Category Archives: Four Stars

Tales From An Odd Mind

Tales From an Odd Mind is a collection of somewhat strange short stories and poems that may seem to have little in common at a glance. Still, on deeper examination, they explore the same overarching theme of death and present an emotional portrait of humanity in all its effervescent diversity. The author chooses to write anonymously, under the name of ‘Nom D Plume,’ literally meaning pseudonym or pen name, but is known to firmly deny their works from having any autobiographical elements. So, it is interesting to note how personal and intimate each character appears to be, with detailed habits and traits established well within the short stories despite their brevity.

The most attractive feature of these stories is their unpredictability. Every dialogue or plot detail gives the illusion of leading us somewhere, only to surprise us with a sudden turn of events that is totally unanticipated by the reader. In the first story, for instance, we never expect the introduction of a new character towards the end of the story, but what makes it even more intriguing is how the ultimate effect of the story is never compromised. This deliberate way of an absence of foreshadowing gives the pieces their distinctive mysterious, and enigmatic nature.

However, as a reader, we are often left wanting more. Each story begins with a lot of promise and then collapses in on itself. Although deliberate on the author’s part, one must admit that the stories seem a little incomplete, given their abrupt endings. Are they written only as a means to an end, experimentation with the form of writing, with no interest whatsoever in the several different character developments that take place? Do they simply follow a preordained series of steps that build up with no goal to reach and no message to be delivered?

Perhaps, that is where the beauty lies, in trying to find meaning where there might not be any. Particularly poignant to this context is the back-and-forth dialogue between origin and dandelion; we struggle to understand the depth of their conversation, which is peculiarly reminiscent of pre-programmed responses of a chatbot or AI entity. Dabbling with various genres, this collection has some really powerful and compelling narratives. Recommended for all those who like reading fantasy, science fiction, or tales of reunion beyond death. 

Pages: 148 | ASIN : B08CZSX412

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Contracts For Sale

The disappearance of a wealthy CEO, corporate murder, and a ‘stealth’ company Eradication Inc. that operates below the radar providing a sophisticated hitman service: all of this forms the crux of Edward Izzi’s latest crime novel Contracts for Sale. This story begins with a chillingly efficient disposal of a well-dressed corpse in a vat of hydrofluoric acid—the perfect crime that leaves no body, no witnesses, no DNA. Paul Crawford, a journalist, along with the Chicago P.D and a news anchor Chaz Rizzo, work in a friends-and-enemies dynamic to solve the cases of Eradication Inc.’s ‘Houdini Victims’ with no discernible links to each other disappearing throughout the city of Chicago.

The irresistible lure that power and money has, coupled with the desire for revenge and control, is made very clear and is brought out well in this gritty story. Despite the millions that each of the seven shareholders of Eradication Inc. receive every year from the company’s nefarious activities, personal motives compel some of them to put out contracts against their personal enemies—something that the company strictly forbids.

The author does a good job of holding the reader’s attention with his account of the company’s workings, proven in the fact that the reader knows Eradication Inc. to be responsible for the murders within the first few chapters and is still engrossed in the story. The worlds of reporting and policing are de-glamorized in this book, with Crawford and Detective Dorian working to deadlines, reporting to superiors, and playing by the rules, something that is rarely shown in most police thrillers.

Contracts for Sale by Edwrad Izzi expertly combines strong characters, knowledgeable descriptions of Chicago’s geography and its environment, with the various fields of journalism, detectives, the mob underworld, and upscale society to tell a grounded and realistic police procedural story that is thrilling and compelling.

Pages: 334 | ASIN: B0BK4VQ21V

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Dane Thorburn and Nature’s Revenge

After saving Princess Vanessa from the City of Lost Souls, Dane Thorburn has to deal with another problem, because, of course, there’s no opportunity for heroes to rest—dragons. A significant threat follows our character throughout their journey, and it’s enough to keep your eyes glued to the page.

Dane Thorburn and Nature’s Revenge by Matt Galanos is a fantastical and adventurous story that deals with mystery and mythical beings and is a story that challenges the norms of certain archetypes, such as the hero and the Princess. Accompanied by Lord Frederick, Will, and other memorable characters, Dane needs to figure out precisely what these mythical beasts are doing, how they came to be, and what they want with the Princess.

Within this exciting story, there. It isn’t a moment where adventure isn’t happening. Every chapter is full of questions and excitement, and by the end of every chapter, events are happening in ways that will make you want to read the next chapter and then the next—it’s a book I didn’t want to put down. Though there are grammatical errors here and there, it’s nothing too bad to the point where you can’t understand what is trying to be said.

