Category Archives: Four Stars

Devil Days in Deadwood

Devil Days in Deadwood (Deadwood Humorous Mystery Book 11) by [Ann Charles, C.S. Kunkle]

Devil’s Days in Deadwood by Ann Charles is a fun supernatural thriller. The story delves into the life of Violet Lynn Parker a seemingly normal human being who works as a real estate agent but is involved in the supernatural as a ghost hunter. The protagonist is part of an agency that is tasked with defending Earth from the evils unseen by normal human beings. The compelling heroine of the story faces a formidable foe but she requires help from and engaging cast of characters in order to overcome the exact definition of evil incarnate. The story is set in the alluring town of Deadwood, a town plagued by mysterious happenings since time in memorial ranging from ghosts to haunted houses.

Ann Charles has invoked various stylistic devices that highlight her writing skill and made this novel stand out in the paranormal genre. Although this is book eleven in Ann Charles’s Deadwood Humorous Mystery series, I think new readers will be able to jump right in as I have. What I particularly liked about this novel, and Ann Charles’s view of the supernatural, is the satirical lens that it is all viewed through. It’s a stimulating blend of humor, mystery, and paranormal that all come together to make the reader alternate between gasps, laughter and furiously flipping pages. It reminded me of the writing style of Douglas Adams or A. Lee Martinez.

Violet is an exceptionally well defined character, someone we can relate to as a mother who works hard to provide for, and protect, her children. But in the same vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she’s a demon executioner who risks her life to defeat some truly vile, other worldly, beings. While I understood Violet’s motivations, and her emotions, I did want a little more backstory. The world created here is interesting and I wanted to explore it more, though I suppose I could by reading the other novels in the series.

I was excited about this novel from the very beginning, based on the short synopsis of the book. I was thoroughly entertained and may have found a new series to while away the time in quarantine. Fans of supernatural thrillers will find an exceptional piece of literature that offers a unique voice to this genre.

Pages: 393 | ASIN: B0884DJ4MP

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Lefty Saves the Day

Lefty Saves the Day is an inspiring children’s picture book that teaches children to believe in them-self while also learning about baseball. School comes with all sorts of challenges, even more for those that are left handed. When her teacher tells the class they’re going to be playing baseball Gracie starts to get nervous because she doesn’t know a lot about baseball. This sets off a series of events that will leave readers better educated on the sport of baseball, how the game is played, and the importance of participation and trying even when you think you can’t win.

Dr. Kris Condi is able to deliver some very important life lessons through effective story telling and simple language. Gracie faces challenges that many kids can relate to, but with a unique twist of being left handed. If your child is left handed, timid or nervous about something then this would be a great book to open up a conversation about the subject. The art that accompanies just about every other page are hand drawn and charming. With some challenging words sprinkled throughout the book I think this would be suitable for new readers that are aided by their parents. Lefty Saves the Day is a delightful story with a focus on challenges left handed kids face but remains relatable to all.

Pages: 32 | ASIN: B0861QZ335

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Into War Games, Into Community, Into the Army

Into war games, into community, into the army (HEARING OTHERS’ VOICES Book 26) by [Christophe Finnegan]

Into War Games, Into Community, Into the Army by Christophe Finnegan is an introspective memoir about how his love for board games in the war/military genre led to the author enlisting in the army. This reflective memoir explores how war games can shape a persons way of thinking, in beneficial ways if one joins the army, but also in other aspects of critical thinking and planning. This book has certainly gave me a different perspective of war games and I see them now as much more than simple games. They create a mindset and fosters skills that include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, problem solving and decision making. Readers are also treated to a robust description of the community surrounding these war games.

Into War Games, Into Community, Into the Army opens like a novel in the thriller genre, or a suspense story; but when the authors stop arrives, it quickly changes its pacing into a more fun and casual narrative that is equally engaging.

What I enjoyed most about this book was how prevalent the authors passion about the subject is. It is semi-biographical, semi-informational, but completely absorbing. We get to learn about author Christophe Finnegan, what led to him joining the military, his time in the military, the war games community and gaming culture. All this packed within a book that is less than one hundred pages.

The book is packed with information and I found most of it to be very interesting, most of it new to me, but still accessible. I think the reason for the memoirs success is the way in which Christophe Finnegan is able to relate the games community to his own life experiences. It’s in this relationship that this book shines. Christophe Finnegan without war games would not be the same Christophe Finnegan. This is what I take away from this sharp and revealing book.

Into War Games, Into Community, Into the Army is an exceptional memoir of a unique man, living a unique life, that is relatable and thoroughly absorbing.

