Category Archives: Four Stars

Pandeism: An Anthology

Is God real? If He is, where he is and why does he allow certain things to happen? Is our current status a result of constant evolving Or a conscious action of an entity granting each individual a choice? I am quite certain that everyone has had the above mentioned questions at some point in their lives.

The book Pandeism: An Anthology edited by Knujon Mapson is one of the few works that could be classified into an intellectual query, or rather a search for one of the fundamental beliefs or belief systems existing in the modern world – Existence of God. Keeping aside what may or may not be my bias for or against such topics, I will give the editor a round of applause for carefully selecting and presenting an interesting collection of essays.

The anthology has been grouped into three sections, The fundamentals of Pandeism, Philosophical implications and Criticism And analysis from other views. The sixteen authors of the essays are by scholars and doctorate holders. These individuals have often, through their pursuit in their field of study, have come into the realm of beliefs and religion. Each of them, in their own way, have tried to provide a logical inference based on their understanding and how they see the supernatural entity or God in other words. The essays themselves are an intellectual search they performed while wondering about the divine, which forms the basic belief. There are four major principles which have been taken as the yardstick, they are: God as the primary cause and the long held beliefs – God being an entity which is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.

In the middle section, the essays describe the philosophical leanings of the Pandeism. This section also contemplates the drive of living things to live, and of intelligent life to better itself, achieving some remarkable conclusions about the desire of non-omnipotent beings to obtain omnipotence — and of an omnipotent being to destroy itself and begin anew.

The last section describes that Pandeism has drawn both a critical and comparative eye from adherents to other theological models. The above can be seen by the conventional practice in organizing comparative religious literature, seems to be to order pieces so that conventional Western world views are given prominence. This is balanced with the comparative study and analysis of the different world religions such as Hinduism. There are also other views which encompass some nontraditional approaches as well.

This book stimulates the mind to ponder over one of the basic queries. This book is for those who would like to indulge their intellectual faculties. Admittedly, the level of comprehension is higher than a run of the mill book, but still makes for a good read.

Pages: 473 | ASIN: B01N0MHK72

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YEGman

YEGman by [Lavery, Konn]

YEGman by Konn Lavery is a dark thrilling romp through the back allies and underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Michael Bradford, our hero, is a vigilante, who struggles with violence. His issues aren’t going to get better as he investigates the most notorious gang in Edmonton, the Crystal moths. His methods are caught on film and uploaded online to become viral sensations and are labeled with the hashtag, YEGman. The videos fascinate a rebellious journalist, who wishes to cover the story of this mysterious hero.

This novel is an unexpectedly gritty trip through the Canadian crime scene that I don’t find too often in literature. Most of what comes to mind may be cozy mysteries, not ultra-violent vigilantes dealing with criminals. The novel takes a fun turn with the involvement of the student, Lola and how she gives a better and deeper inside look of the gang culture. In some ways, the trope is rather familiar with an attractive journalist in training along with the brooding vigilante in Bradford. It kind of brings to mind a mix of Batman, Spiderman, and Lois Lane. It’s an affirmation of Lavery’s skill to synthesize all of this together to make a novel that engages the reader and doesn’t let up until the end.

Lavery’s style leans on description, which helps to develop the world of this noir thriller, but I felt that the characters sometimes overly explain things. The prose is decent and kept me involved, but the pacing sometimes slows because of the over explanation which left me often wandering from the story. With an action packed story like this, putting the brakes on to go into detailed explanations lowers the tension on an otherwise exciting story.

This novel is plenty gritty, with a dark narrative and the definite feel that danger lurks within every shadow. With a consistently murky tone and treacherous atmosphere to the novel I was able to sink my teeth into the dark underworld set in an alternative Edmonton. For Canadian readers and noir thriller aficionados alike this novel would be a fun read, even people who enjoy a little bit of mystery and can tolerate the violence, this is recommended reading. Overall, an exciting addition to Lavery’s body of work.

Pages: 461 | ASIN: B07B3N5S92

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In Darkness, There is Still Light

In Darkness, There is Still Light (Wheeler Book 2) by [Zalesky, Sara Butler]

In Darkness, There is Still Light rolls in hot, picking up immediately where its predecessor Wheeler abruptly ended and engrossing readers from the very first pages. The Wheeler series centers on the life of professional cyclist Loren MacKenzie, an American living in the United Kingdom, and the physical and emotional challenges that she faces. Darkness resumes where Wheeler left off, right after Loren has won a world championship title in cycling and kissed her movie star boyfriend, Graham Atherton, farewell for three weeks apart as he flies off to film his next blockbuster. As in her first novel, Zalesky is able to squeeze an incredible amount of action into just a few short months of Loren’s life, though perhaps even more impressive is her ability to fit all the thrills in a short 250 page novel that will fly by for readers.