A large cast was introduced, all by name, in the first few chapters. Each was diverse in personality and appearance, and the author did a great job of keeping everyone distinctive. Every character mentioned, whether they stay throughout the entire book or are only there for a moment, has a striking personality that sets them apart from one another. It’s extremely impressive, and it takes a great author to distinguish so many distinct personalities.

Dane Thorburn and Nature’s Revenge is a captivating young adult and teen fantasy novel. Though some moments can be confusing, the exploration, adventure, and memorable characters do an even greater job of making such a fantastic book come to life. If you’re looking for a fantasy adventure, I definitely recommend this book.

Pages: 314 | ASIN : B0B8K22HS4

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Hollyland: A Novel

“I began to wonder if it’s even possible to have passion for your work and passionate love at the same time.”

Deanna Schwartz is a timid poetist and contemporary fiction writer who also has a degree in psychology and neuroscience, with a doctorate in art education and an innovative line of research. Ryder Field is a glamorous Hollywood actor and full-time playboy, widely known to the public for his iconic role in a successful action series and for his long list of failed relationships to acclaimed actresses and models.

Their paths cross on a side street adjacent to the entry of a night club in Los Angeles, and they strike up a conversation that has an undeniable spark. A weekend together. Dee teases her companion, goes skinny-dipping and dares to act bold in ways that would leave those who know her with their mouths agape. Rye goes to a farmers’ market, listens to an intimate live reading of her poetry and meets her closest friends on a brunch at her place. At a gala dinner, Rye tries to swoon a prestigious producer for his new series, and the night takes a turn for the unexpected as Rye and his associates discover that professor Deanna, the shy scholar and poetry writer, has some cards up her sleeve that reveal a whole new side to her relationship with arts. One day, though, a tragic event from Rye’s childhood catches up to them in a terrible coincidence, putting everything at stake.

Author Patricia Leavy does an excellent job of building up her characters in this enthralling romance novel. I enjoyed diving into the details of Deanna and Ryder’s characters. While this novel, by the end, utilizes a beguiling and suspenseful mystery to really ramp up the tension, I picked up this book again and again just to see those two together. They are characters that are interesting on their own, but when they’re together the story is alluring and enchanting. Their love for one another is reiterated throughout the story, but I think fans of love stories will still enjoy the story.

Hollyland takes the opposites attract trope to a new level by creating characters that are deep and compelling against an intriguing Hollywood backdrop. This will make a perfect feel-good beach read. The casual language and competent writing make the pages fly by. A bit melodramatic, heavily romantic, and all kinds of fun, Hollyland is a novel that left me smiling.

Pages: 224 | ASIN: B0B8H78CNT

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The Chronicles of the Virago

The Chronicles of the Virago Book Three: The Triumviratus by Michael Bialys is a middle grade fantasy that continues the story of a thirteen year old girl with a powerful destiny. Makenna Grace Gold, the Virago, is charged with protecting her infant siblings, Noah and Emilyne. The twins are fated to be the hope for the future of the world. Makenna is guided by her fairy mentors, Marigold Frith and Bree and Dee Delphine. But after her father’s soul is stolen, it is up to her friends, Sam and Stephen to rescue her father’s spirit from the Under Realms. Can they succeed before it’s too late?

I enjoyed reading this dramatic book for the creativity in its setting and plot. My favorite part was the scenes of Sam and Stephen figuring out how to get past the levels in order to try to complete their mission. I liked the way the two plot lines were woven together with the boys working to recover the soul of Makenna’s father while Makenna stayed with Noah and Emi to protect them and covered for her friends’ absence. There were some humorous moments when two of the fairies changed their appearance and took the place of Sam and Stephen, and Fluffy the talking earthworm turned in to Makenna’s dad. 

While there is plenty of entertainment to be had in this book alone, to best enjoy it and appreciate the depth of the overall story, I think this book should be read after book one and two in The Chronicles of the Virago series. The beginning of the story might be a bit confusing for readers who have not read the previous books. There are certain details about various characters that are not fully explained in this book, and I think readers will pick up on all these interesting details if they already know the backstory revealed in the other books.

There is an impressive and fascinating ensemble cast within this book. The story was told from multiple points of view of more than half a dozen different characters, which was handled well overall. However, I felt that some of the changes in point of view happened frequently and there were places where I would have enjoyed staying with the character a bit longer before switching to another character.

The Chronicles of the Virago Book Three: The Triumviratus is a stimulating children’s adventure novel that fans of magical realism and adventure stories will find entertaining.

