Category Archives: Four Stars

The Eighth: Intro to The Alt-World Chronicles

The Eighth: Intro to The Alt-World Chronicles by [Somerville, Sunshine]

Written by Sunshine Somerville, The Eighth is a gripping, yet short, introduction to her paranormal fantasy series The Alt-World Chronicles.

The tale begins with Esme sitting at a bar delivering this hard hitting opening line, “Hi, I’m Esme and I’m going to die tonight”. Esme is the Order’s current alterni and is preparing to be called to battle. Esme recalls a nightmarish battle filled with monsters and demons, whilst drinking to calm her nerves.

The recollection of the battle is vivid and gripping. I felt like the opening was a good reflection of how the rest of the story unfolds. The tension and action throughout the book is punctuated with short, sharp sentences. There is absolutely no time to waste in this short book and the author utilizes every word to great effect. With that said, I felt like the sheer amount of characters and creatures in the second chapter made things a little hard to follow.

We’re introduced to King Owen and some of his soldiers. A battle ensues that is filled with graphic descriptions of demonic shrieks, winged beasts and beheaded elves. All described in a way that puts the action first and let’s you fill in the rest.

The Eighth is well written and grabbed my attention from the first line. Esme’s character is intriguing and begs to be explored further. As she sits at the bar her fear and resignation is palpable. With the introduction of yet another unique and expertly developed character like King Owen this book is the perfect launching point for any new fans to the series. Overall, an excellent introduction to a series that left me wanting more.

Pages: 23 | ASIN: B07QNLPZJY

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Paradox

Paradox is an intense read. Even though it’s basically a paragraph or two centered on each page, nearly all of them are hefty topics. The book is divided into four sections. However, it does not follow a traditional storytelling pattern. Instead the sections refer to the emotions that are evoked during the read. It is a fairly all-encompassing book- I’d have difficulty naming topics that it didn’t manage to cover. Everything from love, life, death, technology, philosophy, wisdom, psychology, nature. Everything is critically analyzed, re-analyzed, and stripped down to the core. Technically, one could refer to this as a collection of poems but it seems to transcend categorization. Also, I’m pretty sure that’s kind of the point.

Although I would never disrespect this book by calling it self-help, there were some strange observations that I encountered while reading it. I was implementing changes in myself; sitting up a little straighter, noticing more, listening more carefully, and paying attention to the decisions I made. Some of the passages feel like a sharp, cold breeze that wake you up. It’s so easy to succumb to the lethargy and passivity of life, but a jolt like this is required once in a while. Even if it doesn’t have the power to tell you what to live for, it reminds you that you’re still alive.

The passages about the connection between technology, especially social media, and the ego, or mask that you put on, were especially striking. They managed to voice issues and thoughts that are extremely relevant to this generation. Often, when I’m on any social media platform, I get the feeling that there is something problematic about all the pretension. It’s easy to brush that feeling away, because if the herd is doing it, so can you. This book shoots down that voluntary ignorance and encourages you to embrace the discomfort. There’s no glory in watching life pass you by.

It’s a strange exercise of the brain, reading this book. It’s almost doing sit-ups and looking in on itself. A little dizzying but how often does your mind get to do adventure sports. It was a strange and refreshing read that left me in a introspective mood. It’s the perfect read for anyone who likes to be haunted with their thoughts long after the book is over, but in wonderful ways. Go in with an open mind, and you will leave a different person.

Pages: 234 | ISBN: 1792977816

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Son of the Serpent

Son of the Serpent (Fantasy Angels Series Book 2) by [Quiroz-Vega, Vashti]

Son of the Serpent by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a fantasy novel of vengeance and revenge told from the dual perspective of Dracul, the Son of the serpent, and Lillith, his mother.

Dracul arises in a cave and discovers that he’s encased in a demonic body. He’s filled with agony and confusion as he pieces together his memories to determine how he arrived there. In a painful and shocking epiphany, he realizes that he is the son of Lilith, and that Lilith had tried to kill him. He vows to find out what happened and avenge himself. On this bloodthirsty journey, he faces death, destruction, and betrayal. People, encounters, and events further cement his determination for revenge. The author breathes new life into a host of fantastical characters, often from Biblical settings. Their lives and stories are familiar, yet enshrouded in darkness.

What I found most striking about the book was the depth of its darkness and morbidity. Vivid, gory scenes of slaughter left me uncomfortable, but totally engrossed. Lilith’s sections were almost unbearable. Scenes of Lilith’s cruelty towards others was always accompanied by a fascinating glimpse into her psyche. There’s a lot going on in her and just a surface glimpse was enough to leave me mesmerized. It’s been a while since I encountered such a well-portrayed and dislikable antagonist.

