Category Archives: Four Stars

The Backwards K

The Backwards K by [Hebert, J. J.]

Reading a sports-themed inspirational novel is one of the best things about literature. You get to learn a lot about particular sports and your heart is filled with hope and aspirations at the same time. ‘The Backwards K’ is a great book simply because the author wrote it with enthusiasm and deep feelings. The book is nothing but entertaining, exciting, fun to read and educative. There is so much one can learn from Jet Brine’s life; everything from his struggles, achievements, goals, personal life, general work and contribution to the baseball community. Reading about Jet Brine’s love for baseball was a wonderful experience. I learned how passion and dedication can make you move mountains through his life. Each one of us wants to be a winner and achieve set goals at the end. Jet Brine made me clearly visualize this.

Jet Brine’s end game was to be the best at baseball. He loved slot machines too and enjoyed playing the games. I loved that about him because they made the story cheerful and happy. I loved reading Jet’s story up until things started falling apart. I must admit that I did not see the troubles in his marriage coming, as he seemed so much in love. Linda is among the characters I loved in the book. I had so much faith in her as she seemed to turn things around. She rarely disappointed and was incredible throughout. She was one of the engaging characters whom I could feel connected to. I loved how she reasoned and how she brought the best in everyone. I appreciate her because her encounter with Jet Brine made the plot interesting and fun to read.

The Backwards K is a fictional inspiration book which apart from being entertaining, offers lessons that can help the reader in real life. It is great when a work of fiction blends with the real world, making the reader relate better to the events and the characters in the book. There are some things that most of us did in the past and would love to forget or overcome them. Jet Briner struggled with such things and got to be in situations where he needed to forgive self to move forward. Through Jet Brine, one gets to see how imperfect humans are. You may excel in everything else but one thing comes between you and your success. I am glad the author helped me examine myself when he wrote about Jet. The major theme in the book may have been sports but the author sure explored a lot of issues through the main character.

J. J. Hebert is an excellent writer. His way of storytelling is great and his execution of characters worth noting. Everything in the book flowed well; the plot, themes in the book, lessons, the diction and the general presentation of content. The author is skilled in more than one ways. I love that he made me inspired and motivated by reading Jet Brine’s story. One good thing about J. J. Hebert is his style of narration. One easily grasps what he is talking about and fully enjoys the story.

Pages: 226 | ASIN:  B076B6M1RS

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The Land of Ick and Eck: Harlot’s Encounters

Harlot is mostly driven by curiosity and a desire to find interesting things. Like those blue flowers she loves so much. Harlot’s Encounters in the Land of Ick and Eck is a dark children’s story. Harlot walks through this mythical world and often finds ‘friends’ to walk the distance with her. Typical of all children, she makes friends quickly. Often voices her thoughts. She does not seem to understand the concept of fear even when she is encased in a dome with rising temperatures. It is interesting to look at life from such a perspective.

This is definitely a dark fantasy children’s story, but not too dark though. It would make for an interesting and wonderful Halloween pick. Micah Genest does a great job of painting vivid pictures. Even with actual painted pictures within the book. The book provides more than enough material for the reader with an active imagination to set the mental scenes. Very colorful and delightfully sinewy characters. Each with a quirk of their own. Perhaps the biggest take for an adult in all this is the way all the characters just move together despite being vastly different.

Harlot is typical of any kid, really. She’s innocent and looks at the world into which she is cast with pure interest and curiosity. Never judging anything and anyone. She is very trusting with almost blind optimism. Most children who read this book will understand her desire to follow voices and strange creatures. This book reads a lot like a dream. With vivid pictures and whimsical occurrences.

Oh my, the songs and chants. Imagine how fun it would be to try this out at a Halloween sleep over. They are so interesting and fun to follow. They almost take the gloom out of this decidedly morbid tale. This could very well be my most liked parts of the book.

For a children’s book, the vocabulary is quite advanced and may prove challenging for children. However, this could be a good thing as it could be an exercise in building vocabulary. It could help develop an interest in learning and seeking out new words. It is doubtful that most children will read into the illustrations by John Bauer. See them as more than just pictures. You never know though, this could be another fun exercise for these malleable young minds.

This book may be aimed at children but adults will enjoy it too. It reads like a children’s book but the plot and writing itself are excellent. This book reminds me of the children’s book, In A Dark, Dark Room: and Other Scary Stories. Fascinating, morbid, curious, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Pages: 208 | ASIN: B07MXPYLJ7

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Rogue Genes

Rogue Genes, by Jardine Henry Hart tells the tale of Tommy McConachie. Abandoned at birth as a one day old baby at the hospital, he was adopted by nurse Marge and her husband Joe. After her husband died suddenly Marge found herself raising Tommy all alone. As he became a teenager he began to rebel and after spending time in a boy’s detention center he joined the army. After serving time in the Special Service Tommy returned home, but his time in the army had left its impact. When his beloved mother passes away he is intent on seeking revenge.

