Category Archives: Four Stars

The Missing Reindeer

The Missing Reindeer by [Smith, Zeke]

The Missing Reindeer is a short, illustrated children’s Christmas storybook about a little boy named Sammy. The story follows Sammy who lives with his tribe in Northern Scandinavia where they herd reindeer. When the Reindeer go missing, things seem dire for Sammy and his tribe, and so he decides to make a winter’s wish to Santa Claus. This is a cute little Christmas story about being thankful for what you have and those around you.

The book is a little less than twenty pages long, and each page has only a few sentences of text one it, making it a quick read. It is a perfect story to read to small children around Christmas time as it explores a little of the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia, while also being a sweet Christmas story that has hope and thankfulness. The illustrations of the book are pretty and vibrant. I liked the art style of the book which was a little water-color inspired cartoon drawings. I thought that the backgrounds and animals were particularly beautiful. There were a few of the pages where the people in the illustrations seemed a little out of place with the scene or what the text was describing, but overall it worked together nicely.

Christmas stories are always a fun addition to have to read to your children during the winter, and I appreciated that the setting and plot worked together to give this story some originality. Overall The Missing Reindeer by author Zeke Smith is a sweet children’s Christmas tale that shows endearing heart, and lovely illustrations, a perfect combo for a wonderful children’s book.

Pages: 20 | ASIN: B0794V1ZP8

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Missing: A Finn Delaney New York City Mystery

Missing: A Finn Delaney New York City Mystery Book 1 by [Bryan, Robert L.]

Mystery readers who love New York: this book is for you. Missing: A Finn Delaney New York City Mystery introduces 25-year-old Finn, a fifth-generation police officer from a family that reveres the NYPD. When an unlucky accident ends his NYPD career, Finn becomes the next best thing: a Private Eye. Finn’s new career is off to a rocky start, complete with threadbare office and octogenarian assistant. Luckily, Finn quickly moves beyond the so-called “cavalcade of crazies” and stumbles into his first serious case. Follow Finn as he searches for a missing person who NYPD claims is not missing at all.

In Missing, Robert L. Bryan explores duty, loyalty, and friendship. He also plumbs the depths of vice that simmer in the city: corruption, greed, and crime. Bryan hits his storytelling stride as the details of the case unfurl. The plot moves quickly with confounding clues, hints of danger, and a parade of compelling characters.

Bryan has a knack for provocative characters. Finn’s apparent lack of self-determination can be frustrating—he seemingly rode a conveyer belt from booties to NYPD blues—but he develops into a likable main character. Early client stories, like the time Finn tailed a cat, are charming but lose something in bullet point format. The reader groans when Finn’s most pressing professional dilemma involves a desk chair and cheers when he finally lands a case.

Still, Finn is inscrutable. Other characters respond to him with generosity and affection when he shows none. I think the women in Finn’s world would benefit from added nuance; they are often one-dimensional. Finn’s father is a bright spot: unwavering in his support and helpful when Finn needs it most. We should all be so lucky.

Fans of the boroughs will enjoy devoted descriptions of Queen’s minutiae. Every intersection is noted, every landmark observed. Do I see a Finn Delaney walking tour of Queens in my future? Yes, please.

The book doubles back at times with Finn uncovering clues already revealed; in one notable situation, Finn hits upon the lynchpin of the case twice in seven pages. The book is lightly sprinkled with errors in grammar and punctuation. Despite these minor distractions, Missing is a satisfying mystery and a good read.

Pages: 197 | ASIN: B07L9DBXDN

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Genesis: The Infinity Series Vol. 2

Genesis (The Infinity Series Book 2) by [Westbay, Bellamy]

A genesis is a beginning: a source, a founding moment. Though Bellamy Westbay’s Genesis is the second volume in the Infinity Series, readers will have no doubt that this tome marks a beginning. The odyssey opens with the beguiling Gwen in grave danger. Though angel Alex is the only being, mortal or celestial, who can ultimately save her, the antidote for her current troubles comes from a source seemingly bent on her demise. Follow Alex, Gwen, and Jasper on an epic journey through a bewitching multiverse, one haunted by evil forces, fantastical creatures, and a series of confounding quests.