Dracul was just as well-written. His struggle to be good in the face of his own destiny was oddly inspiring. To fight where he came from, to whom he belongs, and the core of his being- his pain and loneliness were palpable. The ending was unexpected, but upon consideration, entirely perfect. Maybe it’s not inherent to him, but it’s clear that Dracul is a good creature.

The Biblical settings and references provided a whole new perspective on the worn-out stories. From angels to Cain and Abel, the otherworldly features heavily in this book- and not always in a favorable light. The Biblical events portrayed from a first-person and real-time perspective were super imaginative. I think it would be difficult to assign a genre to this book. Although it is set primarily in a fantasy world, the dashes of horror, romance, and the occult would make it an interesting read for nearly anyone. The world created by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is totally immersive. I was glad for the escape from reality and I would definitely visit again.

Pages: 303 | ASIN:  B07HS4C3B7

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Experiment X: Exposed

Experiment X: Exposed by [Haase, Nikki]

Experiment X: Exposed is the second installment of the Experiment X Trilogy. Exposed jumps right back into the lives of Karen and her commands a year after their escape from Dr. Thaddeus’s lab. Those freed from the horrors of their capture spend their days slowly recovering and training their elemental powers. It isn’t long until Dr. Thaddeus makes a grand appearance on national television to unveil his new plan to create an army of superhumans; Experiment R. The unsuspecting population rejoice. Soon droves of volunteers sign up to take part with the promises of wealth and prestige. At the same time, Karen receives a coded message from her former captain embarking her on a journey that once again puts Hher physical and mental capabilities to their limits.

For those who enjoyed the first book, I highly recommend the second. If Sacrifice was about Karen discovering her powers, Exposed is about mastering them. Needless to say, Karen is back at it, supercharged, and ready to go.

Despite the obvious difference in power, Karen is a relatable character. Her anger, pride, and raw emotions are illustrated with such care from a first-person perspective. As the main character, Karen is portrayed with enough detail to make her believable and yet still given room to grow. She is a strong girl with a strong personality. Such perfection with one character made the haphazard way that other characters were thrown in seem jarring. Because the story is from a first-person perspective, all other character growth is described through Karen’s thoughts. Some of the major players are well remembered for their importance to Karen. However, many new characters are not given the time to develop a relationship with the main character.

The pacing, I thought, quickly moved from one event to the next with barely any transition; I was left with no concrete timeline. Although the author mentioned tentative time frames, and the ambiguous period of various events was intentional, every section of the story felt similar.

But these are minor glitches in a book that has a lot of potential for the characters and expanding story line. These issues only stand out to me because I was so invested in the character and story. Nikki Haase has command of an entertaining writing style that elevates Experiment X: Exposed above many of the dystopian fiction I’ve read this year.

Pages: 262 | ASIN: B06W9NC7B7

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The Dream Defenders

The Dream Defenders: A YA Sci-Fi Adventure by [DenHartog, Neal]

The Dream Defenders by Neal Denhartog is a young adult science fiction adventure story following Nolan Erling, a fourteen year old boy who has felt forgotten by his parents ever since his baby brother, Max, joined their family. When Nolan keeps waking up with a headache in the morning, he doesn’t suspect that the cause of his problems is his dreams. But Aeryn Sandman knows. She is a junior agent at the DREAM institute, and Nolan is her first official assignment. Her job turns into more than just a simple recruitment mission, however, after Nolan’s unchecked powers release two nightmares into the dreamstream. Suddenly, things turn deadly–because dreams can kill. Will Nolan and Aeryn succeed in protecting millions of innocent dreamers while they sleep?

This book had a unique premise and the writing style was engaging and kept my interest. The author’s descriptions of the actions taking place pulled me into the story. I enjoyed reading about the weird details of Nolan’s dreams and how he could control them and make things happen. There were several humorous parts, as Aeryn fumbled her first official assignment and failed to keep Nolan under control. I liked the descriptions of the whimsical and frightening dreamscapes, which painted a vivid picture of the setting. I loved the Wispes, Stan and Scranton. They were one of my favorite parts of the story.

I felt that the initial ‘reveal’ of the villain happened too soon. Or maybe it could have just been handled differently. Since it seemed as though I’d already learned the villain’s identity at one third of the way through the book, I felt that the story lost some of its momentum after that. Although it took me a little while to get excited about the story again, it did happen well before I got to the crazy twist at the end.

Although the ending was entertaining and thrilling it left me with many questions. I assume that this story is intended to be the first book in the series, and if that’s the case, I would definitely want to read the next book to find out what happens and learn all the answers to my lingering questions. Overall, this is an exceptional book with a unique premise that is guaranteed to entertain.