Pages: 67 | ASIN: B088ZR2B7L

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The 86-Year-Old Orphan

Tessie always knew that getting old was part of life. What she didn’t expect was how quickly it happened. Or that she would be spending her golden years in Desert Twilights, the assisted living facility in Arizona, across the country from her home, her family, and everything she had ever known. As her 86th birthday approached, Tessie seemed to spend more and more time reflecting on the life that had led her here, even as those around her were often doing the same. She was comforted by memories of what was, as much as she was haunted by thoughts of what could have been.

The 86 Year Old Orphan by Caterine Bellizzi is a heartfelt, and sometimes heartbreaking, look at aging. It explores how hard this natural process can be to face, the different attitudes people take toward it, and the different paths that lead people to what is, eventually, the same place. When we’re introduced to Tessie, she has been at Desert Twilights for three years already, but faced with her upcoming birthday, falls into a bout of nostalgia that is stronger than usual. Via frequent flashbacks, Tessie’s life is shaped, from her tumultuous childhood as the daughter of immigrants, through her early hopes and ambitions, on to the expected role of housewife and mother. While Tessie expresses very little regret for her life’s decisions, she naturally wonders how things might have been different if her choices had taken other routes and different points. Her fellow residents at Desert Twilights are similarly introduced, both in their current situations and earlier years, and although they have all followed drastically different paths, they have all ended up spending the ends of their lives together.

The 86 Year Old Orphan touches on a variety of themes, ultimately focusing on acceptance, and the fact that life experience isn’t so much what happens to you, but your reaction to those events. Over the course of the story, Tessie has a renewed sense of self discovery, and comes to realize that the best way to live the last years of your life is to be as happy with the present as you were in the past, despite the gulf of differences that might exist between the two.

The 86 Year Old Orphan began a little slowly, and as a result I wasn’t sure if it would be very interesting, but it gained steam quickly and before long I was completely invested in Tessie’s life, wondering where it would go from here. I cried more than once as well! Bellizzi has written a beautiful story that will make reflect on your own life, past, present, and future.

Pages: 194 | ASIN: B0898K76SM

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Duplicity

Duplicity by [Maralyn Frances]

Duplicity by Maralyn Frances is a delightful mix of a novel that is a little bit mystery, a little bit romance, and a whole lot of fun. It is a charming amalgam, being both thoughtful as well as a little quirky and outrageous, in a good way. Frances succeeds in balancing serious topics such as guilt, physical and emotional abuse, and grief with the exciting and fast-paced romance of the main characters. My favorite part of Duplicity was its structure: I adored that the the first third of the novel is told from the perspective of protagonist Toby Wendell, the middle third recounts the same series of events but from another character’s perspective, and the concluding third brings the story together with a heartwarming and surprising close. While the turn of events of Duplicity may, at the surface level, appear almost impossible to readers stuck in reality, it is an engrossing read to escape the drudgery of everyday life and it will charm readers with its full-hearted plot.

Duplicity centers on Toby Wendell, the up-and-coming executive of his father’s agricultural equipment company located in rural Australia. With Toby, Frances has created a handsome, well-read, and thoughtful lead star who is delightfully tasty to read about. Toby has the piercing eyes and the chiseled body, as well as a university-educated and well-traveled intellect, making him a triple-threat to the unsuspecting women of his small hometown. But, one evening, Toby happens across a forlorn beautiful, young woman on the side of the road, and his world is unexpectedly turned upside down. With Toby and the mystery woman, Frances crafts a unique relationship that builds in heat over the pages, tantalizing readers with its colorful and tempting language. And, just when you’re getting settled in with Toby’s story, Duplicity takes you back to the beginning to show you the story from a very different set of eyes. Personally, I loved being able to see the same series of events from two characters’ perspectives, and I enjoyed imagining how fun Duplicity would be to watch as a movie due to this unique structure.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about Duplicity was how Frances kept the plotline varied and moving quickly. It could be possible that reading the same story twice, effectively, could become dull with other authors, but Frances does a truly impeccable job of hiding “Easter eggs” throughout the middle third of the novel for readers to rediscover after having already read them.

Overall, Duplicity is a thoroughly enjoyable and unique book to read. The plot will surprise and delight; the romance scenes will fill readers with romance and excitement; and the characters will begin to feel like real-life friends. With Duplicity, Frances creates a world for readers to escape to and soak up the feelings of overcoming grief, coming to terms with guilt, and falling in love anew.

Pages: 380 | ASIN: B081TN17CM

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Fathering the Fatherless

Fathering the Fatherless by Todd Johnson is an enlightening book that explores the issue of fatherlessness. This touching book describes the issue very well and then goes on to explaining some possible solutions. A home without a father is traumatic for children and can lead to all kinds of societal and personal issues.

Todd Johnson does an exceptional job at relaying the statistics involved with fatherless homes and it really drives home the point that a father in a family and home is important for a child’s development.

