Category Archives: Four Stars

A Climate Of The Heart

Introspection, various levels of metacognition, and a good hard look at the human mind as a whole permeate A Climate of the Heart: Only Relatedness Can Save Us by Ian Mills. From cover to cover, the author takes time to explore each and every aspect of life, our identities as human beings, and the way in which we relate to the world around us. Readers are treated to an intense examination of thoughts, feelings, interrelatedness, and reactions in our everyday lives. A Climate of the Heart: Only Relatedness Can Save Us takes readers on a journey via probing questions, astute observations, and a breakdown of the author’s every thought.

I was thoroughly impressed and, to a certain degree, overwhelmed with the level of reflection detailed by the author. There is an unmistakable level of genius conveyed with each of the chapters in Mills’s work. Readers are taken on what can only be described as a roller coaster ride into the mind of the author as they see, feel, and hear his every thought and the way in which he interprets each of them. Right out of the gate, Mills explains to his readers, in no uncertain terms, that he is about to take them deep inside his own mind—and he does that and more.

Interestingly, Mills has chosen a writing style so intricate and involved that it is hard to discern if it is more reminiscent of prose or poetry. Interspersed throughout Mills’s explanations of his innermost thoughts are seemingly poetic and poignant lines that drive home his ideas and offer a break from the prose heavy with soul-searching commentary.

As far as organization of thought is concerned, I did find the book difficult to follow overall. While Mills gives us a breathtaking glimpse into his understanding of his own thought processes, the flow of the material and the framework of the text lacks a certain level of organization. I felt, at times, as if I were listening to the thoughts as they occurred straight from the author’s mind. A virtual avalanche of ideas seemed to come tumbling upon the reader simultaneously through most parts of the work.

A Climate of the Heart: Only Relatedness Can Save Us is filled with beautiful thoughts on everything from relationships, friendships, and ethics to intricate explanations of self-examination and self-awareness. Readers seeking a book rich in introspective thought will find Ian Mills’s work a welcome read.

Pages: 326 | ISBN-10: 0975094416

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The Darker Light

The Darker Light: Beyond the Gates Book 2 (Volume 2) by [McCain, Lynn]

The Darker Light by Lynn McCain finds Lily in the midst of deep dissatisfaction and restlessness. Although she has tried to forget the trials and tribulations of Arcadia, she somehow feels even more out of place in the world she belongs in now. Soon, however, she is summoned back to Arcadia by a terrible prophecy that she has to fulfill. She has to defeat a foe much more powerful than Reciful this time around. All the while facing the possibility of a tragic betrayal from the one she holds closest to her heart.

Since she has had her memories removed, she has to relearn all the tragedies of her past. Henry, Calev, and her grandfather all had been hiding dark secrets from her that haunt Lily for the rest of the story. However, she meets and befriends some fantastical new characters that assist her in the journey, like Lord Bran.

The plot of The Darker Light is fascinating because there is an inherent greyness to the characters that comes from being held helpless against a prophecy. Although Lilith is conducting horrible misdeeds, I could still feel a modicum of empathy towards her. Everyone seemed to be doing the best they could to protect themselves and fight for their loved ones.

It was also fascinating watching Arcadia unfold from Lily’s best friend, Clarice’s perspective. There was a pleasing contrast between Lily’s recognition of this fantastical place and Clarice’s wonder.  I appreciated this subtle shift in perspective that was present throughout the story. Calev, Henry, Lillith, everyone was allowed to present their own views on the situation. It made for a story with a lot of depth and intrigue.

Like the previous installment, this story had some strong Narnia resemblances: everything from the evil queen to the different anthropomorphic creatures. There were a barrage of characters being introduced every other chapter and it could get a little confusing, but the plot remained crystal clear and quick-paced. The Darker Light is perfect for anyone who is home for a few days and looking for a Narnia-esque adventure.