This book is filled with all things a suspense novel should have; action, suspense, anxiety, surprise, anticipation and of course plot twists.

Rogue Genes has quite a number of characters. The story begins and evolves around Tommy, his mother – Ticker, and his two best friends, Sparrow and BB.  The characters are well developed and the relationships are realistic and believable. Soon, other characters are introduced, all with their own unique and interesting stories.

Tommy is portrayed as a strong male character and the reader gets small insights into his past life in the military and the violence he encountered, and hints of the violence in his future. He is an intense and deeply loyal man who is searching for a woman to love and be loved by.

The introduction of such a woman adds interest and direction to the story. Her character is the polar opposite to Tommy and provides a clever contrast. She has had a stable, if not sheltered, childhood. I felt that some of the bizarre coincidences and twists were a little far-fetched. Although these bizarre coincidences are part of the story, at times the intertwining of the relationships becomes almost unbelievable.

Rogue Genes is still a deeply provocative and gripping read. Like all good thrillers there is plenty of action, and the reader is constantly kept guessing. It is ultimately a story of self discovery, and of course, a journey to see if good will eventually overcome evil.

Pages: 308 | ISBN: 1925834409

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On Loving

From an early age Rose Hemmings is asked to define love, a theme that is analyzed throughout the book and truly encompasses On Loving. While at the time she cannot compose a definite response, a single turning point in Rose’s life has her struggling to find the answer. She continues to question what love means as she narrates the story of her life.

On Loving begins with the tragedy of Rose’s beloved father, a man she attributes her love of literature, and who urges Rose to find the truth of her birth parents resulting in a spontaneous trip to Iran in search of answers. Just before leaving Rose’s world is once again shaken to the core as she comes face to face with a stranger who instantly steals her heart away. In a twist of fate, the two fly off to Iran resulting in a storm of emotional chaos involving family, secrets revealed and another man to drastically change Rose’s life forever.

For blatantly being a romance novel, On Loving rarely rears the exotic scenes of lust and passion. Instead, Lili Naghdi illustrates a love story shrouded in poetic anecdotes and literary quotes through the eyes of an A-typical surgeon inquiring every aspect of her ever-changing life. The story of Rose spans decades of heartache and misfortune, deep longing and joyous fulfillment.

However, I could never completely empathize with Rose. She shows all the signs of a well thought out main character, the author thoroughly explored the mind of Rose Hemming detailing all her faults and frustrations. I could tell Naghdi held Rose close to her heart while writing this book. The story is written in the first person, and like so, we are bound to watching Rose make decisions the reader might not completely agree with.

Overcoming these hiccups, I found steady glimpses of genuine understanding for several characters. Especially in the second half of the book, Naghdi beautiful vindicates the hurricane of emotions Rose has been building up throughout the story. Those moments of Rose carefully weighing her judgments, decisions, and feelings are true bliss. Moreover, the authors’ literary insight is phenomenal and while at times the call back to famous authors and poets is overdone, each example is carefully chosen perfectly matching the mood of the scene.

Any romantic or literary buff will wholeheartedly enjoy this book. Read the book and you will understand.

Pages: 483 | ASIN: B07NSJLJLZ

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Treasure Fever

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Lexa Tantaros sure can stir things up. To some, she is a thief. To herself and possibly Agent Max Finley, she is a woman on a worthy cause. A cause to let the world see the treasures contained within. The story follows the wanted archaeologist as she searches for the treasure of El Dorado. It will take blood, sweat and tears to get there and gather all the necessary clues. Governments are after her, but she’s not fazed. Will she be successful in her mission? Can El Dorado be found or is it merely fable?

James McPike has created an action thriller that takes off quickly and does not slow down. He takes the reader on a journey across Peru, keeping you on the edge of your seat. One minute you think they’ll definitely be smoked out. The next minute has them hurtling down an abyss. The story has so much character, and the plot is encased in excellent prose, with just the right amount of drama.

The character development is ingenious. Lexa is a woman who can charm anyone. She’s not fazed by much even when bullets are flying. She only seems to be a little frazzled in the last moments before she is placed on the ledge where she is to plunge to her death. I always enjoy a strong female protagonist that emotionally develops throughout the story. Max is torn between his service to country and his instinct about Lexa. I enjoyed watching these characters interact.

While the history between Max and Lexa is obviously of consequence, it seems like Max gives in to Lexa too easily. It feels like there should be some sort of struggle before he trusts her so blindly. With Max being a self-proclaimed best, right? He leaves her unattended on the very first night he finds her. This is quickly forgotten though as the reader is taken on the adventure through Peru. Also it seems like the end may justify those initial actions.