In this odyssey of good versus evil, of human nature and the divine, Westbay tackles love, lust, and redemption. She also explores motivations more primal: eternal enmity, darkest jealousy, and destructive cunning. Westbay’s storytelling moves at a heady pace, switching between the questing trio and Gwen’s best friend, facing her own predicament. The book is surprisingly sparse in some places—a run-in with an eloquent dragon comes to mind—but delves deeper in others, offering vibrant descriptions of other universes and their inhabitants, including ethereal Callidora and Eva with her siren song. Vivid details aside, the plot is the star of this show and Westbay moves it forward with skill.

And what an intriguing plot it is. Genesis operates where divine beings move among mere mortals. At first I struggled with a Cinnabon-eating angel but I was quickly won over by Alex’s supernatural powers, very human weaknesses, and impressive wingspan. He is simultaneously angsty and arch. For a celestial being and polyglot to boot, he can be frustratingly obtuse: he knows little of human nature and often his epiphanies land with a thud. Even so, he captivates readers as the boulder-smashing, beast-slaying hero of our story.

If Alex is Odysseus on an epic journey and Eva a Siren, Gwen is Helen of Troy. Though not exactly “the face that launched a thousand ships”, Gwen is certainly the being that launched a thousand cherubic fantasies. The amorous undertones in Genesis know no bounds: whilst Gwen clings to life, both the misguided Jasper and the ardent Alex lust after her. Readers feel relief when Gwen revives and apprehension as death draws near. This epic journey is exhilarating and well-told. Westbay is a true storyteller with a gift for weaving familiar themes into a fascinating new world.

Pages: 414 | ASIN: B07DXP2Y8D

Buy Now From Amazon.com

One Path, Many Lights

One Path, Many Lights: One Woman’s Personal & Spiritual Journey by [Lacey, Maria]

One Path, Many Lights: One Woman’s Personal and Spiritual Journey by Maria Lacey is a non-fiction book about the personal experiences that occurred during a period of twelve months in the the author’s life after she returned home following a traumatic relationship breakdown (although details of this inciting event were not mentioned). Maria is a teacher, counselor, and healer who can see and feel spirits and energy. After overcoming her own trials and adversity, she is able to help others with their own healing, even as she continued to battle periods of self-doubt. The author’s purpose in writing this book is to inspire and bring hope into others’ daily lives.

The author’s writing style is very engaging and I really enjoyed it. It almost felt as though a close friend was talking to me and retelling various events that had happened in her life, rather than reading a book about someone I’d never met. It seemed like one bad thing after another happened to Maria, with a number of medical issues and the deaths of her two cats, Kovu and Moggy, all occurring within a very short length of time. I felt sympathy for all the things she had to deal with, which she handled with amazing grace. Then, through writing this book, she turned her personal hardships and tragedy into something positive. Her message resonates with the reader because we are always hardest on ourselves, and need to learn to love ourselves unconditionally, flaws and all.

It was interesting reading about the range of people she worked with in her practice, from pregnant women to men struggling with the changes brought on by retirement. I loved reading the part where the spirits of Maria’s beloved pets visited her often. I wish that was true for me, too.

I didn’t enjoy reading the channeling sessions as much as the rest of the book. It didn’t hold my interest quite as well. The section about her childhood felt a bit disjointed, jumping from one event to another with abrupt transitions, and they in chronological order. There were some grammatical issues and typos that distracted from the narrative, but overall, the book was a very enjoyable and inspiring read. The footnotes in several chapters were helpful to provide additional information and clarification. I would recommend this book to anyone in search of inspiration and spiritual growth.

Pages: 164 | ASIN: B00YOIOTIS

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Lillee Can Be

Lillee Can Be by [Joseph, Adam Zebediah]
Adam Zebediah Joseph’s Lillee Can Be delivers a sugary sweet children’s book with a punchy, poetic pace and solid sense of cohesion overall. The book focuses on the school and extracurricular lives of two young twins in an unspecified setting, making it an allegory of sorts. Specifically, the twins provide a totally relatable dynamic for any reader with a sibling, as the book directly confronts feelings of inferiority, unequal recognition, and other relevant issues that many children experience.

