquence of his writing and his willingness to share with the world his life as one of Zimbabwe’s survivors.

Pages: 110 | ASIN: B07F1XHN5J

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Romance Scam Survivor: The Whole Sordid Story

Romance Scam Survivor: The Whole Sordid Story by [Marshall, Jan]

Romance Scam Survivor, written by Jan Marshall, is the story of how Jan herself came to be the victim of an online scam. Jan, a woman in her fifties, moves back to her childhood home in Melbourne. Having originally left to pursue her career, Jan lived independently for a long time, but coming back to Melbourne she had realized she wanted to feel loved. This leads her to look for a match on an online dating website. Not long after creating her profile, a man going by the name of Eamon, from Canada, messages her and they decide to stay connected. They go on to exchange emails, instant messages and eventually call each other; with each step their relationship grows stronger. Jan, filled with hope for a future with a man she has never met, fails to see the numerous red flags along the way.

Jan recounts her story using many of the emails and instant messages she collected throughout the exchange. This is a unique approach to the topic, as in doing this, she shows how the scam affected her emotionally at each stage of the journey. By looking back on her conversations with Eamon she comments, with hindsight, the worrying signs of a scam and pin-points exactly how she got reeled in.

As the relationship grew stronger Jan’s friends and family tried to warn her against Eamon. They tried to tell her that Eamon was becoming obsessive, a trait common in scammers. The reader holds a similar outsider perspective as the friends do in the book, watching as Eamon tries to increase the contact to numerous times a day and persistently asking for personal details. The reader thus feels the same compulsion as Jan’s friends and family to point out the ‘red flags’ of the relationship.

Eamon continuously plays on Jan’s hopes, fantasies and fears. She wants to settle down with a man, so Eamon fills that role for her, talking about potentially moving to Melbourne with her. This makes the relationship all the more real to Jan thus getting her hopes up. Jan’s fear of being alone and unworthy of love also add to her denial of Eamon being anything sinister, even when he change’s topic swiftly to her assets and work history. As the reader, it is hard to watch the scam unfold and seeing how vulnerable Jan was.

The most striking part of this book however, is Part Two, where Jan discusses her recovery. She explains the first days and weeks in detail, exploring her relationships with the people around her. Explaining their reactions, how they questioned her decisions. But most importantly her own thoughts; how she grappled with how easily she had been manipulated and why she ignored the signs.

This book gives a victim’s perspective of how a scam impacts one’s life and with hindsight gives a deeply critical investigation into how they can be manipulated. In an age where dating sites and apps are becoming common, this book could help people who have been in a similar situations, those who are potentially going through it, or potentially instill caution in those that don’t know the signs to lookout for.

Pages: 339 | ASIN: B078KS9Q2M

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The Twisted Crown

The Twisted Crown by [Richmond Bunkley, Anita]

The Twisted Crown​, the newest historical fiction novel by Anita Bunkley is a fascinating look into the post-Civil War South. Focused on the story of a free black woman from the North, Eva Phillips takes advantage of the abolition of slavery in the South to embark on a treacherous journey to South Carolina to try to find the mother who gave her a chance at freedom as a child. Along her way, readers meet a captivating cast of characters ranging from cunning professional gamblers to complex carpetbaggers to innocents turned corrupt by hardship. Eva has to navigate a part of the country decimated by the bitterest of fighting as it struggles to regain its footing. And like Eva, readers will never know if the character with the checkered past they just met will be someone who can be trusted or or who will surprise them with an unexpected betrayal.

Along the way she meets up with Chicago lawyer and profiteer Trent Hartwell who, against the recommendations of his new Charleston acquaintances, offers to help Eva in her quest. Although he came to the South to benefit from the financial opportunities blossoming in the wake of so many people’s misfortunes, he can’t quite understand the unwritten rules governing the South about the proper roles of white people and black people and why there should be any difference.

This book also sheds light on the important and dangerous work that took place during this time by black activists to promote equal participation in government for all races. This work made many who benefited from the pre-war social structure very angry and prone to violence, so the lobbying had to be done secretively.

While the story is solid and flows well, I thought that the characters and dialogue lacked some depth. This book kept me very engaged, however. The quick pace, many edge-of-your-seat situations, and several sultry moments kept me reading along without any lulls.

I also came away with a much clearer understanding of what life in the South was like after the Civil War for both whites and blacks. I didn’t know the depth of poverty freed slaves were faced with and this book provided a very interesting example of the creative and sometimes unfortunate ways that people used to survive and start a new life. Anita Bunkley is famous for writing stories that show what a famous period in history was like from the perspective of black women, and I really appreciated having the opportunity to experience this after so many other Reconstruction books (Gone With the Wind, That Bright Land, ect.) only focus on the white experience. This is important because, clearly, this was a period where the African-American experience is integral to understanding the situation appropriately.

I highly recommend joining Eva on her exciting voyage to the land of her birth and learning more about the United State’s most interesting periods of history in ​The Twisted Crown ​by Anita Bunkley.

Pages: 336 | ASIN: B07G7GPX2F

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What if it Were Possible?

What if it Were Possible? by [Collins, C. Ray]Ray Collins’s book, What if it Were Possible?, is a space-age adventure set not too far in the future. Protagonist, Ray Holland, finds himself heading up a top-secret mission that he didn’t sign up for. He had spent his career working in public relations for NASA, and is a self-proclaimed “average guy.” He couldn’t have predicted that he would be leading a crew of ex-cons on a recognizance mission into the unknown. Ray and the crew set out on this dangerous mission knowing they won’t see earth for years, if ever again. Like any good adventure, there are I was figurative and literal bumps throughout the journey.

This is an entertaining space adventure story that appealed to the kid in me that is always hoping for a whirlwind adventure. The book flows well, but sometimes hit patches where it would drag. I wanted them to get to space so badly that the buildup was killing me. I liked the way the middle section was written with Ray’s logs giving insight into current scenarios and how much time had passed. I preferred the writing in the parts that dealt with space travel. Apart from a few typos the book is written very well. They were few and far between.

Collins did a great job of explaining how the ship flew with the cabin area moving independently of the ship to keep that area level. He explained the ship’s technology in an understandable way. He also explained the wormhole and other space elements in a way that made sense. I didn’t get too lost in the details and could get a pretty good grasp on what was happening and how.

I wasn’t a big fan of the “aliens” being so similar to the people of earth. I could have gotten past the physicality being the same, but there were an overwhelming number of similarities that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Being an 80s/90s kid, I loved the Star Trek and Star Wars throwback references. It was a nice way of keeping everything from getting too technical or heavy. It also showed Ray’s humanity and made his character one that will be identifiable to readers. The references also made it feel like the story wasn’t too far from our own reality or time.

There is a love story that develops in the begginging chapters that I would of liked to see developed further, but the story takes a sharp turn into an entertaining space adventure story and left that bit behind.

What if it Were Possible? was a good read that I recommend to readers of the Sci-Fi genre, especially anyone looking for a space adventure story that stays true to it’s roots. The journey through space was my favorite part and kept me engaged. Readers will root for Ray and his crew of misfits. I look forward to reading more of their adventures in the future.

Pages: 292 | ASIN: B077ZDCWBN

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