In Darkness should be read after completing the first Wheeler, as Zalesky does not spend much time reintroducing characters or explaining past events. Readers will recognize familiar faces in Darkness, including Loren’s sassy cycling teammates and loyal friends, but Zalesky also introduces new and exciting characters to the mix. While the first Wheeler was a fairly even mix of romance, thriller, and women’s cycling novels, Darkness focuses more on the romance and emotional challenges of Loren’s life, spending more time developing her relationship with Graham and another key character (whose identify I will not reveal!), and spending far less time on the bike. While I missed the road race episodes that Zalesky created in WheelerDarkness takes place during the cycling off-season when competitions are infrequent.

Though In Darkness lacks the nail-biting cycling races and triumphant finish line scenes, it is just as thrilling as Wheeler for other reasons. Zalesky further develops Loren as a complex and sympathetic character as she delves into Loren’s troubled past and fractured emotional psyche. One of Zalesky’s greatest strengths is her ability to develop Loren as such a complex but also relatable star. Though hopefully readers have not personally experienced the abuses thrown at Loren, they can relate to the conflicting emotions she feels as her relationship deepens with Graham and the rollercoaster of ups and downs she experiences after traumatic events. But far from a damsel in distress, Loren remains a strong protagonist that readers will find themselves rooting for wholeheartedly. Where Loren shines, though, her knight in shining armor, Graham Atherton, appears rather dull. Even as their relationship deepens, Graham remains a bit one-dimensional as the Shakespeare-quoting, jaw-dropping handsome actor. But, trusting our protagonist Loren’s judgment, I will give Graham the benefit of the doubt and hope that Zalesky continues to develop him in Wheeler’s third installment.

A solid four-star novel, In Darkness, There is Still Light again offers a unique delight for readers with its combination of romance, thriller, and sports. As the name suggests, Darkness tackles challenging and sensitive issues, especially physical and emotional abuse, but Zalesky successfully handles these with depth, grace, and realism. There is never a dull page with Loren, and the few months of Loren’s life covered in Darkness fly by, ending abruptly once more and leaving readers ready for the next race, which is certain to be just as exciting as those in Wheeler and In Darkness, There is Still Light.

Pages: 295 | ASIN: B07BT52785

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Lessons from a Difficult Person: How to Deal with People Like Us

Lessons from a Difficult Person: How to Deal with People Like Us by [Elliston M.A.T, Sarah H.]

Lessons from a Difficult Person: How to Deal with People Like Us by author Sarah H. Elliston is a guide for those who find themselves dealing with people they find difficult and want to know how they can better communicate and work with them. This book is told from the perspective of Elliston who discovered one day that she was a difficult person.

The tone of the book and the opening story regarding Elliston’s own experience being a difficult person invites the reader to take part in a personal story . This opening section helps the book feel like it is not condescending toward those who are difficult but paints the book as an effort to help those that are considered difficult and offers ways to help with communication in the workplace and in life.

The book opens with a summary of what the book covers, which is incredibly helpful in guides like this because not only does it let you know what you will learn but allows you to find what is most relevant to you. The first chapter was particularly interesting for me because it addresses how difficult people are clueless about what they are doing and who they are. This is important to realize, as it was for me, because a lot of the frustration comes from the thought that difficult people are doing it on purpose.

If you find that you are dealing with someone that is difficult, or have a nagging feeling that you may be that difficult person, I think this book is an important read. Even for students or readers interested in psychology or sociology. While reading this book I came to several realizations, the one stated earlier and I also realized how, when communicating, it is important to remember that we all come from different places and understanding the experience of others can improve the way we interact with those around us. And I think that is what this book is about, understanding the experience of others.

I enjoyed reading this book as it was well written and informative, but what I wasn’t ready for, and was pleasantly surprised by, was how much I was going to relate to the information in this book. This book is about an important topic, but it is written in a casual tone, so it is an easy read. Whether you are a difficult person, or know a difficult person, this book will help you understand each other better.