Likewise, the author is perfectly on trend with the wave of subtle social justice and advocacy messages within children’s and young adult literature currently. For example, Joseph boldly tackles sexism, gender identity, equal pay, and other concepts beyond merely familial themes, yet he does it with humility, honesty, and ease, without any preachy or condescending tones. Although the male character is unnamed, the female character (or mini SHE-RO!) offers an affirmative, fun, feisty, and feminist protagonist for readers to emulate. Lillee, the main character, demonstrates resilience and displays fearless fortitude as she faces gender boundaries and revolutions about our world, social norms, and cultural mores in this vibrant but also bold, bubbly book.

As far as the pros and cons, I love that the book perceptively resonates with girl power. I also applaud how his writing cleverly employs a rhythmical quality that makes you want to sing or rap each page aloud-of course with a fist pump, too! I further appreciate the teachable lessons in this book beyond character education and tolerance, since Adam Zebediah Joseph also cites many careers for young children to pursue. Occupational terms in this book and illustrations make it suitable for a teacher, counselor, parent, or family member and embed superb context clues for the definitions. However, I was a bit dismayed that the male twin character remained nameless throughout the entire piece. This anonymity seemed to counter the equity themes that this book so adamantly advocated. While I also liked the pictures, I wanted a bit more multicultural depictions to truly illuminate the themes that book defends: equality, respect, inclusion, etc.

In sum, this book provides a mirror for young readers to assess not only themselves and their personal relationships around them, but also a path for sociopolitical awareness. Read it yourself to see if a fairy godmother emerges or if other lessons enlighten these characters as they grow and mature. The author shows empathy and wisdom to tackle themes with such poise and poetic power!

Pages: 50 | ASIN: B07F7XCTLV

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The High Court

The High Court (The Sky Throne) by [Ledbetter, Chris]

The sequel to the wonderful debut series The Sky Throne, we find young Zeus struggling with forces from beyond Mount Olympus in The High Court. The book picks up after there has been a lull after the tumultuous events of the previous book, with Hyperion and Kronos both being tried for crimes and will be hopefully brought to justice soon. It is when these trials grow near that the school, which is already underway with a new semester, when giants attack and force the occupants to flee. Zeus in the meantime is poisoned and will have to find a cure, before he succumbs the toxin.

Ledbetter is not letting his heroes off easy in this next book and as is tradition with second books of a series, the stakes are even higher than before. It is clear that his style and refinement in the craft is better handled than in the previous book. The characterization of Zeus also seems to be maturing somewhat, which fits because the characters are getting slightly older as time on Olympus passes.

The world building of this series continues to amaze, since not since Percy Jackson has an author created such a self-contained world of mythology and used it to such effect. It would be derivative to compare it to the likes of Harry Potter or other classic series where the majority of action and story happens at a school, but Ledbetter uses this setting to his advantage at every turn.

The only true issues that come up in this book, is the pacing. It’s hard to say if this book is the middle book of trilogy or another episode of a series, since there are places where the plot kind of peters out. This is made up for the stylized action sequences, but it is still something to be wary of when moving forward through the narrative.

All in all, Ledbetter has written another great installment in his Greek mythology series and anyone who enjoys fantastical settings and compelling, fun characters would be remiss to skip this series. Looking forward to the next entry of The Sky Throne.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B07F453DQ3

Buy Now From Amazon.com

The New Holy Warriors

The New Holy Warriors by [Sandoval, Alice ]

The world as he knows it is crumbling around him. Marc Bravo has just seen the twin towers in New York City fall and terrorism is on the minds of every American and dominates conversations across the globe. September 11, 2001 marks the beginning of a string of events that will change Marc’s life in a way he could never have predicted. When his parents go missing from their volunteer work with Doctors Without Borders, Marc drops everything to find them and bring them home safely. What Marc can never predict is what he will learn about their kidnappers, their true intentions, and how the entire world may ultimately be affected.