Readers also get a bit of a memoir tucked into this informative book. Todd Johnson shares personal stories that are heartening and relatable. Readers get to build a connection to the author and this makes his message resonate so much more.

Faith and God are strong themes throughout this enriching book. Todd explains how these work together. The conclusion of the book includes testimonies from men who have stepped up to be fathers that I found to be stirring and inspiring.

Fathering the Fatherless by Todd Johnson is great for anyone looking to support a fatherless family, anyone looking to go into social work, or anyone that wants more information on the impact a fatherless home has.

Pages: 88 | ISBN-10: 1728333121

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The Revelations of August Barton

The Revelations of August Barton by [Jennifer LeBlanc]

The Revelations of August Barton is a contemporary romance novel by Jennifer LeBlanc. A coming of age story which is a sequel to Tribulations of August Barton. This young adult book is a continuation of the life of August Barton and his love Rose. August is faced with many difficult challenges throughout the story that throw into question his and Rose’s ability to be together. This is a drama filled story with family secrets, confessions, drunken bachelorette parties and layers of family problems that all hit August Barton like a tornado. Will he be able to overcome them?

What I like most about The Revelations of August Barton is that it’s not a cliché teen love story, although it may seem like it at first. Jennifer LeBlanc is able to make the story relatable and believable and because of this I found the story to be immensely engaging. The Revelations of August Barton is full of weighty teenage agony that resonates with truth. In this story we get to see new sides of August Barton as he’s faced with new obstacles and I was amazed at how he continued to grow into a much more dynamic and layered character. This reminds me of a show that should be on The CW network, but maybe not as melodramatic as the shows on that television network.

I suppose I should give a spoiler alert, although it’s not much of a spoiler, August is able to solve his life’s problems and bring all the broken pieces together, but the way in which he does it was something I won’t ruin because I believe that is what this story is about. The journey of putting your life back together after it falls apart. This is one of the greatest milestones in this book. It shows readers just how strong one can be if they summon their strength and willpower into what they want. The main theme of the book is love and family and Jennifer is able to mingle these things into a rich heartfelt fictional story that left me a bit wistful. The life of Grandma Gertie, Rose, August, John and Diane is a perfect image of love and family. Although they are not perfect and they make mistakes, they do not give up on each other. They build each other up and most importantly, they forgive. Jennifer LeBlanc has done a fantastic job of using humor to bring levity to some weighty situations while also underlining some poignant themes. The book has strong language that might be a problem to some readers on the younger side, but otherwise I think it fits well in the college romance genre.

Pages: 155 | ASIN: B07F5JF3T5

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The Court Of Outcasts

In her latest book, Allison Rose takes us through a roller-coaster of emotions finalizing in a hopeful yet uncertain ending. The Court of Outcasts is a contemporary fantasy novel filled with treachery, betrayal, and a twist of unexpected loyalty. While it begins with the main characters; Nola and Kelty, trying to adjust to their new normal, they are yet to realize how much weirder things could get.

With the introduction of a new foe, everything goes haywire as old enemies become new friends in the pursuit of a common good. Nola, though she looks like an ordinary teenager realizes that she is far from it. Torn between her mundane high school existence and the allure of the mystical faerie world, she embarks on a journey that will eventually force her to choose one of the worlds.

On the other hand, Kelty faces trials of her own. Battling with the uncertainties of her love life and the painful reality that she may never go back home, she has to make difficult decisions about who to trust amid chaos.

While the book does inspire a sense of awe and curiosity, it can be a little hard to follow if you haven’t read the previous book. For instance, the use of mystical language like ara can take a while to wrap your head around. However, the author goes through great lengths to explain foreign concepts in simple terms. She uses a lot of descriptive language to not only explain the woodsy setting of the book but also the emotional and psychological states of the characters.

This book gives you a clear description of both the physical and personality traits of each of the characters. The story begins with gentle explanations and hints about things to come. Yet, little can prepare you for the great plot twists ahead. The story seems to intensify from page to page until it reaches a breathtaking climax. As a reader, I am yet to get the resolution I need and have ended up with great fantasies about what is to happen next.

This is a great motivation to read the sequel if there will be one. Allison has done a phenomenal  job in capturing the emotions between characters and tension in scenes, although more could be done in developing the story of supporting characters like Sayra and Lark. Another aspect that is yet to be fully explored is the romance between Nola and her love interest.

However, I do appreciate that the author could be saving this for the next book. Apart from what is on the surface, there are serious and compelling themes that subtly color the narrative. The ones that truly stand out are the importance of family and sense of belonging and perseverance through dark times. These are themes that I and many others can relate to, and it kept me devouring pages.

Pages: 246 | ASIN: B0851VPMPX

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