This is a short but engaging read. You can feel the palpable chemistry between the characters. There is a sort of James Bond-ish ending which is absolutely delightful.

Pages: 173

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Chasing The Red Queen

Chasing the Red Queen by [Glista, Karen]

Chasing the Red Queen opens with the recently turned 18-year-old Donja, a self-proclaimed goth who is uprooted from the normalcy of teenage life. Her mother remarries, giving Donja a new home, a new father and a new stepsister. What starts out as an angsty teens tribulations quickly shifts to darker elements as violent murders begin to hit close to home. New characters emerge, friendships are made, and lovers unite exposing a history of supernatural elements and family secrets Donja never expected.

Karen Glista offers an urban fantasy with a dash of crime, horror and steamy romance all set to the backdrop of vampire lore. A perfect weekend read for those favoring the genre. The author also provides new components to these otherwise over told stories with well researched historical content and fleshed out explanations for the mystical aspects. The mix of first nation cultural and detailed locational history give a fresh twist to this vampire romance which kept me intrigued to the very end.

I found Donja to be likable as the main character. Although the constant reminder of her gothic reputation is repeated one too many times, otherwise her emotional response and reactions are believable throughout the story. I adored the character development between Donja and her stepsister Makayla, from beginning to end they share a bond that unites them through a roller-coaster of emotional events.

Unlike Donja, where she shines in the first half of the book, her counterpart Torin unfolds as the main player towards the end of the book. Once Torin takes center stage I found myself more invested in his story and the account of his mysterious past as well as that of his kind.

I felt that the timeline was a little vague; how much time did everything take, was it days, hours, weeks? I also felt that their were quick leaps in character changes (ie. Frankie, I didn’t know what was happening to him until it was already over). These are the only minor things holding the book back. 

However, the story surprised me with well thought out action scenes and gritty dialog. While some secondary characters faded into the background a few shown through and had my full attention. Chasing the Red Queen is a quick read with an equally fast-paced plot, yet will still give the reader enough time to establish a connection to the story, characters and paranormal features.

Pages: 277 | ASIN: B079KJFJW8

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The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen: A Daughter’s Tale of Family and Football

The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen: A Daughter's Tale of Family and Football by [Leachman, Lori]

The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen, written by Lori Leachman is the story of American Football coach Lamar Leachman from the perspective of his daughter. It follows a coach’s journey from professional player to high school coach to National Football League coach. We see the impact this has on his wife and two daughters. It is a uniquely feminine glimpse into what was ultimately a man’s world – where winning was everything!

Leachman writes of how her father’s chosen profession had an impact on herself and the life of her family. One impact was the geographical impact, always moving to where the job opportunities lay. The family had to move numerous times and she documents the effect this had on the children, in particular. They had to constantly make new friends, and learn the social mores in each new community. The children’s closest friends were often the children of the other football coaches. She describes how they were tough kids, they were coaches’ kids.

Leachman provides an interesting view of Black Civil Rights and how views differed among places. Her view of mixed race friendships were simple; if she liked someone she would be their friend. That of course, contrasted with the views many adults at that time had. She describes briefly living in Cartersville and being confronted by “Blacks Only” signs at the theater and the confusion she felt when she realized African Americans weren’t allowed to swim in the pool. This must have been a bewildering time for a young girl who was immersed in the professional world of football – where African Americans were respected for their skill.

Although her father’s career may have had some negative impacts for her, as she gets older she realizes that her lifestyle had some benefits. Leachman recounts the day she realized her family had some money to spare – something a lot of families did not have.

Tragically the person impacted most by his career choice was the coach himself. Leachman describes how her father’s mental capacity began to decline, and how he was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy attributed to injuries he received during his career.

This memoir is cleverly written, as it progresses through we see Leachman begin to understand her father’s talent as a coach, she recognizes his skill and determination and love for his wife and daughters. The only criticism of the book would be that on one occasion Leachman jumps back and forth between decades which interrupts the flow of the story.

This memoir is an interesting insight to the life of a professional coach, his dedication to the sport, and the impact and experiences for both him and his family.

Pages: 230 | ASIN: B07BRSTNNZ

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The Scopas Factor

The Scopas Factor by [Panettiere, Vincent]

When Mike Hegan’s last case ends tragically, the detective hopes to put everything behind him. His girlfriend instead brings him along on a hopeful job opportunity to a small town in north California and little does he realize the web forming there to ensnare them both. Hegan finds himself thrust into the middle of a kidnapping and double homicide. When a link that is too close to home provides a lead, Hegan decides that he must dive deeper if he is going to get to the truth. Antiques, forged art, and foreign drug dealers all come together to make an on-your-toes mystery.