Pages: 178 | ASIN: B01NCJM76V

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Beyond the Code

Beyond the Code by [Barthel, Kelsey Rae]Kelsey Rae Barthel’s Beyond the Code features Aurora, known to a few as Luna. As her alter ego Luna, she is a skilled knight and utterly devoted to her master, Cole. During an attempt to expose and ultimately destroy Damon Lexus, a master of ill repute, Luna and Cole find themselves facing the battle of their lives. When the inconceivable happens during a confrontation with Damon’s assassin, Luna makes it her mission to avenge her master’s death and finally bring an end to Damon’s madness. The hunter quickly becomes the hunted when Luna is stalked, threatened, and subsequently saved by the very man sent to kill her.

One of the most striking aspects of Barthel’s plotline is the attention to detail during the numerous action sequences. Beyond the Code is an urban tale of knights, masters, and fascinating skills and features intense and well-drawn scenes filled with sword battles and otherworldly abilities. Readers desiring action will not be disappointed with the frequency of the battle scenes as they permeate the reading.

Ranger’s appearance in the plot was a welcome one. I tend to find some of the more benign moments in fantasies to be the most compelling. For instance, I am sure most readers will find Luna’s heartbreak over Cole to be the most poignant part of the story line, but I see Ranger’s change of heart as the turning point of the book and the most gripping element of the plot involving him and Luna. I felt a much deeper connection between Luna and Ranger than I did between any others. The scene in which Ranger is unable to make himself fulfill his mission to destroy Luna is a touching one in which the author allows the reader a thorough glimpse inside Ranger’s mind. The fact that he questions Luna’s reactions and the intensity of her emotions is moving. As he gives in to his own questions, the reader is offered a much different side of Ranger.

The haunting of Luna by Venom, the assassin she kills, and the flashbacks Luna endures are heart-wrenching. These are some of the most poignant scenes in the entire book and are much of the reason I continued to remain attached to Luna’s character and her ongoing trauma. I was not as compelled by the lengthy battle scenes as I was the deep and moving exchanges between Luna and Ranger.

The toggling between identifying Aurora as Luna did seem to get in the way of my reading just a bit in the first chapters. I found myself rereading in order to make sure I had, indeed, read correctly. Her hidden identity plays a major role in the plot, but does tend to interfere at times with the flow of the text.

Beyond the Code by Kelsey Rae Barthel is brimming with action and focused upon characters who are hellbent on keeping themselves on the right side of things, this piece is sure to appeal to fans of urban fantasies.

Pages: 336 | ASIN: B078V4LC48

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Man with the Sand Dollar Face

Man with the Sand Dollar Face, by Sharon CassanoLochman, is a detective-crime thriller novel. The story is centered on Harriet Crumford, who at times also goes by Hattie or Henrietta. She is a 62-year-old woman working as a secretary for a private detective in Crescent City — New Orleans. Shortly into the book an incident takes place, and the action picks up quickly. The book seems to be a mix of feminist and hardboiled noir, and though it struggles in a few places, it reaches a sound level of quality for both.

Harriet Crumford does not seem like a heroic character, at least not in the classical sense of the hero’s story. She is 62-years-old in the story, but little is given about her other than her being a widow. In classic heroic tales, the central character often pushes away from the table — unwilling to take up the heroic cause — due to more pressing, mundane tasks. Eventually, the hero comes to his (frequently it is a ‘his’) senses and begins the hero’s journey. In some ways, this novel is a subversion of the traditional heroic arc — Harriet was the dutiful, longsuffering, strong, silent wife. This provides a strong contrast against her boss, Wallace Woodard, who is philandering to the point that Harriet cannot keep straight who the girlfriend is and who the wife is. Harriet is so given over to subservience, and to old values, that she does not even have a valid driver’s license. Up to the point of this story, she had forsaken the hero’s call for all her life, and once she takes it up, she looks back on her past with pain and sorrow. She then finds within herself, with some assistance, the necessary energy to pursue a mystery to its conclusion. In this way, the text provides those feminist elements through Harriet’s newfound internal strengths.

CassanoLochman attempts to make the novel feel like an old, hardboiled detective novel so much that it strains credulity. The writing, at expertly evokes hard rain, melancholy, brooding, existential pain and anguish typical of hardboiled noir, but then makes a sharp right turn into the “iced coffee with whipped cream and pink sprinkles.” In terms of other characteristics of hardboiled stories, this one fits many of them, but they do sometimes feel forced. In either case, fans of crime fiction will be hard pressed to put the book down.

Overall, the book is certainly a strong read, and contains plenty of action and is recommended. Harriet is an excellent character, not obviously heroic, but willing to take risks. Man with the Sand Dollar Face seems intended for adult audiences, but it is not beyond the reach of younger adults who have an interest in this sort of literature. The book does contain some sexual content (nothing too graphic), definite alcohol and drug use, and more than a little violence.