Pages: 318 | ASIN: B07S475R84

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I, Claudia: A Novel of the Ancient World

I, Claudia: A Novel of the Ancient World by [Wilder, Lin]

The somewhat untold fictional story based on real historical events during one of the most infamous times in human history. This novel explores the story of the persecution of Jesus Christ from the perspective of the wife of the man who ultimately sentenced him to death, Pontius Pilate. 

This story does a fantastic job of showing that despite history painting Pilate as a villain, he was actually a very wise and valiant man who, with the support of his patient and earnest philosophical wife Claudia, did everything to try and save Jesus from the High priests.

This story is a fantastic retelling of one of the most famous times in history. You get to explore the rise of Pontius Pilate and see the human side of him that the gospels leave mainly untold. Plus, much of the story focuses on his wife and her upbringing and events that led her to becoming the woman beside one of the most vilified rulers in the bible. 

This story goes into the heart and mind of the man history has held responsible for the fall of the son of god, and the woman who many believed sat idly by and allowed it to happen. Whilst being technically historical fiction, the plot line and events are very believable and with the fantastic background stories of the main characters being explained properly, you begin to really connect with Pontius and Claudia very early on. 

There is a good dose of suspense and romance sprinkled through the adventure and by the end of it you actually feel genuine sorrow for Claudia and Pontius Pilate because the author did such a remarkable job of making these historical villains into suffering humans just like all of us. 

With the weight of the world on their shoulders, they managed to make the right decisions time after time and you are rooting for them the entire way through the story, hoping for them to succeed and not let the problems of the Empire destroy the idealistic world they created.

Pages: 301 | ASIN: B07LB8NKN4

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Love and Happiness

Love and Happiness by [Burgess Jr., Ben]

Anyone who has been or is married knows that it is work and often the perspective of one partner is completely different from that of his/her partner. This book delves into the difficult topic of two married partners who are not on the same page, which leads to the wife, Karen, seeking what she needs, both physically and emotionally, outside of the marriage.  As the old adage says, what is done in the dark will come to the light! The infidelities are revealed, and Karen and her husband Chris must deal with the fallout. The interesting part about this story is that the reader gets to experience their marriage from both perspectives. This is so revealing about the way that two partners can see things completely differently. It also gives us a better understanding of the complexities of a relationship. Just because someone is unfaithful does not mean that they do not love their partner, which is sometimes counter-intuitive.

The characters in this book are raw, honest, and truly flawed, which often makes them more relatable. It is too easy to wrap up characters in pretty packages that often feels more comfortable to the reader, Burgess is not afraid to show the human side of the people he creates.  As a reader, I found myself often shaking my head at Karen’s behavior, but I also appreciated the real, honesty with which she was portrayed.

I’ll tell you one thing for sure, that woman gets some major action in this book! Burgess is not scared of a sex scene so be prepared for some very descriptive erotic moments. I felt that this added to the realness and rawness of this book rather than detracting from it. Don’t worry, Chris gets some action too!

I also really enjoyed the supporting characters in this book. Chris and Karen’s different set of friends are flawed in their own ways and not always the best influences. They are great additions to the story and a part of helping the couple along in their conclusions. There are times that they definitely added fuel to the fire, but, again, this is a realistic reflection of life and friendships and how they can impact your decisions in your own life.

This book has a fantastic and unexpected arch. It is so realistic and raw! I really love the journey this author takes us on through the perspective of these two people. It really shows how life’s difficult twists and turns can turn out to be exactly what we needed to get where we need to be. I highly recommend this read for anyone who has ever experienced the drama of a loving relationship falling apart and how it can actually lead to the right path.

Pages: 304 | ASIN:  B07V4G3BL8

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Immortals’ Requiem

Immortals' Requiem: An Epic Grimdark Fantasy by [Bobbe, Vincent]

The world is under siege after a thousand-year-old evil awakens threatening the modern-day world. Creatures of old and heroes alike resurface to fight this evil and reclaim the peace that is slowly slipping away. The story follows several unique characters as their lives, both past and present unfold and intertwine, slowly revealing their roles in the grand scheme of good versus evil.

Vincent Bobbe has a writing style perfectly fit for the grimdark fantasy genre. The battle scenes are gritty and realistic. The scenes illustrating magical feats flow perfectly within the context of the story. I thought the use of language and violence was acceptable and never crossed the border of unnecessary. However, at times the character descriptions seemed forced and unnatural, but the author made up for this with rich personality and believable characteristics. I did wonder why this book is lacking in female characters. Of course, there were female characters, but they were only there to serve the men of the story. There is so much rich world building packed into this novel, it is a shame there were no quality female characters to populate it.