Pages: 298 | ASIN: B07592DFKG

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The Mermaid’s Grandson

The Mermaid's Grandson by [Tremayne, Eleanor]

Nothing about Dakini’s existence is simple, not even her name. She grows up with little knowledge of her roots and has to make do with sketchy and terse details about her heritage from her father. There is little hope that she will ever find answers to her many questions but things take an interesting turn. Possessed with an intense desire to be a successful writer like her father, Dakini tries to do more than just report conventional stories as most journalists do. She takes an interest in the age-long art of storytelling and goes in search of the perfect story. Her search leads her to an ancient manuscript bearing an incredible tale that would change her life forever.

The Mermaid’s Grandson by Eleanor Tremayne is a work of fiction that plunges us into the world of mythical creatures: mermaids and their interactions with humans. Tremayne gives us an exquisite taste of two worlds: mermaids in water and mermaids on land, amongst humans. Sounds like something out of Disney, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s just as thrilling. She makes her mermaids stroll through the portals of time at will (apparently, that’s one of the powers of mermaids) so we get glimpses of several eras and can appreciate the peculiarities of these times alongside the story’s plot.

While stories about mythical creatures with a greater focus on the supernatural abilities of these beings could easily captivate a younger audience, a more mature audience would look to underlying themes to better appreciate the stories. Tremayne appeals to both our sense of imagination and our thirst for meaning by crafting her story around powerful themes. One is the unfathomable power of love and how it can drive beings to points far beyond their perceived limits, cause them to damn even the gravest consequences and make the bravest sacrifices. Tremayne also turns our attention to the strength that lies in resilient women, community and togetherness. Also, by contrasting certain traits of the mermaids with human characteristics, we can further appreciate some precious instincts we’ve been gifted with and even the deficiencies we are stuck with.

I liked how Tremayne made the characters narrate their tales in the first person. It helped create some sort of realness about them, especially the mermaids. They had voices that could be heard and personalities that could be read. This took the book from being just a fantastic work of imagination to being a stimulator of strong emotions. In addition to this, the author’s knack for sprinkling literary works ranging from short poems by famous authors, to insightful quotes from notable people added extra style and spice to the book. If you are one who enjoys fiction plus fantasy, you’ll love Tremayne’s latest work.

Pages: 319 | ASIN: B084DYVYSB

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Immersed In West Africa

Immersed in West Africa: My Solo Journey Across Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau (Kindle) (Travels With Terry Book 1) by [Lister, Terry]

Immersed in West Africa follows one man’s journey across many roads less traveled, giving a glimpse into a part of the world that is unfamiliar to most. Terry Lister begins his 2-month journey in Senegal, where he loops the region, exploring Gambia, Guineas Bissau and Conakry, amongst others, before ending his journey back where he began.

The beauty of Lister’s journey is that he writes in a way that made me feel like I was right there with him. Every page in this book was as if I were reading a postcard from a friend, accompanied by photos of Lister’s journey. It made for a quick read that I finished in one sitting, and his very casual style of writing meant it was easy to consume.

Before coming across this book, I was entirely unfamiliar with Lister. However, he addresses the reader as if you have a long history. Often, he reminds us of things that you ‘know’ about him, such as that he has a “thing for volcanoes… and a thing for waterfalls” and his passion for “renewable energy sources”. I am still not clear how we would already be aware of that information, but I found it charming, nonetheless.

Personal highlights include the tale of the time-consuming tea-making ceremony in Mauritania.  Once again, Lister’s casual way of accounting the story made it feel like he was recounting the memory over a beer or coffee.

With that being said, I am unsure if this is intended to be read by anyone. The title mentions immersion, and while I have no doubt that Lister achieved that on his travels, the brisk explanations made it hard for me as a reader to feel the same way. More a memoir than a guidebook, I can picture future generations of Lister’s family sitting around and reading this compelling story.