Pages: 353 | ASIN: B0B6758HHD

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Tierra Day

When Tierra joins her eagle friend Eli for a walk along a nature trail, they are dismayed at the amount of trash scattered around the landscape. They meet up with Monte Mountain Lion on the trail and brainstorm ways to clean up land together. They devise a plan to hold Tierra Day on Earth Day, a celebration and community clean-up event to help humans and animals.

Tierra Day, written by Rachel Bate, is an inspiring children’s book that teaches the importance of recycling and cleaning up after yourself. The story talks about how keeping the Earth clean is a community effort. One person alone can not do it all, and this story highlights the value of getting the entire community involved. The animals even work together to surprise the humans on this special day.

The artwork done by Rebecca Jacob is beautiful and colorful. The paintings will appeal to children with their vivid colors and textures. I especially liked Monty; his expressions made me laugh.

At the end of this educational book is a fact sheet on Earth Day and a glossary; this makes it perfect for classrooms and teachers to use for a lesson on Earth Day. Many children’s books on Earth Day focus just on actually cleaning up and the importance of recycling. What stood out for me in this book was that the planning was discussed. The author emphasizes how important it is to get the word out and get involvement from the community, even the Mayor and Governor. This shows children that it is the responsibility of all people, no matter how important their jobs are, to help keep the Earth clean and trash-free.

Tierra Day is a well-thought-out and written children’s book with an important message about doing your part to keep your community clean. This book would be excellent for anyone who wants to teach children the importance of recycling and how taking care of the Earth impacts not just humans but the animals we share the planet with.

Pages: 38 | ASIN : B0BGZXNCWV

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Evolution Ended: The Next Stage of American Society

Evolution Ended: The Consequences Have Just Begun begins with vivid and colorful descriptions of the 1960’s that showcase this time in history in a nostalgic way. It immediately captures the reader’s attention and uses similar vibrant narration throughout the book, from one era to the next.

The author’s point of view becomes clear early on: human evolution, and the pique of greatness, was reached in the 1960’s and has since slowed or declined. While technology continues to advance and society adapts in many ways, the author points to rapid shifts in how we live and the contributing significant factors in how evolution has changed and gotten us to where we are now. The author discusses how we are harvesting the results of the aftermath of the sixties, and how modernity is contributing to the slowing of our development.

The author’s writing is excellent in that all the ideas flowed consistently into one another. The assertions are clear and reasoned and the claims that are examined throughout the book are coupled with the authors incisive logic, leaving little in contention. While the ideas are profound the authors straightforward writing makes the ideas easy to absorb, but readers will need plenty of time afterward to ponder the full implications. While some of the topics touched upon in this book are subject to debate and controversy, the narration gives readers a thorough understanding of the author’s thoughts in a clear and concise manner. While I found this book to be intellectually-invigorating, I would have appreciated a few citations to give the reader points of reference.

Evolution Ended: The Consequences Have Just Begun by J.J. Jerome is an impassioned and insightful read. It’s an excellent way to invite discussion on various topics surrounding human and societal evolution, technology, and how previous developments play a role in how we live today. This book is a provocative yet intriguing read that delivers a unique perspective that some may find divisive, but all will appreciate the unique discussion this book provides.

Pages; 152 | ASIN: B0BMXMDSTF

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Re-Birth

Re-birth, by Cristoph A. T., is the story of Anessa’s reincarnation on the world of Anfang. She was murdered on Earth, only to find herself a baby on Anfang and unsure of what’s going on. Through Anessa’s eyes, we learn about the world, people and gods of Anfang.

In reading Re-birth, I was introduced to a new world, new people, and new gods. I felt that they were well-rounded characters, even the minor ones that we didn’t see very much of. Christoph A. T. did a great job of showing us the world of Anfang through the eyes of someone who’s never been on this world. It was odd to start with a character who has just been born and can talk. But Anessa’s parents’ reaction works well for what’s going on.

This feels like an epic fantasy novel with a deep backstory that begs to be explored, but the novel is short and leaves readers wanting more. I got invested in the characters and the stories pretty early and then just as we get to some juicy stuff, the story ends. The first-person perspective worked well for this dramatic story, though there were parts where we were in someone else’s head, there were times where I found myself wishing I knew what other characters were thinking and feeling.

Re-birth tells a compelling story with intriguing characters in a well-conceived fantasy world. I can tell the author put a lot of thought into the world and readers who enjoy fantasy worlds that feel lived-in and intricate will enjoy this novel. I enjoyed the story and I’m desperate to read book two as this one left me wanting more.

Pages: 290 | ASIN: B0BHVG5ZB6

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