Pages: 212 | ASIN: B077Y4T192

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The Ice Factory

The Ice Factory by [Phillips, Jason Roger]

The Ice Factory is an entertaining book by author Jason Phillips. It tells the story of hurricane Edna which hit the Caribbean Islands in 1954. The book is written with multiple perspectives focusing on Joy, who lived in Grenada which was decimated by the hurricane, and Audrey, who lives in Trinidad, which was less affected. Joy, the owner of an ice factory, was killed during the storm. Audrey is her niece and closest living relative.

“And when my soul got to the front gates I took my place in the queue. I think I recognized some faces, it’s true. Just in front of me, I saw some people looking very excited, very happy to be here and I even overheard someone talking about someone named Joy … talking about what happened, how it happened, and what then came to pass. This is what I heard them say…”

The entire first chapter, particularly this paragraph, captured my interest in the book. The first chapter did an exceptional job of peeking my interest in the story to come with its beautiful language and its unique character perspective. Having one of your characters speaking from beyond the grave, giving their perspective on the living world is an interesting and fun way to approach a story.

I loved reading the differences and similarities between the way Joy and Audrey viewed the world. They were both strong characters in their own way and met the balance between uniquely interesting and relatable. Both deal with struggles on different levels and approach the way they deal with those difficulties differently but maintain their strength throughout. I found switching back and forth between them to work really well with the story being told. I also liked the focus the book puts on family and the close connections families can have, along with their struggles.

The book kept a good pace as the reader is taken through the characters lives. It balances the dramatic events of the book, like the hurricane, and its effect on the characters’ lives, as well as the smaller struggles of daily life. The book did a great job of making you care about the characters, as the driving force of the plot. Phillips did a masterful job with the entire book of creating distinctive voices in his characters, setting a scene, and grasping a tone for the whole book that placed you in a place, time, and culture.

From beginning to end The Ice Factory is a fun, engaging, interesting, and uplifting story that kept me invested in the story throughout. The characters were well written and fleshed out, keeping me rooting for them the whole time. I enjoyed this book very much and am excited to see what else this author puts forth. I would definitely recommend this book.

Pages: 270 | ASIN: B01MEBVXVY

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How We End Up

How We End Up by [Wells, Douglas]

Douglas Wells’ new book, How We End Up, seeks to become even more intricate and complex then his debut book, The Secret of all Secrets. The reader follows three main characters as their lives come together, only to drift apart and come back together after 25 years. Jackson Levee is an ambitious college instructor when he manages to be in the right place at the right time and saves twin girls from drowning in the Gulf of Mexico. He goes on to write a poem about the event, which brings him acclaim and success. Hadley and Haley, the twins go on to become beautiful women. All three of them are then brought on their heels through various events and it is after two and half decades they meet again to suffer a devastating event together and discover who and what they are as human persons.

At this point, readers familiar with Wells’ more philosophically bent, literary stories and How We End Up is no exception. What has become more refined, is Wells style with incorporating all of these events into a cohesive story. His previous work seemed to have a lot going on, and while it still achieved a particular effect, it wasn’t as polished as this story. In some ways, he uses the layman’s philosophy to a decent effect, but it becomes even more pronounced as the themes of self-identity, purpose and life’s meaning takes center stage.

As much as this book is about Jackson, Haley, and Hadley, it is more about life and what happens to a person over the course of the years. Some readers may have mileage that may vary with this theme, but I believe it makes the novel resonate that much better. In fact, Wells’ inclusion of philosophy serves the novel all the better for serving this theme and given what he has written before he wants to focus on the human condition. We all ask the big questions and reflect on how our lives may have been formed otherwise, but with the intersection of these three lives, it brings this reality to the forefront.

All in all, Wells presents a literary novel that brings all the best sort of introspection and soul gazing that can be given in a reader’s experience. Fans of such fiction will be pleased with this, as are any who enjoy personal intimate stories that are full to the brim with drama. Students of philosophy will appreciate the small tributes and tid bits here and there as well.

Pages: 296 | ASIN: B079VCWS3S

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The Congress of Rough Writers: Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1

The Congress of Rough Writers: Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 (Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology) by [Mills, Charli, Amore, Anthony, Bell, Georgia, Black, Sacha, Colvin, Norah, Fanning, Pete, Ferry, C. Jai, Glaessner, Rebecca, Goodwin, Anne]

The Congress of Rough Writers is an anthology; a collection of stories by different writers. Charli Mills is the the series editor and brings into light the work of a diverse range of polished literary gems, penned by both experienced and inexperienced writers alike.