Lister’s unwavering positive attitude throughout was undeniably charming. Given the endless amount of challenges Lister faced, from customs inspectors to taxi drivers, it was hugely admirable. It’s quite hard not to imagine Lister’s smiling face as I read the words on the page.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B07WH7JH6G

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Untimely Love

Untimely Love by [Brotherton, Dawn]

Untimely Love by Dawn Brotherton is a contemporary love story following Jamie, a woman in her mid-thirties who is focused on her career as head of the human resources department. Jamie has been drifting apart from her husband and she finds herself developing an unexpected interest in one of her co-workers, Ben. What starts out as a friendship quickly turns into deeper feelings. When Jamie catches her husband cheating her marriage ends in divorce. But is she ready to jump into a new relationship with the man who has occupied so many of her thoughts recently?

Untimely Love is not your typical love story where you can immediately guess the plot of the story. The nuanced sentiment and internal emotional turmoil is what kept me glued to the pages. I slowly, almost unwittingly, became invested in Jamie’s character after reading about the relateable struggles she goes through in her marriage and work life. I was rooting for her throughout the story hoping at every turn that she would find happiness, in whatever way made sense to her. I enjoyed seeing Jamie and Ben’s sensitive relationship slowly develop, and then passionately flourish.

Although I came to appreciate, and really like, Jamie’s character, I didn’t care for her character at the start of the book. I felt that at times she acted a bit rash and over emotional, but in other instances she seemed as though she was much older than her age. But this was only the beginning. Jamie’s character changes throughout the book into someone that I could understand and admire. I ended up liking how Jamie was portrayed much more in the second half of the story, where she is a confident, professional businesswoman. This transformation was something I really enjoyed.

Although I enjoyed the characters and the story, I felt that there were a bit too many flashbacks between the present and the past, when Jamie and Ben first met. I felt that it interrupted the flow of the story and it was hard to keep track of what was happening between the two of them in the moment.

Untimely Love is a book that catches you off guard. It starts simply enough but slowly develops into a touching story about love, life, and the pursuit of happiness. I would definitely recommend this to readers who enjoy a suspenseful and emotional love story.

Pages: 232 | ASIN: B086558NW1

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The Green Alliance

The Green Alliance (ORCA Adventures Book 4) by [Rafkin, Andrew J.]

The U.S. has to defend itself and the world from extremist organizations and political tyrants yet again. The Green Alliance, a well-funded radical environmental group leads America’s formidable enemies this time. The group’s plans to tackle global warming are causing serious climate changes bordering on a mini ice age in Europe and North America. The Ocean Reconnaissance Commission and Associates, a renowned private security firm is called in to stop them. ORCA tries to juggle this new mission with an existing one that required it to track down and eliminate the killers of top government officials. To further complicate issues for ORCA and the US.., China attempts to take back Taiwan yet again. With this, ORCA and the U.S. find themselves fighting multiple simultaneous battles in a frantic race to preserve world peace. Will these battles prove to be insurmountable even for the world’s number one superpower nation and the globe’s leading private security firm?

The Green Alliance is the fourth book in the ORCA series by Amazon Bestselling Author, Andrew Rafkin. The events are set in the 21st Century, accompanied by a peek into the near future. Places and political structures are real but we see the introduction of intriguing advancements to familiar technology like Artificial Intelligence and nanotechnology. Rafkin’s skill at mixing fictional characters with real places, and politics and technology, give this book a thrilling yet relatable feel.

Rafkin crafts his story around several themes including the United States’ affinity for standing up for itself and the possibilities that man’s tinkering with technology could create. For example, ORCA with their highly sophisticated supercomputer; MOBY. I personally enjoyed all the cool weapons and gizmos used in the book. The story also sheds light on modern environmental problems and the opportunities we have at escalating them into serious global crises in the coming years; eco-terrorism and power struggles among nations. I also enjoyed the way cute love stories were plugged in amidst all the chaos.

Rafkin’s work also proved to be incredibly informative, but in a fun way. Think of learning about seemingly drab concepts like climate change and the propulsion systems of sophisticated boats while being distracted by a riveting plot, now that’s what I call learning made easy. Also, conversations are filled with light-hearted banter and interesting interactions that help to portray the characters, especially members of ORCA as humans and not just ice-cold killers or superheroes in the Superman class. Although, some of the explanations on boring concepts seemed redundant and there were places where characters recounted entire experiences that readers were already privy to.