Alice Sandoval’s The New Holy Warriors is a timely piece detailing the events following the September 11th attack on the United States. Sandoval takes the story beyond the accounts that we have all seen and heard and breaks down the symbolism of the event itself. In addition, the author lays out for readers a story like no other as she follows Marc Bravo on a quest to find his missing parents who are assumed to have been kidnapped. Marc’s story and his journey for answers is based on true events and is stunning in every way.

One of the most striking elements included in Sandoval’s work is the way in which Islamophobia is addressed. In a very straightforward manner, the author reminds us all of the horrific treatment of anyone appearing to be of Middle Eastern descent. Via her main character, Marc, she drives home the fact that stereotyping immediately following September 11th was rampant and a danger to countless numbers of innocent people.

Another aspect of Sandoval’s story, which might go unnoticed by many, is the description she gives of the strange incidents in the skies above Mexico. Marc is treated to an elaborate explanation of the event and is informed that UFO sightings above Mexico are fairly commonplace. As this book reads as primarily nonfiction, it is almost chilling to listen in on the characters’ conversation about these “cigar-shaped” ships. As an added bonus to the already curious events, Sandoval includes the story of a suspected relationship between the Mayans, the pyramids, and Martians. The casual conversation included in this story inspired by real events is not in the least out of place, but it is truly fascinating.

Sandoval does not shy away from sharing the abject horror involved in terrorism and the groups involved. With color photographs and blatant captions, Sandoval openly shows readers the brutality carried out by organizations like Al Qaeda. If there was ever any doubt in the reader’s mind about the capabilities and intentions of terrorist organizations, Sandoval wipes it completely away with one swift stroke of the pen.

The New Holy Warriors is a fascinating and eye-opening account of terrorism as viewed through the lives of ordinary citizens. Marc, his brother, and best friend are the vessels by which Sandoval delivers an amazing story readers will wish was just that–simply a story.

Pages: 373 | ASIN: B0784QR76B

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Voice of a Crimson Angel Part III

Voice of a Crimson Angel Part III: Remembrance (Reverence Book 7) by [Landeros, Joshua]

Voice of the Crimson Angel is the final installment of the prequel series to the ongoing Reverence saga. Joshua Landeros returns with all the sound and fury of his sci-fi military thrillers, but we find our heroine, Julissa Marconi, on the defense having lost to Chancellor Venloran previously. The resistance is going to have to dig deep as they find themselves cornered, unable to retreat and unwilling to give in. It will be up to either side or who is willing to sacrifice their humanity in order to win.

Landeros has continued to thrill and amaze with this prequel series, especially with the expansion of his near-future world. His characters are desperate and heroic, even if they give into their more violent natures. The action is brutal and quick, the pacing crisp and fast. At times, I was thrilled I’d read more than I had originally aimed, because I didn’t even realize how quickly pages were flipped.

Julissa is a fun character and one that I am sorry to leave behind as this series comes to a close. Landeros does a good job of making everything balance on a knife’s edge with tension and also does not shy away from wrapping everything up so as to naturally lead into his Reverence series proper. The brutal efficiency of our cyborg soldiers alongside their quiet humanity is a fun dichotomy and one of the reasons why this series remains so fun to come back to.

The only things I won’t miss from this, is the telling of a story that is already somewhat understated in the previous books. And I won’t miss Chancellor Venloran as an antagonist. Landeros has the skill to do more and expand even further into his world, so we should be able to leave this prequel series behind and forge ever on into the future.

Fans of Landeros will not be disappointed and readers who enjoy military science fiction or even political thrillers should be able to feel right at home here. Buckle your seat belts for a thrilling last ride with Julissa Marconi.