The anthology is sectioned into 5 parts with each part having a distinctive touch from the others, but related in a rather unique way, with part 6 containing the acknowledgements.

Part 1: Best of show is twelve collections of ten 99-word stories. Each chapter has been titled according to the prompt given in the challenge – a topic on which the story is to be based. The stories have been arranged to make a greater statement, which highlights the magnitude of the task and accomplishment of the editors.

Part 2: A new flash fiction challenge contains a collection of ten 99 word stories written to fulfill a challenge to include 3 particular words in their story. The spirited effort springs to life fascinating characters and evocative ideas.

Part3. Expanded flash contains five of the original 99 words stories, expanded into longer versions, but still under 2000 words. This section shows how a flash fiction story can be the seed for a more developed and intriguing story.

Part 4: Essays from memoirists is yet another unconventional part of this project which makes the experience of the writers’ itself the subject. Each essay gives an account of the experience of the writers writing flash fiction while also noting differences and similarities. Anyone who is a writer, or enjoys a look behind the scenes (think movie extras) will appreciate this section as much as I did.

Part 5: Building community with flash fiction is where we get to know more about the project itself. Here we get to know what flash fiction is and how it can affect bigger changes to a writer’s perception towards writing in general. I felt the explanations were easy to follow and flowed easily from topic to topic.

Part 6: Acknowledgements introduces you to the key persons who have been involved in bringing this unconventional project to light, giving the chance to authors, writers and non-writers, that come from diverse backgrounds. I enjoyed the exposure and introduction to the writers especially when I found the ones that wrote my favorite pieces of flash fiction.

This anthology is meant to both encourage and inspire the next generation of writers and authors, so that the craft of storytelling is preserved and propagated. I felt like this book was geared more towards writers, or aspiring writers, but the average reader should not shy away. There is plenty to enjoy in this series. As with any piece of flash fiction, they are better consumed piecemeal and at your leisure. Don’t look for some overarching theme and take pleasure in the quick creation of thought-provoking ideas and compelling characters. If you like shows like The Twilight Zone, then you’ll like this collection. It was tough for me to review this book as it is a collection of stories that range in quality and appeal. Overall I really enjoyed it. And, I suppose, that is the benefit of an anthology, if you don’t like one story, then just move to the next. What a fun read!

Pages: 166 | ASIN: B078BWZ9MD

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Alterni

Alterni (The Alt-World Chronicles Book 1) by [Somerville, Sunshine]

Alterni follows Esme who finds herself in a world with different paranormal races and a secret order; all under the reign of a King. As an Alterni, Esme must join the King and use her powers to fight the Malevolenci demons from other worlds. Can Esme learn to wield her powers in time to save the world?

Alterni by Sunshine Somerville creates a situation where you’ll find yourself deeply connected to the characters because of how real the characters react to the ever present danger to their world. If you love thrilling adventures with beautiful depictions of an interesting world, this is the story for you. Especially if you want to be on the edge of your seat.

When I sat down to read this book, I was quite surprised. It’s not often that you love the experience of reading a book. With this beautifully descriptive world and intriguing cast of characters, it was hard to resist being sucked into the world. I found myself staying up way past my bed time to finish this story.

The characters were all multilayered and continued to develop as the story progressed. Complicated backgrounds allowed me to connect with the characters. Sunshine Somerville is able to create characters with the kind of depth it takes other authors a whole series to achieve. This book explores themes such as family, leadership, responsibility and loss; experienced through not only Esme, but also King Owen.

This book does not rely on big plot twists to keep you interested; although there is a big one that creeps up on you. The book is constantly engaging it’s characters in some rousing bit of mystery, suspense, or action involving one of many paranormal races inhabiting this strange world that Esme finds herself in. I always look for books that make me want to see what the characters do next. And when the world is invaded by inter-dimensional demons from another space and time, there is no shortage of nail biting action. One thing that makes me suspend disbelief when it comes to magical powers, is the authors ability to ground it in reality.  I enjoyed watching Esme learn, understand, and use her Alterni powers.

This is book 1 in the Alt-World Chronicles and when I finished this book, I found that I was so glad there was a second book to continue this story. I enjoyed reading about the subtle differences that might exist in other realities. Overall, I loved this read, it was entertaining to say the least. I recommend you read this story if you’re looking for something innovative and gripping.

Pages: 282 | ASIN: B075MDGSPP

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