The Green Alliance is a thrilling action adventure story that kept me entertained to the last page.

Pages: 287 | ASIN: B082RJ2STT

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Planet of Men

Planet of Men (Enigma Book 2) by [Crane, David]

Planet of Men: Book 2 of Enigma follows Peter Blackwood as he tries to save his planet Enigma from the lurking dangers of invasion and the alien red cloud. Accompanying him are a ragtag bunch of rebel smugglers as he tries to find and activate the Heart of the Sun before it is too late. Despite his personal struggles and sacrifices, Blackwood has to keep a brave outlook in the face of danger, inventing new, ingenious strategies and tactics to keep the enemy armies at bay.

The starting scene of the book immediately drew me in. The way the author kept lulling me into a sense of calm and then suddenly bringing in the action was startling and always kept me on edge. Peter Blackwood, the protagonist is one of the most relatable protagonists I have read in awhile. He is brave and trying to do his best in the hostile situations he keeps finding himself in. This is not to say that he does not have flaws, because he does. And the fact that we are let in to see him fighting his internal and external demons adds to his wonderful and very real character. He represented a persons desire for freedom and equality, without losing their humanity. I could almost see him as being the male equivalent to Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games.

The female characters in this story were also depicted as strong and inspiring. Both Sachiko Nomura and Lita Sandir were both well fleshed-out characters. Their lives existed beyond being simply narrative tools for the story, and I loved both of their personalities.

The imagination behind the weapons and battle methods used in the story were impressive. I usually find myself zoning out in fantasy fiction books when an extremely complicated and difficult-to-follow action sequence comes up. However, that was not the case here. David Crane is an expert at keeping the reader engaged throughout the scene, while keeping it easy to follow.

The insidious presence of the alien red cloud was also one of the most unique antagonistic presences I have come across in sci-fi. The omnipresent danger always lurking around the corner, catching every single misstep- I got chills at the simple but terrifying reality of the situation. This was a gripping book and perfect for anyone with an interest in science fiction and fantasy.

Pages: 231 | ASIN: B008D535S8

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One Queen Of An Ending

One Queen of an Ending is book three in Zachary Ryan’s The High School Queens Trilogy. The Johnson Prep friends and enemies are back for one last volume. Instead of enjoying easy, carefree days, these teens are at each other’s throats, at times almost literally. The book is full of high school drama that is reminiscent of the movie Heathers and Mean Girls with a bit of a Carrie-like twist.

If you think you have problems, this book will make you thankful for your likely mundane life in comparison. The characters have to deal with and/or create family drama, daddy issues, sex tapes, prostitution, tons of accusations, funerals, blackmail, and maybe even more murder. Parents even pit their kids against each other. I felt like absolutely no one felt trustworthy and no moment was peaceful in this fast-paced whirlwind of a read.

If a reader blushes easily or shies away from profanity and/or sexual situations, this book is probably not the best choice for them. But if vulgar words and sexual innuendo don’t bother you then you will find plenty of scandalous moments that will keep your interest piqued. The book also deals with LGBT issues along with other problems that young adults face through high school and into adult hood. One Queen of an Ending is a provocative conclusion to a trilogy, with its sexual and curse-peppered language, even though it has that classic high school feel; I think it’s safe to say that this novel is edgy at best and risque at worst; a step away from the CW channel and a step toward HBO.

The constant vulgarity and profanity was a bit of a turn off for me. I don’t usually mind it, but it seemed like it was every other word in some parts. Even though I understood its use for setting the tone and character, I think a little bit of restraint could have gone a long way with some of it.

One Queen of an Ending has good ideas and deep discourse on social issues facing young adults. I enjoyed the changes in narratives of the different characters because I was able to see the story from their perspective. Many twists in the story and interlacing of characters, punctuated by ‘oh-my-god’ moments makes this book an emotional roller coaster of an ending that is a must read for fans of the series and Zachary Ryan.

Pages: 226 | ASIN: B07WRF47PJ

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