Pages: 248 | ASIN: B07F5LPD1S

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Reactive: A Young Adult Dystopian Romance

Reactive: A Young Adult Dystopian Romance (The Elite Trials Book 1) by [Moynihan, Becky]

Reactive is a dystopian novel written by author Becky Moynihan. It is the first book in the Elite Trials trilogy. Set in Tatum city, Lune is the adopted daughter of the Supreme Elite – Renold Tatum. She longs to escape the city and regain her freedom – however the only way to do that is to win the Elite trials. She is focused and well prepared for her one chance at freedom. That is, until Brendon, a boy from her past re-enters her life – jeopardizing her only chance at freedom.

I was immediately drawn into the story by Moynihan’s description of Freedom (Cleopatra) Tatum’s charger. She realistically described the powerful physical traits of the animal and her more subtle personality traits. The relationship between the charger and Tatum was also convincingly described, it was as if I was reading about a genuine relationship between a rider and horse. The description of Tatum riding her charger was realistic, and made me feel as if I were experiencing the same sense of freedom.

The main character – Lune Tatum is described as a strong, determined young woman. Until Bren appears in her life, we see her actions as just that. She is focused and determined to win the Elite trials. Her strength is shown through the descriptions of her training regime, and the way in which she endures the cruel punishment of her father without allowing it to break her spirit. We see she is extremely careful with whom she forms relationships with, allowing herself to have only one true friend – Asher. Lune’s world changes when Bren – a boy she encountered long ago re-appears in her life. Against her better judgement she begins to develop feelings for him. She cares about his well being and worries about him. Lune begins to lose some focus in her training, and is often ‘saved’ from situations – for example when being assaulted by fellow trainees. I felt there were too many times that Lune was ‘saved’ by Bren. If Lune was determined and skilled and had a legitimate chance at winning the trials would she have needed saving so often by Bren? Sadly, the story changed from having a strong female protagonist, to almost becoming a story of a young women being saved by a handsome man.

The motto of the trials – Strength, Speed, and Precision could be woven more into the beginning of the story. This motto underpins the Elite Trials, it would reinforce this by having it appear at the start of the book, and reappearing throughout.

Overall, this is a highly addictive book with interesting characters. It is impossible to put down!

Pages: 397 | ASIN: B07GTVYDBC

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Imber

Imber: Book One of The Thanatos Trilogy by [Hackett, Tyffany]

Tyffany Hackett’s book Imber follows the journey of a young girl named Natylia, who becomes queen before she is of age and takes her mother’s throne. She is accompanied throughout the story by friends like an elf, an herbalist, and a blacksmith. Natylia, after hearing about the legend of an ancient artifact, decides to go with her friends and find the artifact before others take it. Our heroine toils through loss and political conflict to successfully achieve her goal of benefiting the kingdom and saving it from an ancient doom.

Set in medieval times, this book contains so many fantastical things that are superbly described. The characters were well developed and gained layers as the story progressed. Natylia is one example of such a character. Throughout the book, you can see she reacts to stresses and pressures in a believable and relateable way. There is a complexity to all the characters stories, starting superficially and growing into something deeper, which is explored and hinted at throughout the book. One such example is Jyn, who is a friend of our protagonist. He’s ever faithful, and even with his temper he’s something more than Natylia’s guard.

The book explores themes of growing up in the face of adversity, as seen with the protagonist’s ascension to the throne. The trials she faces make her grow up from a young girl into a full-fledged woman right before your eyes. This coming-of-age theme really kept me turning pages all the way through. The author’s writing delivers complex ideas easily, but at times I felt the story was hampered by excessive descriptions, which detracted from the momentum built with some very well orchestrated action scenes. At the same time however, I can’t help but feel that the descriptions helped cement the world better and evoke a stronger image about the story. I suppose this is to say, if you like deep descriptive world building then this book is for you.

While the character development was excellent, I felt that some of the relationships that Natylia has throughout the book were shallow and easily cast aside. There were some relationships that I did enjoy, such as our protagonist’s relationship with her parents and siblings, but others seem to be thrown aside or not developed. I was given just enough to be deeply intrigued and begged for more.

Nevertheless, even with these flaws the book was a thrilling read. The prose was crafted with care and the author was very descriptive throughout. When the action came it kept me on the edge of my seat and was very fun to read.

Pages: 424 | ASIN: B07CMGSDRD

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: