Category Archives: Four Stars
The Souls of Witches, by Tarrant Smith, is an alluring tale set in a fantasy world full of witches, demigods, shape shifters and other supernatural beings. The story starts with a party orchestrated for love and romance between Rowan and Lars. The author creates an enchanting world, Mills and Boons style, that provides a creative escapist fantasy. Lars is a charming and impulsive hybrid of demon and demigod, a child born as an experiment by his grandmother Morrison, who forced a demon to have sex with his demigod mother. Rowan, who enjoys her solitude is fiercely independent, doesn’t want any companion, but the intensity of desire for Lars swamps her. The two are drawn towards each other from the first encounter and enthralled with each other. Due to Lars’ dark history and his evil, destructive grandmother, the union can be catastrophic. Will they be able to reunite or have to live a life pining for each other forever?
Author Tarrant Smith has created a captivating mystical haven called the Pale. The place is full of mysterious characters fighting for love, struggling with hate, assault, cruelties, and a blooming romance between Lars and Rowan. The use of imagery was fascinating; I could visualize the beauty and scenes like a dream. The protagonist is quite likeable and well presented. She’s bold and strong-willed and admirable. I thought she’d be some regular fiery heroine and some average dark lord, but they have definite character arcs. Both as individuals and as a couple!
The setup to the story felt familiar, but I’m so glad that I continued reading because the story does evolve into something uniquely imaginative. Even if demonic, the characters are relatable, their feelings and emotions are genuine, and conflicts are incredibly human.
The book follows the footsteps of traditional young adult fantasies, with lots of action and an easy to follow plot that was entertaining, I kept waiting for a twist I didn’t see coming. This is a novel that is propelled forward by the two main characters that are deeply developed, but I wanted to see that same level of development in the interesting side characters that come up throughout the story.
The Souls of Witches is an enjoyable story of a magical world full of supernatural characters. I genuinely liked this book because of its simplicity and passionate love story. It’s just pure enjoyment, which is honestly great in this time of uncertainty. I would recommend this book to adult fantasy book lovers. I think these people will be able to enjoy reading this lite paranormal romance.
Pages: 266 | ASIN: B08MWXG5BC
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My Buddy Knows… Letters is a delightful children’s picture book that teaches young kids about the alphabet. The story stars Josh, who knows a lot about letters. He shares his knowledge of all twenty-six letters throughout the book by showing the reader a cute picture of an object and then showing them the letter that the object starts with. This is a fantastic way to teach children about the alphabet while also beginning spelling comprehension by associating letters with objects.
The art is simple, bright, and keeps the focus on the object and the corresponding letters, which I found helps kids stay focused. Josh pops up throughout the book in different spots on the page, which I enjoyed, but I would have liked to have seen him in different poses.
My Buddy Knows… Letters is an educational book that is perfect to leave lying around the house for your little ones to pick up and explore themselves after you’ve introduced them to it. Author Keith Wheeler has created a great tool for teachers and parents to begin early alphabet comprehension with their kindergartener or toddler.
Pages: 58 | ASIN: B01N44DWRF
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The Fleeing Company is the first book in The Drifters’ Road series written by Kyle McCurry. The fantasy novel tells the story of a young lone traveller named Adroegen. It’s a tale of good versus evil, immersed in a mystical world of goblins, wolves and dragons. An evil lord is seeking world domination. To aide him in this goal he needs to acquire the Nights Jewel, which Adroegen has. The Fleeing Company has a motley ensemble of characters that are both good and evil.
The main character is Adroegen, the young lone traveller who drifts from place to place. Having lost his family young in life he usually prefers to travel alone. He is grief-stricken by the loss of his family and Author Kyle McCurry relays the impact of this with a melancholy vocabulary that gives Adroegen’s character some depth. In this book Adroegen is joined on his journey by his friends: Edelbir, Kattalin, Gleowan, Vaenn, and Caitren. Although not as well developed as Adroegen’s character, characterized by their brief physical descriptions and dialogue, they still add a little spice to the story. Conversely, the evil side is dominated by legends of Vyroun, an evil lord seeking world domination. There are also appearances of many evil creatures and foes as the group travel throughout the forest. Maybe it’s because I tend to find antagonists more interesting, but I found these characters to be much more intriguing.
The story features many creatures, both mythical and magical, such as goblins, wolves, dragons, giant eagles, bats, spiders, imps, serpents, trolls and dwarfs. These creatures either help or hinder Adroegen and his friends on their journey and add to both the mythical feel of the novel and the themes of friendship and allegiance. In all instances it is evident that author Kyle McCurry’s imagination is on full display. These creatures are all wonderfully described, and add to a sense of mystery, magic and trepidation to this already adventurous story. Beginning in a small village, the setting moves to a journey across the land after the village is razed to the ground. The setting is vividly described and will appeal to the readers senses of sight and sound that really gives this fantastical setting a life of its own.
I liked how the plot was easy to follow in telling the story of Adroegen’s journey across the land with his friends, and the encounters they have on the way. It explores themes of trust, kinship, allegiance, and good versus evil in a simple but entertaining way. Overall, the combination of character development, mythical creatures, descriptive settings and story line make The Fleeing Company an enjoyable novel that will appeal to sword and sorcery fans looking for a lite fantasy with plenty of creativity.
Pages: 254 | ASIN: B07ZN7HNT1
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Discovering Hope by Stuart Parkin is really a bundle of positivity. It is filled with short pieces that reflect on life in its various incarnation. I will call them an amalgamation of poetry and prose that goes above and beyond the simple boundaries of their respective genres. The titles like Love, Inhibitions and Empathy explore the themes of hope and gratitude, that of Action Station, Taking Control and Choice empowers one to act. While titles like Music and Freshly Cut Grass are deep, thought-provoking and inspire you to discover the magic in everyday mundaneness.
Each piece is accompanied by relevant quotes from eminent personalities that adds more to the ideas. But what specifically made this book stand out to me is the vividness of its description. A simple yet powerful writing style that sucks you right in and makes you live and feel them through and through. I could actually visualize the ambience the author created and got lost in the setting pretty early.
The hope and desire the author aims to promote through his words is thoroughly achieved. They are powerful yet subtle. Commanding yet gentle. The words resonated within me and kept coming back long after I turned the last page. I was left with so much faith, happiness and positivity among such depressing times. Definitely a great read.
Pages: 106 | ASIN: B08Q38TSQ9
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The Black Eyed Witch is Rowan Staeffler’s first book through which he introduces a fantasy world where witches and various kinds of monsters live along with humans. We follow Ronan, a royal guard from Terom who seems to be one of the very few humans that’s not afraid of the black eyed witches. In fact, he admits to being intrigued by them since childhood, wondering what more could there be behind those dark, terrifying black eyes. It’s the eyes what truly distinguishes the witches from any other human. People run from them when they see those eyes approaching. Some fear them. Some despise them. And some, like Ronan, are willing to recognize that maybe the witches are not that horrible. After all, these scary witches seem to spend their lives working for humans to get rid of the monsters terrorizing their lands. After a black eyed witch called Lithia saves Ronan from a few terrible monsters, they’ll decide to embark on a journey to find out who’s behind their creation and stop them once and for all.
The book shows us two time frames along its chapters. Through some of them we directly follow Ronan’s and Lithia’s journey fighting monsters and evil humans. Through others we get a glimpse of Lithia’s life as a black eyed witch, following from a front row seat what she had to endure since childhood, understanding through her life the hard reality of black eyed witches, terrifying at first but there seems to be much more to them to figure out. This story was an easy and fast read for me. The writing is simple and it helps to illustrate quite clearly to the reader this alluring fantasy world. Chapter by chapter I felt intrigued and wanted to know more about the witches and about Ronan’s and Lithia’s adventure. It was nice seeing how both Lithia and Ronan slowly got to know each other, gaining trust in one another. The development of their characters was methodical, slow, and left them feeling authentic in the end, but was something that I wanted to see more of in the secondary characters.
In particular, what I enjoyed the most were the chapters in which we would get a glimpse into Lithia’s life as a witch, from the moment she had to learn how to use her magical powers to then fighting against monsters to keep humans safe. I found the way her storyline was narrated to be very interesting and gripping. At first I had felt myself terrified by some of these witches, but little by little I could understand them more which made me eventually like them.
The Black Eyed Witch by Rowan Staeffler is a gripping dark fantasy story with a uniquely riveting narration style that makes the already interesting characters come to life in a baroque fantasy world.
Pages: 341 | ASIN: B07Q25Q5J8
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Bedeviled by Her Suspicions (Zane Brothers Detective Series Book Two) by Patricia Catacalos is a historical fiction mystery set in London in 1888. Isabel Haynes is a milliner who suspects that her cousin, Thomas Haynes Cutbush, might be the serial killer known as Leather Apron (Jack the Ripper), murdering women in Whitechapel. She enlists the help of the Zane Brothers Detective Agency to prove that her suspicions are wrong. Isabel feels drawn to Noah Zane from their first meeting. Noah pretends to be Isabel’s beau so that he can remain close to her. Can he protect her from harm as they search to find the truth?
I enjoyed reading this riveting historical thriller. I love mysteries that keep me guessing throughout the story. Part of this story is told from the point of view of the killer, and the few clues that are given match up with Thomas, but could also indicate several other characters. I was immediately suspicious of every man described with a handlebar mustache, since that was the only identifying physical feature that was mentioned about the killer. Although this is the second book in the series, it is not necessary to read book one to enjoy this story. This books can be read as a standalone mystery story. Book One, The Mystery of Her, features Noah’s older brother, Zachery. Book Three and Book Four both feature Noah’s younger brother, Evan.
While I enjoyed this story, I felt that the romance happened a bit too quickly for me, with Noah and Isabel declaring their love for each other within a week of their first meeting. I liked the historical Victorian setting of the story, which was vividly described, but I felt that some of the descriptions of actions were unnecessarily specific and distracted from the flow of the story.
With that said, Bedeviled by Her Suspicions is a compelling murder mystery that will appeal to anyone looking for an alluring mystery that will keep them guessing throughout this entertaining book.
Pages: 238 | ASIN: B01NCM4HJY
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State of Grace by John Sweeney is a fast-paced and intriguing espionage thriller that will keep you eagerly flipping through its pages. Set between World War I and World War II, State of Grace tells the story of Phillip Kumar, a young man in London who is recruited by the British intelligence service for a secret mission in Germany. Phillip, a completely quotidian man with no experience as a spy, accepts the mission and finds himself in Bavaria, at the center of history as the National Socialist (Nazi) party grows in power and begins setting in motion their horrific and racist work.
The novel follows Phillip, who, in spite of his inexperience, is rather likable and an enjoyable protagonist. Though Phillip is of mixed heritage, he passes as someone with Nordic roots. It is through this lens that most of the novel is experienced – Philip, concealing his Indian roots, is both blessed and cursed with his Nordic looks, as in Germany he is welcomed and admired as an “Aryan” Adonis, while in his heart he knows that the racial preference he receives and the work of eugenics that many in Germany advocate is deeply wrong. As Phillip embarks on his mission in Bayreuth, a university town in Bavaria, he quickly falls in love with Ruth, a young woman of Jewish heritage. Their relationship highlights the fractures within German society and the not-so-subtle racist sentiments held by many, in Germany and beyond.
What I enjoyed about State of Grace primarily was its setting, both in time and location. I find the interwar period to be exceptionally fascinating, especially in southern Germany, where the Nazi party came to power. I enjoyed how Sweeney juxtaposed his novel with many of the actual historical events that occurred at the time, though of course this is a work of fiction. I also enjoyed that Sweeney did not single out Germany as the sole perpetrator of racist activity during the interwar period; he puts both Britain and the United States under a microscope for their racist principles and activity, which is a dark side to these countries’ history of which many may have been unaware. Additionally, I have had the pleasure of visiting Bayreuth multiple times, and was excited to read a book set in this quaint city. I enjoyed picturing Phillip, Ruth, and the supporting characters of State of Grace running through the cobbled streets of Bayreuth, where I, myself, have walked many times.
Where State of Grace could have been improved in my opinion was in depth of character and plot. The novel is fast-paced, which is often a good thing, but I found that it felt rushed. With numerous minor supporting characters, I found myself somewhat confused about who was who and what was important. The character relationships felt rushed and forced as well, with Phillip falling for Ruth in seemingly a weekend and for no reason other than her availability. In spite of these things, I thoroughly enjoy reading State of Grace for its creative story and honest examination of racism in many countries in the interwar period. I would recommend this riveting story to readers interested in history or spy novels.
Pages: 483 | ASIN: B08GQ5N25F
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Space Taxis by A&H Frosh is a thrilling adventure through time and space, following the life of one Mike Redolfo. Redolfo is a cab driver in the 1970s who is abducted by aliens from the planet Vost and finds himself unable to return. A parallel storyline is set in the 1940s, where a couple is trying to escape the horrors of the Nazi regime. The stories of both these timelines intertwine in interesting and unexpected ways- with references to both history and science.
The worlds built in both timelines are imaginative and compelling. Even though Vost is obviously (or at least I hope) a fictional planet, the intricacies of its social and political world were laid out in great detail. In many ways, it felt similar to how things unfold here on Earth. Even the rituals and beliefs of the alien leaders had some parallels with history.
Redolfo is a mysterious character with a haunted past- but he is also very intriguing. He faces a dire situation with a dark and charming humor that makes him instantly likable. Similarly, Marianne and Dominik were also really easy to root for. The author clearly has a knack for writing endearing yet flawed characters. Even Tannis, the antagonist, had a realism that made him all the more vile and insidious.
While I enjoyed this vivid science fiction story, I felt that the plotlines were a little complicated and chock-full of characters from various dimensions and timelines. Helpfully, the author has provided a descriptive list of characters at the end that I often turned to for context. It can be a little hard to keep track of what’s happening where and when, but I trudged on and it all made sense at the end. I think even a second read could be worth it just to see how everything was put into place. I wouldn’t think that historical fiction and a science-fiction would mesh well, but they definitely do. There’s something so interesting about being propelled back and forth between the past and future, and between reality and fiction, that makes it a much more unique read.
Space Taxis is a quick-paced and adventurous novel that I found to be deeply intriguing and consistently entertaining. I loved its uniqueness and would recommend it to anyone interested in science-fiction or mystery/thriller books.
Pages: 302 | ASIN: B08H19CCWR
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