Immortals’ Requiem is an epic adventure that would rightfully need the page count it comes with. I expected a slow burn but the first hundred pages are a bitter pill to swallow – time shifts drastically and the point of view switches often. I am a fan of a perspective change among the variety of main characters and Immortals’ Requiem lends itself well to this narration style. It keeps the plot moving and allows the various character plot points to develop simultaneously. But in the end, I felt that the the perspectives change so rapidly that it was difficult to follow along and establish a focal point for each character. I can tell that the author put a lot of thought into every aspect of the individuals, it would have been nice to get more time reading about each character before moving on to another. The quality of the writing is easy to read and there were no major mistakes. And while I appreciated the scenic details, some of the chapters were drawn out with too many specifics clashing together.

Overall the Vincent Bobbe does a fantastic job of blending the modern feel of Manchester to the old-world magic he so eloquently writes about. The two characters Cam and Grimnir personify this juxtaposition perfectly and quickly become my two favorites among the cast. The characters truly drive the plot and develop the story as you learn more about their history and evolving personalities. If you are a fan of urban or dark fantasy I would recommend you give this book a go.

Pages: 554 | ASIN: B07DDDVDR5

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Experiment X: Exposed

Experiment X: Exposed by [Haase, Nikki]

The first thing I noticed when I started reading this book was how calm the narrator’s tone was. It starts by telling how we hear about stories of women who, after a night out, end up in strange surroundings with sour legs and a bad taste in their mouth. I expected the plot to follow this narrative but Nikki Haase had a pleasant surprise for the reader as the story shifted to a more intense plot. The author is great at describing events that I could imagine everything she talked about. The vivid descriptions is one of the things that made this book a fantastic read.

I enjoyed Rebekah’s introduction into the story. Being able to view Rebekah through the eyes of Karen  made her a special character to me. Karen hated Rebeka, disliked her fake rosy red-lipped smile and could not stand her light brown eyes. I love when the author does this because it makes me more interested in a particular character. Rebekah was perceived to be one of the unlikeable characters at the start of the book. I kept reading about her, built my own perception of her, and came up with a neutral judgment of her. Despite the narrator making Rebekah appear like an evil character at first, I found her to be extraordinary and fascinating.

Enter Jack and the plot twists in the book. We are first introduced to Jack as he talks with Karen at the party. Jack seemed like a gentleman. I like how he appeared at the opportune moment when Dante had disappointed Karen. The interaction between Dante and Jack was obviously unpleasant as the two tried to flex their muscles on who the better gentleman was. Reading about the conspiracy theory about an experiment conducted by the military and the U.S government was not only thrilling but also frightening.

Who wouldn’t enjoy a story about a government facility that houses super soldiers? The breaking of the theory and the actions that followed were electrifying. The characters in the book were excellently developed. Karen was the main character in the book and also significant in the whole experiment. It was interesting how Karen was oblivious of her role until Jack showed up.

I liked how Jack enters the story as an antagonist but ends up… ah, I won’t spoil it. I enjoyed this fantastic, action packed, story immensely and I highly recommend it.

Pages: 262 | ASIN: B06W9NC7B7

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The Dung Beetles of Liberia

The Dung Beetles of Liberia: a novel based on true events by [Meier, Daniel V. Jr.]

An adventure story of a young man trying to escape his past and punish himself for the death of his brother. Set in the wild and lawless country of Liberia, this story is an epic roller coaster ride that takes you through the exciting highs of life in a proper libertarian society, while not being shy about the harsh realities of life without law. It has romance, action, villains and an unconventional good guy pilot who might be rough on the outside but has a big heart for the country he decided to call home. Quite an education into the airline industry in a third world nation.

This novel does a great job of highlighting some inconvenient truths of emerging countries who accept deals from international companies and the harshness that occurs to the regular people.

Resource rich nations with uneducated citizens have been dominated by the rich since history began and The Dung Beetles of Liberia does a fantastic job at unmasking the on the ground truth of this exploitative situation.

Told through the eyes of a young American man running away from his problems back home, it does a great job of placing him in many different situations and meeting many different people involved in the shady business of a resource rich country, capitalizing on the lack of education of the majority of its people.

Some of the language used makes it hard to read when the author is trying to convey the accents of the natives and other pilots in the story. I felt that it could do without the misspelling of words that conveyed and the accents of characters.

The plot of the story is a bit scattered, leaving me to wonder what the central adventure/struggle was that the main character should overcome. Whilst this kept things interesting, it would have preferred to have had a few less love interests, and a stronger focus on just a few issues Ken was to face in his journey.

Overall, this story is well worth a read and does a great job in depicting what it would be like in an emerging 3rd world country that is run by dictators who are making obscene amounts of money off the backs of the native people. This is a story that is hard to put down and keeps you on your toes as to what will happen next, right down to the last chapter.

Pages: 289 | ASIN: B07PJ1K929

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