Hegan is your typical somewhat damaged detective from the noir tradition. He is a well-rounded character and is interesting to follow as he attempts to piece together these varied elements into a conclusive solve. The emotional depth that Panettiere can bring out, because of how personal this mystery becomes is impactful. The reader can feel a certain amount of distress from Hegan as he continues to struggle to figure it all out. Hegan made this story such a joy to read and it is my hope that these books become more serialized as they go along. It would be interesting to see how he develops over time.

Panettiere’s mystery is an expansive novel that straddles the fence between a mystery and thriller. The length of this novel works against the suspense, since some of the more filler passages work against the tension built in the story. But this is made up by his poetic prose, beautiful descriptions and clever dialogue. But at times I felt the pace of the story slowed because of this, this may be the only mark against him, since all the other elements of Hegan’s arc coinciding with the plot arc was brought together quite well by the end.

Recommended for readers of thriller mysteries. Based on some of the more aesthetic qualities to this story, such as the forged art and antiques, those who enjoy such stories would not be disappointed either. This novel establishes Panettiere as a solid new writer in the mystery genre and I look forward to more of his work.

Pages: 310 | ASIN: B07JP69TH3

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Boomerang Will Not Return

Boomerang Will Not Return: A Novel of Time Travel by [Crane, David]

David Crane’s Boomerang Will Not Return is a time-travel book set in both the 21st century and 1942-era Germany. It involves three central characters named Stugel, Hartmann, and Crown. One day, Hartmann and Crown fly a secret military plane to deliver cargo to the United States. They were chosen to test it and successfully take off into the skies of Germany. However, soon after flight the bomber gets warped into 1942 Germany due to the influence of a time bending comet. There, they’re intercepted and need to find a way to escape. Hartmann must use his wits and work together with Crown to successfully escape the clutches of their enemies.

You can tell that David Crane has down his research by how in-depth he goes with the weapons and environment of the past. I loved how suspense was kept throughout the book with Hartmann and Deana Crown’s efforts to get through wartime Germany. I personally think the subplot with busting the Russian spies was highly entertaining. However, even with the suspenseful action I didn’t feel it warranted as much attention. It distracted from the main plot line. I would have wanted to see more of the main plot line with our two heroes, as it was much more engaging. There were times in the book where I was left unsure of whether the heroes would actually come out unscathed or not. There was a bit of foreshadowing that let me down, but otherwise the suspense palpable throughout. The interactions that Stugel had with our central characters were interesting, even in the past. Their relationship actually seemed realistic and not forced. Deana and Hartmann were also well-structured, having skills which made them seem balanced and not overpowered. They were also human, having actual worries and even moments of doubt. Emotion like that isn’t seen a lot in spy or government involved movies. Another thing I really found interesting was how the book didn’t represent all of the enemy soldiers as bad, which was a nice contrast from other books which involve the prewar environment.

Crane managed to write a book that captured both sides of the fight. The way he represented the secret government services were all pretty well done. I found this book to be both entertaining and interesting.

Pages: 209 | ASIN: B00LAD30EE

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The Fantastic Inner life of an American Teenager

The Fantastic Inner Life of An American Teenager

There aren’t many books that I’ve read that I would have a difficult time placing within a specific genre, or at least spanned across a couple of distinct styles. The Fantastic Inner Life of an American Teenager, however, is a work that is in a class of its own, and that’s a good thing.

Part fiction, part reality, and pretty much all intensely inventive and imaginative, this real-life diary written by a teenage girl about some of the hopes and dreams that she had reveals multiple levels of the author’s reality. In fact, this book is the work of a girl named Desiree, AKA YAEL, who experienced a childhood and adolescence worlds apart from what many view as ‘normal’.

According to the editor, Regine Dubono (The author’s mother), YAEL suffered from mental illness from a young age and found family life to be a challenge. Due to those difficulties in coping with everyday events, the author was quickly labelled and placed within a mental hospital where she would be medicated to the point of losing much of her happiness and contentment that she had known before. What’s more is that due to the reaction of the medical staff charged with caring for Desiree, that same medication severely hampered her natural skill and talent as a playwright.

This book opens a window into the heart of the author and shows us just how incredibly talented she was. Her clarity in purpose while creating the scenes of her play are engaging and honest, and each line seems like a well-thought-out continuation of thoughts nurtured over time.

That said, it does take a bit of work to follow the trains of thought through to the end as there are several threads which are interwoven throughout the screenplay. There are references and concepts that jump in from out of the blue but once the writer’s mind and process is better understood, taking in this work becomes much smoother. It is different for sure, and it is eye-opening in many ways. If you are one to relish taking in the personality of the authors you read, The Fantastic Inner Life of an American Teenager will provide a full serving.

I would have appreciated footnotes and information from the editor that would have helped provide more background for certain times throughout the authors life while this diary was being written. I couldn’t help but think that I was missing pieces of vital information while reading. Other than that, this is an impressive work from an even more impressive teenage author.

Pages: 120 | ISBN: 9781312599161

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